Children’s birthday parties have gotten so complicated. These days, young guests have busy schedules, cramming multiple parties into a single weekend or cutting parties short due to time constraints. When they do come, they bring their gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free dietary restrictions with them. This is all before you broach the increasingly divisive issue of whether or not to invite the entire class to the party or to be more discerning with the guest list. Regardless of where you fall on the birthday party spectrum, the bottom line is that everyone wants their child to feel celebrated and special. After all, they will only be that age once.
Here are a few ways to celebrate beyond just the birthday party.
Celebrate Birthday Eve
Think Christmas Eve but for birthdays. No child needs reminding that their big day is approaching, they’re probably relentless in their reminders. But instead of tamping down the excitement, help them enjoy it.
Tell them about the night before you met them: Where you were, what you were doing, how you were feeling. Look through old pictures, play family home movies and best of all, sing Happy Almost Birthday.
Have A Yes Day
Play genie and grant your birthday boy or a girl a Yes Day. While a genie only gives three wishes, you will be granting your child an entire day of yes. Ice cream for breakfast? Yes! Skipping school in the lieu of a day at the beach? Yes! The only rule on Yes Day is that there are no rules.
But before you let your child’s imagination run wild, wise parents may want to set a few parameters, such as that the requests need to be reasonable and, in our family, are not to include the acquisition of pets.
Start A New Tradition
We have a tradition that my parents started – the birthday chair. The birthday child wakes up to find his place at the breakfast table decorated with streamers, balloons and other goodies, like small snacks, lip glosses, light-up buttons announcing their age, etc… My children love the birthday chair and it’s a birthday must, even when we’re traveling.
If you don’t have a tradition to carry on, it’s not too late to start one. You can deliver a special breakfast in bed, fill the room with balloons, or make a crepe paper “door” that your child has to burst through. Who knows, years from now, your child may be passing that tradition down to their children.
Plan A Trip
At first blush, a birthday trip sounds hard (and costly) to implement. But there are plenty of ways to gift a trip. You can take the whole family to a special destination, you can do a birthday getaway with both parents or you can make it a solo parent trip, for some quality one-on-one time. Finally, you can ask the grandparents to play tour guide.
Because trips are harder to pull off, pick a set birthday for the celebration. The trip can take place when your child turns double digits, is sweet 16, or when you feel comfortable with them flying as an unaccompanied minor (if you’re sending them off to grandma and grandpa).
Give Goody Bags To The Parents
Even if you decide to go the traditional birthday party route, you can still shake things up a bit. I attended a recent birthday kid party where there were goody bags – for the moms. It was brilliant. After all, parents handle the RSVPs, buy the presents, and schlep the kids to the parties, why shouldn’t we be the ones to go home with the loot?
Jessica Graham is a freelance writer who has been published on Upworthy, Mothers Always Write and Parent.co. You can find her at In Pursuit of Loud, where she writes about the art of every day living. This article originally appeared on Parent.co.