A Different Way of Celebrating a Birthday

Birthday parties can be difficult for our family as we have a son with special needs. Frequently no one comes to his birthday parties, and if my daughter has a birthday party, all of her friends come. The difference is stark. I’ve struggled with how to handle this for years. Finally, I hit on the perfect solution for our problem. We would have “Birthday Experiences” rather than birthday parties.

My son, loves pirates.

So, I planned a pirate-themed day for the family. I found a “pirate cruise” on a local lake that I bought tickets to surprise him with. The latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie had just come out before his birthday, so with a pirate cruise, a pirate movie, and lunch, we had a birthday planned. We spent the day with our pirate loving every minute of it and SO happy.

My daughter whose birthday was coming up decided she needed an experience birthday too because she enjoyed it so much. As her birthday approached, we discussed lots of options. She is someone who likes having all her options open. Finally, she settled on having her hair highlighted and a spa day. I took her to a local beauty school and had her hair highlighted for $50. I didn’t have to deal with a dozen preteen girls and all the drama that comes with or cleaning up after a party. We painted each other’s nails and picked up her favorite takeout for dinner on the way home. For me it was a win, win situation. My daughter was thrilled with her hair and spa day, it wasn’t too expensive, and I enjoyed it too.

The next year for his birthday, my son’s requested experience was to go to a Renaissance fair. There were a couple in our area. It’s a great way to help him experience and learn new things, as well as a great adventure for the whole family. We are looking forward to it and he already had his costume planned out.

Birthdays don’t have to be the traditional party, cake, and presents. Make new traditions and memories if the old ones don’t work for your family. The most important part of a birthday is making that someone feel special on their special day and that can be done in lots of ways.

Here are a few other suggestions for an “Experience Birthday”

Tea Party Experience

Dress up and take your child to the local tea shop.(houstonprincessteaparty.com)

Cowboy Experience

Spend the day at a ranch learning how to rope and ride.(hitchinpostponies.com)

Fishermen Experience

Get your fishing duds and a picnic lunch and go fishing. Take Grandpa too, because chances are he’d love to show you how to cast that line. Galveston has some great charter boats (visitgalveston.com)

Ice Experience

Channel your inner Elsa and go ice skating in princess attire. (memorialcity.com/events/ice-skate-memorial-city)

Gold Rush Experience

You may not live anywhere there is gold in the streams, but I can bet your child would love panning for gold in a stream for real or pretend.


Fireman Experience

Does your little one dream of becoming a firefighter? Then head to the Houston Fire Museum for a birthday party like no other. (Reopening Fall 2024 – houstonfiremuseum.org)

Safari Experience

If your kids dream of wandering thru Africa to see all of the wild animals, why not take them on safari a little closer to home?


Take your child’s great loves and interests, turn them into a day they will never forget. Birthdays don’t have to be expensive and huge. They should be about making memories and celebrating the life of that special person.

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