When did birthdays become so expensive? It seems everywhere you look, people are dropping hundreds of dollars (or more) on kid’s birthdays, from lavish birthday parties to big gifts, decadent desserts, and luxurious trips. Whatever happened to “the best things in life are free”? If you’re like me – and many other parents – you believe that kids’ birthdays should be overflowing with love, memories and family traditions, not receipts, bills, and ominous debt. Here are 12 free memory-making birthday traditions to start with your kids (as soon as possible):
Growth chart picture – Have a family growth chart? Make the birthday tradition of taking a picture of each child next to the growth chart each year, and compare to previous years.
Special birthday place at the table – For one day only, decorate the birthday kid’s place at the table, perhaps with a birthday placemat (re-use an old birthday gift bag, cut off the flat side, and cover with clear packing tape), birthday-only plates, silverware or cups, or streamers and signs decorating their chair.
Surprise birthday signs – On their birthday morning, while they’re still sleeping (or the night before), start the memory-making tradition of decorating your child’s room with homemade “Happy Birthday” signs and banners, as a special treat to wake up to.
Cake of choice – Rather than purchase an expensive store-made cake, make your own. Allow the birthday kid to choose a theme for their cake a few days in advance, and surprise them with the final outcome.
Breakfast of choice – Start a birthday tradition of letting your child choose family breakfast on their special day (at home), whether it’s bagels, cereal, eggs, or more, and the special location they’d like it (a breakfast picnic outside, an “indoor picnic” on the living room floor, etc.).
Annual family picture on location – Instead of just pictures of the birthday child, make the tradition of taking an all-family portrait each year. Then – years from now – you’ll be able to look back, discuss memories, and see how everyone looked and changed each year.
Baby talk – Kids love to hear about when they were babies. Make the sentimental, memory-making family tradition of going through your children’s baby books, and reminiscing about the day the birthday child was born.
Birthday questionnaire – Each year, present the birthday kid with a number of questions to answer, whether its about memories from the past year, or their current favorites. Then compile the lists, and read through them each year to see how much they’ve changed.
Birthday costume – Create a free, silly birthday costume that each birthday kid (and adult) must wear throughout the day on their birthday, whether it’s a crown, badge, or crazy socks.
Homemade cards – For a creative, free family tradition, have each family member make a homemade birthday card, and – before its given to the birthday child – have them say one reason (or more) why they love them.
Silly birthday song – Rather than the traditional “Happy Birthday” song, make the funny birthday tradition of coming with a new, silly version to the song that will make memories and bring laughs for years to come.
Family fun – As a last hurrah before the birthday kid goes to bed, let them pick one last fun, free family activity to do before everyone turns in, whether it’s a pillow fight, board game, or family movie.
With fun, free, family traditions like these, who needs expensive birthday celebrations? Making memories doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, it simply requires love, family, and traditions they’ll remember forever.