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Celebrating Birthdays

Making it special...

As parents, we often want to give our children everything they need, want, and what we never had.  Birthdays are one of these times, and can often get out of hand. Planning the perfect birthday for your child can turn into a stressful event. Parents often place too much pressure on themselves to fulfill their children’s wishes. If you find yourself overwhelmed, step back, take a deep breath, and evaluate the situation. With a bit of planning, courage, and creativity you and your child can make a special day memorable!

While keeping it simple

Avoid comparisons. Birthdays are an occasion that most children look forward to, and birthday parties are like icing on the cake! Your child will likely have attended other children’s parties and may want exactly what someone else had. However, every family is different, and you may not feel comfortable having an extravagant celebration for your child. Talk to your child about your family’s traditions and views about birthday parties. Remember, there are many ways you can make a party special and fun for your child and his friends. Kids are happy as long as there is food, fun, and friends!

Involve your child. Involve your child in the party planning and preparation. While you should guide her by giving choices and setting limits, let her plan the theme, location, guest list, activities, and menu. She can write out invitations, decorate, and help with other preparations.

Keep it manageable. Invite a reasonable number of guests that you know you can accommodate. 1-2 hours is plenty of time for a toddler or pre-school party, and 2-3 hours is recommended for elementary school age children. Sleepovers become popular during the pre-teen and teen years. They can be a challenge for parents, so set some rules ahead of time with your child. Talk about what areas of the house are off limits, what movies are acceptable to watch, and what food is permissible for a late night snack. Create the guest list with your child so you know who is coming, and include the pick-up and drop-off times in the invitation. Before the party, talk to your child about sleep time rules and appropriate behavior.

Have a back-up plan. With kids, even the most perfectly planned party needs a “plan B”. If your party will be outdoors, make sure you are able to move it inside if it rains or choose a “rain date”. Remember, children have a short attention span so plan plenty of activities to keep your young guests busy – it is better to have too many things to do than not enough. Creating a schedule of events can help ensure that things will go smoothly; however, do keep in mind that everything might not go exactly according to schedule.

Make it a teachable moment.  Birthdays can be a wonderful opportunity to help your child learn some important things that are not taught in the classroom. For example, having your child write or sign his own thank you notes teaches him gratitude (and helps with writing skills, too!). If your child gets money from relatives, suggest that he put aside some in a savings account, or give some back to a worthy cause.

Celebrate in school. It is a well-established tradition at the preschool and elementary school level that children celebrate their birthdays in school. Often, this involves bringing cupcakes or other treats for your child’s classmates. Talk to your child’s teacher about school policies and offer to get creative in addition to bringing in food. For example, make a collage with pictures of your child for her to share with her class. Plan a cooking activity, lead an arts and crafts project, or even just read your child’s favorite story to her class. Having you take time out of your schedule to be in her classroom will make your child’s birthday even more special.

Set aside some family time. Birthdays are a wonderful way to make time in everyone’s busy schedules for family. Even if your child’s birthday falls on a weekday, make it a point to have breakfast together before everyone takes off for work and/or school, or plan a family dinner. Birthdays are a great time to make some family traditions.

It's all about your chlid! The bottom line is your child’s birthday is a special day, and it’s OK to relax the rules and spoil your child just a little bit. Making a big deal about her birthday shows your child that she is special to you and a loved member of the family. Finally, remember to applaud yourself for raising a beautiful, precious little person!

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