Parents, you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Or just as likely, we’ve got questions and you’ve got answers.

Challenge: Happy Birthday!

For the Love of Birthdays…And the Traditions That Stick

Vote up!
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email this article


There’s a lot more pressure with kids birthdays now a days, don’t you think? Between social media bragging rights and over-the-top celebrity birthday extravaganzas for kids too young to realize they’re having a birthday - it’s enough to make your head spin.

When my kids were little, Pinterest didn’t exist so I didn’t even realize how lame my kids’ birthday parties were compared to the rest of the parenting universe. My kids enjoyed them. Their party guests enjoyed them. And we had a lot of fun.

But, the really cool part happened beyond the parties. The quiet, silly, family traditions that weren’t fancy but seemed to hit the note for making amazing memories. For my boys, our family, and maybe yours…that’s all that really matters.

TRA-DI-TION! TRADITION! (Channeling your best Fiddler on the Roof voice.) Traditions are all those little things that honor that child in a special way and fill their day with a great mix of wonder, love, laughter – maybe even a splash of royal treatment. We loved the joy on their faces when they were little and they still have smiles on their nearly grown up faces when we break out those same old traditions.

This year, maybe skip some of the sky-high celebration stuff and consider adding some new memory makers instead. Here are a few favorites from our Positive Parenting Solutions community that may just stick in your family:

  • A birthday throne (decorated chair and royalty rights for the day)
  • A birthday interview. Use the same questions each year and keep the answers – so much fun to review when they are grown. (I wish I would have done that!)
  • Post a “___ (their age) things we love about (child's name)" on your social media timeline (with your child's permission!) or for younger kids, hang a sign on the bedroom door. The list of "things you love" will correspond to their new age. Here's a list I did last year for my 20 year old's birthday:


  • Special breakfast out with a parent
  • Decorate their bedroom door with streamers and signs
  • Stacey Martino shared her tradition of the Birthday Table. Every year they gather all their child’s favorite toys and animals from around the house and cover the table with their “friends” so it’s a big celebration first thing in the morning!


  • Fill their room with balloons
  • Decorate the car with washable markers
  • Birthday child gets to pick the meals for the day
  • Take a trip down memory lane by looking at family photos together
  • Birthday scavenger hunt with clues (thank you to one of our Facebook friends for this one!)

We also wanted to share these awesome ideas from our readers:

  • Dawn Candler: Do a family service project on birthdays even if it's just something as simple as planting flowers for a neighbor.
  • Jennifer Dutkiewicz: The birthday “gift” is a “birthday experience!” Our 4-year-old loves Princess Sofia... so we went on a hike and looked for rabbits. So fun! No clutter in the house or toys that get broken in a week. We still talk about how we got rained on and saw cows.
  • Anne Maxson: We have ice cream for breakfast. (Gasp!) We put it on top of pancakes so it is at least somewhat breakfast-like but the kids love that the rebelliousness of it.
  • Rachel Packard: Kids are excused from family chores on their birthday!
  • Tabitha Zapata: Every birthday we buy a new hard back book. We have all of the guests at the party sign the book and leave a message for my son.
  • Dawn Coelho Kubie: The kids come in our room and whomever's birthday it is gets to open presents on the "big bed" first thing in the morning.
  • Alyssa Formolo: My father would hang construction paper numbers for our new age in all the doorways throughout our home. I still remember waking up and being so excited to find them.

Let us hear from YOU. Tell us your favorite birthday tradition in the comments below and we’ll add the new ones to our list!

There are a million different ways to say, “Happy Birthday” to your child, and at least as many ways to celebrate. In the end it won’t be about the cake, or presents, or special privileges. It will be about how you made them feel, not just one day per year but every day. It’s about helping them feel connected, loved, special, unique, and an important part of your family. We love birthdays in our home. Like all parents, from that very first one, we were hooked.

Of course, as parents, we know it's not about the cake or presents either. It’s about them. About how much richer and fuller our lives are when we have kids to share it with. So, to my two guys, Ryan and Brent (who turns 18 next week!) – here’s to the birthday memories! Let the traditions continue. Oh, and I’ll still take a piece of cake!

Happy Birthday TODAY Parenting Team! We honor YOU!

Amy McCready's new book is The 'Me, Me, Me' Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World. Learn more at

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.