Looking to start a birthday tradition? We’ve got tons of fun ideas that will help your family make special memories…
Traditional birthday parties aren’t the only way to celebrate kids’ birthdays, some families use fun birthday traditions for kids to create lasting memories instead. We’ve searched through all of the unusual, hilarious and utterly sweet traditions to round up 20+ of our favorites that we know you’ll love.
Whether you’re hoping to skip the big party full of screaming kids, or want to learn ways to make your kiddos’ birthdays extra special without the presents, we’re sure you’ll find a fun birthday tradition to start with your child this year.
PIN for when you want to start a special birthday tradition with your child
CREATE A BIRTHDAY COUNTDOWN
Counting down the days until your child’s birthday adds an extra layer of excitement. It also shows that everyone cares about their birthday just as much as they do, and creates more anticipation for the family fun ahead. The best part? There are an endless number of ways to create your own countdown. Here’s just a few:
(1) If your kids love balloons, you may want to try a birthday balloon countdown! You can start the countdown at any point (20, 10 or 5 days before) by filling the balloons with candy, little toys, a note with an activity, or even money. Then number the balloons and hang them! They can pop a balloon each day leading up to their special day and find your hidden treasure. This is a favorite for little kids and teens alike.
(2) This fun surprise calendar birthday countdown allows your child to receive different surprises each day leading up to their birthday. This is set-up sort of like an advent calendar, with the added fun of a carnival game.
(3) Remember making paper chains in school? You can put those skills to good use with this colorfulbirthday countdown chain. It’s a great visual for kids to understand the days of the week that are passing, and how soon it is until their big day.
(4) A week-long birthday countdown is another fun way to count down the days — leave a little box full of birthday surprises for your birthday boy or girl each day.
(5) This birthday countdown poster is a great toy-free and candy-free way to track the days until the big birthday. Use a marker or fun washi tape to cross-off the number of days that are left.
CREATE MEANINGFUL DECORATIONS
Heartfelt gifts are often most memorable. Spreading meaningful decorations throughout the house is a neat way to show your kids just how much you care. Pick a few of these ideas, and repeat them every year to solidify your new tradition:
(1) Create a massive poster with the number of reasons they’re loved to match their age (eg. 10 reasons you love your 10-year-old) – this will make them feel so special, and give them an extra confidence boost too!
(2) Alternatively, work out how long your child has been loved and display it on a big sign.
(3) Create these pretty ribbon door streamers to mark their bedroom door that you can reuse each year.
(4) Another option great for young kids is to decorate their door with party streamers that have their favorite characters on them.
(5) Make it a family event and have everyone sign, color and decorate a big birthday banner.
(6) Print some of your favorite photos from that year, and to make a number collage of their age (source unknown).
Decorate Their Mirror:
(7) Create a sticky note heart on the mirror with each sticky note listing reasons they’re loved.
(8) Leave a birthday illustration or message on the mirror to surprise and delight your birthday kid when they wake up.
(1) Create a hanging timeline with one photo from each year of your child’s life – from newborn, to current day.
(2) Make a number photo collage with all your favorite photos of the birthday boy/girl. Use the photos to spell out your child’s name, initial or age. ()
Decorate Your Car:
(3) Decorate the outside of the car with birthday messages and pictures so that everyone can celebrate the birthday kiddo with you, wherever you go.
(4) And don’t forget the inside!
(5) Add streamers and balloons, then go for a birthday drive.
HAVE FUN WITH BALLOONS
When we asked parents what their favorite birthday tradition for their kids was, decorating with balloons was mentioned time and time again. Here are a few new and innovative balloon ideas for your child’s next birthday:
(1) Create a birthday balloon avalanche on their door — it’s sure to get the birthday fun started!
(2) You can even fill a few of the balloons with a special birthday note, or clue to where a present is hidden.
(3) Fill the room with birthday balloons (all their favorite colors!) while they’re sleeping so that they wake up to a wonderful surprise.
(4) Some families choose to only use the same number of balloons for how old their child will be, others don’t.
(5) Make a hanging photo collage by tying special photos of your child from the balloons.
(6) Hang balloons from a main doorway and leave them low enough for your child to enjoy.
(7) Up the ante for older kids by taping money to the balloon strings…
(8) …or hide the money inside the balloons!
(9) Tape balloons to the wall or a door to create your child’s age (source unknown)
(10) Or go big and create a huge balloon number in your front yard!
TAKE THE SAME PHOTO EACH YEAR
Taking the same photo of the birthday boy/girl every year allows you to see just how much they’ve grown, and is another well-loved birthday tradition. Here are some creative ways to take that yearly birthday photo:
(1) Use a cutout piece of cardboard to take a shadow photo showing their name and age.
(2) “I’m this many!” In this photo option, the birthday child holds up fingers for their age.
(3) Spell your child’s age with Scrabble pieces in their hands.
(4) Snap a pic with your child holding the same number of balloons as they are old.
(5) Holding a number balloon for how old they are this year.
(7) Make a giant number for your child to stand next to every year and watch as they grow.
(8) Try taking a picture of them holding a picture of themselves from the year before, or their newborn photo.
(9) Chalkboard signs are always fun! Use this free printable to make a sign for a special picture on the big day every year.
(10) Use their favorite things to write their age, like a bunch of cars or small figurines.
(11) Get a picture of the birthday girl/boy with their birthday candles – either holding them (photo credit: L. Marie Photography)…
(12) or on their cake!
(13) Let the birthday kid decorate a number showing how old they are to use in the photo.
(14) Use blocks to spell out their age (photo credit: LeAnn B. Egnash photography)
(15) Write out “I am ….” and fill in their age each year.
(16) Draw a huge number, big enough for your child to fit inside!
(17) Go short and sweet with writing out their age as a word.
(18) Draw a birthday cake and have them pretend to blow out the candles.
(19) Write a colorful, sweet birthday message.
ARRANGE A BIRTHDAY PARADE
Coordinate a festive drive-by birthday parade of friends and family to wish your child a very happy birthday – it’s a great surprise for the birthday girl or boy, and a lot of fun for everyone else too!
(1) Have friends decorate the outside of their car and hold balloons or streamers.
(2) Then set up a customized birthday lawn sign to make the parade extra special.
(3) Find a company that will create a personalized message in huge letters on your front lawn.
WRITE A BIRTHDAY LETTER
Writing a heart-felt birthday letter to your child gives you the opportunity to tell them things like how proud you were of them when they helped their friend, how it makes you tear up to see the amazing big sister (or brother) they’ve become, and most importantly, how loved they are and will always be.
The letter can be emailed, written in a special birthday letter notebook, or even simplified and sent via text for older kids – just make sure it’s delivered on their big day. It will become one of their most loved and treasured traditions.
CONDUCT A BIRTHDAY INTERVIEW
Because the years of childhood really are so short, doing a birthday interview is a great way to preserve the memories. And when you read the interviews years later, you’ll get to laugh, smile and bond over how much the “likes” and “dislikes” have changed. Try using one a Free Birthday Interview Template (pictured: option 1; option 2) that you can download to make it super easy.
Keep all of your birthday interviews and compile them into a special book that you can give to your child when they turn 18.
MAKE A SPECIAL BREAKFAST
Similar to when the birthday child wakes up to a room full of balloons, waking up to a special breakfast starts the day on a happy note. This could be breakfast-in-bed where the whole family comes in to sing, or simply that breakfast is made from their favorite treats.
Try one of these incredible birthday breakfast ideas with your child this year:
(1)Funfetti Birthday Waffles: Add a secret ingredient to your child’s birthday waffles: rainbow sprinkles! Top with birthday candles and enjoy.
(2) Donut Tower: Surprise your child with a tower of their favorite donuts, complete with birthday candles.
(3) Donut Cake: Create a cake tower using a variety of doughnuts topped with birthday decorations.
(4) Donut Message: Ambitious and very photo-worthy, this idea will certainly make your kid’s day!
(5) “Ice Cream Cone” Waffles: Use waffles and fruit to create this fun play on the ice cream cone.
(6) Special Cereal Sprinkles: Mix together your birthday child’s must-have treats to create custom sprinkles to put over their cereal or oatmeal.
(7) Breakfast Banana Split: This breakfast spin on a classic dessert includes yogurt and bananas with sprinkles and a strawberry topper.
(8)Pancake Cake: Top a stack of pancakes with some whipped cream and sprinkles, and maybe caramel or frosting too!
(9) Pancake Cereal: If your child loves pancakes and cereal, they’re going to be in awe of this amazing mini-pancake “cereal” for their birthday.
(10) There’s also a vegan recipe for this mouthwatering unicorn pancake cereal.
(11) Build-Your-Own Pancake Board: Forget the charcuterie board, just look at this amazing pancake board! Load a board or tray with your child’s favorite types of pancakes, plus toppings and sides like fruit, chocolate chips, bacon, and sauces.
(12) Place your pancake batter in a squeeze bottle to write out a sweet birthday message…
(13) their age…
(14) or combine them all!
(15) Cinnamon Roll “Cake”: A tower of gooey cinnamon rolls topped with sprinkles and candles? Yes, please!
(16) Cinnamon Roll Age: Create your child’s age using cinnamon rolls – your whole family can enjoy this one! (source unknown)
(17) Unicorn Bread: Bake a quick batch of this fun, colorful bread and top the loaf with icing and sprinkles.
(18) Yogurt Sundae: Grab some waffle cone bowls, yogurt and fun toppings and let your child make their own breakfast sundae!
(19) Sprinkle Rimmed Glass: Make the birthday drinks fun too! Simply dip the rim of your child’s cup in sprinkles for an added delight.
(20) Birthday Cake Oatmeal: Birthday cake meets oatmeal for a delicious start to the morning.
MAKE A BIRTHDAY LUNCH
A special day needs a special lunch! Give your child a fun menu of options they can choose from, or try one of the ideas below:
(1)Wrap each food item in their lunchbox: Every lunch treat is a present when it’s wrapped for a birthday!
(2) Birthday Cake Bento Lunch: Make a special birthday sandwich complete with sprinkles, and pretzel candles!
(3) Birthday Bento Box: Use cookie cutters and rainbow sprinkles to take their regular lunch from ordinary, to extraordinary!
PLAN A SPECIAL BIRTHDAY DINNER
Involve your birthday child in the planning of their birthday dinner. They can pick what’s for dinner (their favorite home cooked dishes, or take-out!), and if they want there to be a “theme”. You can even make it “fancy” and break out your special plates and have the family dress-up. Whatever you decide, make sure the birthday girl/boy is the center of attention!
(1) Create a special birthday plate that they only can use once a year on their birthday.
(2) Decorate the “birthday chair” with balloons and streamers, or paint an old chair to be the special designated chair for all birthdays in your family.
(3) If you have younger kids, decorate their highchair with a cute banner.
Close the birthday dinner with a very special tradition – everyone around the table shares what they love about the birthday boy/girl.
EVEN MORE SPECIAL IDEAS!
(1) The magical Shoe Fairy arrives the night before your child’s birthday to fill their shoes with a quarter for each year they are old. Add fairy footprints or a Shoe Fairy letter to this birthday tradition for extra fun surprises.
Give Them Birthday Coupons
Birthday gifts don’t need to cost money. Print out a set of birthday coupons that allow your child to skip a chore, get an extra scoop of ice cream, have one-on-one time with you, and more.
(2) This free birthday coupon book printable will help you easily create your child’s favorite gift!
Organize a Birthday Scavenger Hunt
(3) Put together a birthday scavenger hunt for the birthday boy/girl to find all their presents, or simply as a fun birthday activity with their siblings!
(4) Try this free birthday scavenger hunt printable to get started.
Create Custom Artwork
Working with your child to create a piece of art to commemorate their birthday is a great activity for kids of all ages, and you end up with a special keepsake.
(5) Make a handprint canvas at each birthday to see how they’ve grown. Alternatively, decorate a tile/stepstone that you can use somewhere in the house, or in the yard.
(6) Let your child finger paint on a canvas, and make sure to include their age.
Incorporate Waldorf Traditions
Similar to Montessori, Waldorf education has its own set of birthday traditions. These can be used whether or not your child participates in a Waldorf school:
(7) Birthday Rings: Waldorf birthday rings are wooden rings that are purchased as a family keepsake then used for every child’s birthday for years, and even generations. The rings have built-in holders for candles and little wooden decorations like birthday numbers, seasonal decorations for the birthday month, letters for their name, and so on that can be purchased separately. These rings are sort of like a dessert-free birthday cake meets cherished toy and tradition — they can be personalized to each child and kids love them.
Waldorf Birthday Poem: A special poem recited the night before your child’s birthday to signify the change in age and special birthday fun that is to come the next day. This really sets the tone for the birthday child’s special day.
Have you ever looked back and tried to remember how little your child was in previous years? Marking a doorframe or special growth chart helps to track these big changes. Or try this pretty ribbon growth chart that allows you to measure other body parts like their arms and legs too!
(1) Your child will feel so special wearing this custom birthday crown. Simply use this printable and attach some pretty ribbon. Alternatively, have them color it themselves!
(2) Or create a birthday badge for the honorable birthday kid.Read a Special Book at Bedtime: Reading a story like “On the Night You Were Born” or “Happy Birthday to You” is a sweet way to end your child’s big day with quality time and one last reminder of how special they are.
Make a Birthday Wish: Ask your birthday kiddo to make a wish — a goal, a dream, a prediction of what the next year will bring. Have them write it down (or you write it for them) then wrap it up for the next birthday to be opened as one of the gifts!
Let Them Stay Up Late! The one day they know you’ll say yes to, “Mom, can I stay up just a little bit longer?” Make staying up late something they can look forward to on their birthday, and give them extra special one-on-one time while their siblings are in bed.
No Chore Day: Siblings have to pick-up any assigned chores the birthday child has that day.
Family Outfits: Have the whole family dress in your birthday child’s favorite color.
Movie Night: Hold a special movie night where the birthday girl/boy picks the movie and your family watches it together. Of course their favorite treats should be served too!
Plant Something Together: Whether it’s a tree, bush, or flowers… you’ll be able to watch it grow as your child grows. If you’ve already planted something, make sure you take a picture with your child standing next to each day
Pamper them with an At-Home Spa: give them a massage, do their nails, hair, face mask, etc.
Relive Memories: Look at old baby books and home videos of the birthday child over the years – and make it a family event!
Eat Leftover Birthday Cake for Breakfast the Next Day! Keep the birthday fun going with one last treat: a slice of birthday cake for breakfast the next day! Spreading the joy of your child’s birthday past the actual day will be a fun surprise they’ll always appreciate.There are so many birthday traditions to choose from that you can really tailor what your family chooses to do based on your child’s personality. Do one extra special tradition each year, or pick a few to spread out over a few days. Either way, these traditions will bring more memories than any physical gift ever will!
Do you have a special birthday tradition in your family? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Shari Stamps is a freelance content creator, postpartum doula, infant massage instructor, and lactation educator with a passion for helping families. She’s also the founder of NavigatingParenthood, where expecting, new and veteran parents can find helpful resources as well as virtual & in-person support, services, and courses about postpartum preparation and postpartum healing. As a mom of three, she’s always learning something new. Join the journey via social at @NavigatingParenthood and @NavigatingPostpartum.