Intentional Celebrations: 5 Ways to Keep Birthdays Simple

Intentional Celebration Motherhood

girl looking at doughnut cake

There is something about celebrating the birth of your child. Usually, I’m not about curating an environment or “moment” for my kids, but on their birthday, I do everything I can to make it feel special and set apart from every other day.

I’m tempted to throw a huge, expensive Pinterest-perfect party but most children enjoy intentionality, simplicity and tradition a lot more than a perfectly styled tablescape. Here’s a quick list to get you thinking of ways to make your child’s birthday as magical as it can be, while keeping things simple:

three small children eating breakfast around a table with a stack of books and a plate for mom

Starting the Day with a Celebratory Birthday Breakfast
  1. Turn everyday meals into something special: We love letting our children pick out a special box of cereal (usually sugary junk) that we wouldn’t normally let them have.

    We try to set the breakfast table up so it’s ready for them in the morning. We might let them pick a place to go out together for supper, or let them plan the meal and we usually add birthday candles to their food. Even stopping at a bakery and picking up a special treat can make their day unique.

  2. Decorations: Don’t decorations make everything special? Even some streamers and balloons, which you can buy for next to nothing, can add a special touch. Hang streamers over their bedroom door, or fill their room with balloons.

    You could even put wrapping paper over their doorway so they have to bust out in the morning! Decorate their chair at the dinner table. String up a set of Christmas lights or a “Happy Birthday” banner or chalkboard. Eat supper by candlelight. Decorative touches put a bit of "magic" into the day!

  3. Presents & Parties: We try to keep everything simple. We don’t have extravagant parties and only buy a few gifts. We try to let our kids feel enjoyed and have excitement throughout the day so that it’s not all about gifts. Having family come to celebrate has been so fun because they know and love our kids as much as we do.

    As our kids have gotten older we've included more friends too, but my advice—no matter who you choose to invite, is to keep it simple. Especially if your child is still at an age where they need a nap (no one wants the birthday girl crying into her cake because she’s overtired) or where noise and crowds can easily overwhelm them.

    Our most favorite birthdays to date have been those where we've done simple activities: sledding, going to the zoo, swimming or going to a candy store!

  4. Time: If you’re able, find some way to spend extra time together on their day. That could be taking them out of school early (if they school outside of home) and sneaking out for an afternoon movie, or joining them for lunch. It could be going out for a 5 am breakfast or staying up late playing board games. One-on-one time can be a great birthday gift to your child.
  5. Magic in the (out of the) Ordinary: Anything out of the ordinary is magical in the eyes of a child, so be creative! This can be adding glow sticks to their evening bath when they’re young (or hanging Christmas lights and having new bath wash for your older children) or delivering balloons to their sports practice or co-op class.

    You could buy them a new outfit to wear for the day, or have small gifts for them to open at each stop on their morning routine (breakfast table, bathroom, dresser drawer, backpack, etc.). You could dress up the family dog in a shirt with their face on it! Decorate your van as a surprise when you snag them in the pick-up line. Ordinary can be so special if we look for ways to make it so!

What We Love About Simple Celebrations

Our focus for a birthday has always tried to be on the child, and not as much on the gifts or activities. At supper we each take turns telling the birthday person what we love about them or a special memory from the year.

We take a moment on their birthday (usually before bed) to look through their baby books and old pictures of past birthdays and recount memories and stories about them. We take time to bless them and pray over them before they go to sleep.

Keeping things simple takes the stress out of the celebration and helps us infuse the day with love and peace. And, it makes it easy to do for all of our children. When we have simple birthday traditions it helps it be fair for each child too. 

boy blowing out candles

Be sure to check out my "Intentional Celebrations" for more posts in this series of simple and meaningful celebrations! 

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  • Diana Roldan on

    So awesome thank you ! I have a 4 yo and have stressed out every single one of her bday parties (they’re small but still) , i’m definetly implementing this.

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