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The Happy Birthday “Un-Party”

7 budget-friendly birthday ideas that make your child feel special

By Sarah Lyons

The day your child was born is a day to celebrate and make him or her feel special. Birthday parties are fun, but they can be a lot of work, and the costs can quickly add up. If you decide to skip the birthday party, it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate big. Here are some low-stress, low-budget ideas to make sure your child’s birthday “un-party” is special.

1. Create anticipation

As the birthday approaches, build anticipation by talking about it and planning what the day will hold. You can create a special countdown by making a paper chain and tearing off one chain per day, or even just counting down the number of days on a chalkboard in your home. Explain that, although there will not be a big birthday party this year, you still have a lot of fun things planned.

2. Make the cake

A great way to save money on a birthday celebration is to make the cake yourself. Choose flavors and colors or themes your child loves, and get siblings involved in the preparation. Kids typically don’t care about whether the cake is perfectly decorated. They are happy with a cake that is made just for them.

3. Balloon avalanche

When your child goes to sleep on “Birthday Eve,” decorate the house with balloons or birthday decor. Try taping a disposable tablecloth to the outside of the door jam and fill the space between with balloons. Upon your child’s opening the door, an avalanche of balloons will descend–the perfect birthday morning greeting!

4. Kid’s choice

When you are planning the day, consider your child’s favorites. Plan the day’s meals around your child’s favorite foods. Choose things that you typically do not serve to make the day more special. If you will go on an outing or if you will be dining out, let the child choose the location.

5. Document the day

Create a list of questions to ask your child, such as, “Who is your best friend?” You can also ask about favorite TV shows, songs, foods, and so on. Record the answers in a safe place and repeat the interview each year. It’s fun to look back and see how your child has changed and matured over the years.

6. Tell their story

Kids love to hear stories about the day they were born, the cute things they did as a baby, or how you prepared for their arrival. Spend part of the day telling favorite stories about your child…nothing will make him or her feel more special.

7. Have other people reach out

Ask friends and family to wish your child a happy birthday with calls, texts, messages, or cards. Consider talking to family members via Skype. This will help your child know that others are celebrating his or her birthday, even if you aren’t hosting a big birthday party this year.

As parents, we often feel like we have to spend a lot to make our child’s birthday special when this is truly not the case. With a little extra planning, your child’s day can be just as special as any expensive party.

More Big Ways to Celebrate Without a Party

  • Go to the movies
  • Visit an amusement park
  • Have dinner out at a favorite spot
  • Go bowling
  • Take a day trip to a neighboring town
  • Attend a sporting event
  • Be a tourist for the day in your hometown, visiting the zoo or other local attractions
  • Let your child pick a place they would like to visit

Sarah Lyons is a stay-at-home mom to six children. Some years, her kids celebrate their birthdays with parties, and other years they choose to celebrate in other ways.

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