Sunday, January 10, 2010

Birthday Tips

I grew up in a big family - a really big one - so I've been part of a lot more birthday celebrations than your average person. With Jared and Ashton's birthdays for this year under by belt now, Oliver and Silas's birthday this Thursday and an extended family birthday coming up pretty much every day from here until mid-February, I've been thinking about what makes a birthday good (both for the one having the birthday and the mom behind the celebrations). Here are a few tips that seem to work (I'm sure others have great ideas too but this is what I've figured out so far):
  • It's all in the presentation. You can put a birthday "spin" on just about anything. The most mundane things can be very special when they're presented the right way. And the most fabulously exciting things can be quite dull when presented the wrong way. Although Ashton wanted egg burritos for his birthday and we didn't have any eggs in the house after getting back late the night before from our road trip, he was pleased as punch with oatmeal (which actually is one of his favorite breakfasts) when I told him I'd put extra birthday sugar and birthday raisins (extra nice plump ones) and the birthday boy could even add chocolate chips if he wanted to.
  • The birthday kid is king or queen for the day - they to pick all activities and they get to choose all three meals. Pretty much anything they say goes all day. For one day a year, everyone should get to be royalty - especially in a big family where getting your own way doesn't happen all that often.
  • Have a birthday tradition (bowling or swimming or biking or whatever the kid really loves doing - it makes it easier to plan a fun birthday if there's at least one set activity - and it's so fun to have photos each year of the child growing older while doing the same activity. The tradition may evolve and that's OK. Ashton's birthday tradition has been bowling but after the fun party we had yesterday - see below - he's thinking of changing his tradition to eating his cake in an unusual place.)
  • Create some special time for just you, your husband and the birthday kid. Let them pick a game they want to play or activity they want to do with the two of you when the other kids aren't around. Giving them your undivided attention is a great birthday gift.
  • Keep presents simple. Most kids appreciate time and services as much or more than they want stuff. But if you're going to keep the expectations low on presents, you've got to start them out low or do some real explaining. If they get something really big one year and something small the next year, they need to understand why. I like to keep the expectations nice and low - then they're so excited and grateful for anything they get!
  • Sometime during the day (like at dinner), have everyone present share one thing they really appreciate about the birthday kid. My parents did this when we were growing up and now I think all my siblings have carried on this simple tradition with their kids. There's nothing like compliments to make you feel great. And it's a good thing for the other kids in your family to learn to think about what they like and appreciate about each other.
  • Take time to open gifts. Have the birthday kid really thank each gift giver when they open a gift. I've been to parties where the birthday kid just tears through the presents with hardly a thank you and not only does that seem sad for the giver, but the birthday kid doesn't get a chance to thoroughly appreciate and recognize what is great about each gift. As he or she takes the time to thank the person, maybe say what he/she is going to do with the gift or express how perfect the gift is, and maybe get a quick photo with the giver and the gift (to use on a thank-you note or thank-you email), the giver and receiver are learning a lot about gratitude...
  • That said, you really don't have to have kids bring gifts. And you really really don't need to do party favors - they usually end up in the trash in an hour or so - or if you do a bag of candy for a party favor, you're not only sending kids home sugared up on cake and ice cream but also equipped to keep pumping sugar into their systems. There's no real need to support the rampant consumerism that surrounds us just because of tradition. Can't we just have a fun party without gifts and favors being involved? The kids at Ashton's party yesterday had the time of their lives and we spent no money and had no favors.
What works for you???

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