Our readers' best creative birthday traditions.
Write a Magical Message
My kids wake up to a note and a picture on their bathroom mirror from the Birthday Fairy. She uses a bar of soap to write "Happy Birthday" and draw a picture that represents something they are interested in at the time. The kids always look for their message as soon as they get up.
Karen Abelar Tracy, CA
We surprise the birthday kids by filling their rooms with balloons while they sleep!
Laura Hiss Northwood, OH
Turn a Gift into a Game
My 8-year-old grandson asked for money for his birthday this year, but instead of just putting it in a card, I told him he had to win the money at Grammy's Games. I set up a ring toss, a dice game, and other fun challenges. He earned points that he could trade in for coins. It was so much fun that we've decided to turn it into a tradition for him and his brother.
Nancy Hale Pittsburgh, PA
Create a Scavenger Hunt
My parents started a tradition that I carry on with my son. On our birthdays, my siblings and I would wake up to books hidden around the house -- one book for each year of our age. We'd be given a clue to find the first book, the clue for the second book would be inside it, and so on. My son loves it as much as we did.
Elizabeth Bessette Lebanon, CT
Party for a Cause
Every other year for my kids' birthday parties, we ask the partygoers to bring cash instead of presents. The money goes to the birthday child's charity of choice, such as Operation Christmas Child or an adopt-an-animal program at a local zoo or wildlife sanctuary. We have been doing this for about five years, and the kids still get so excited to pick the cause for their party.
Melissa Fraaza Ringle, WI
Spread Out the Fun
We recently celebrated my son's half birthday (six months before the actual day) with a surprise dinner. We folded his place mat in half, cut his napkin in half, and served him half a meal along with a half glass of milk. We even sang "Happy Birthday" to him, but stopped halfway through the song. For something that took only minutes to prepare, the memories were priceless.
Leslie Skillman Pompton Plains, NJ
Stash Surprises Everywhere
When I was younger, my mom would always hide presents for my sisters and me on our birthdays, and it made the festivities last longer. It was awesome to be in class, open my backpack, and find a present. Now that I have kids, I do the same thing. I love the "how did that get in here?" look on their faces when they go to put their shoes on or get in their car seat and discover their gifts.
Pam Nelson San Antonio, TX
Note Their Favorite Things
I have my kids fill out a list of their favorite things on their birthdays. I type it up, decorate it with pictures of their answers, and put it in their scrapbooks. The list includes their preferred singer, food, pastime, what they want to be when they grow up, and more. It's fun to see how their choices have changed over the years.
Shauna Hatch Roy, UT
Decorate a Seat of Honor
The night before a birthday, we decorate a birthday chair using balloons, crepe paper, ribbons, and anything else we can think of. The next day, the birthday person gets to sit in the special spot for every meal.
Robin Medina Fairplay, CO
Celebrate with a Work of Art
Each year on their birthdays, my kids get to paint their section of a wall in our basement playroom. I take pictures to document their creations, which we enjoy all year long before they're covered over by the new works of art. We've loved seeing the paintings evolve from just splatters and handprints to now, when my oldest is writing his name and drawing pictures.
Christy Musselman Etters, PA
My kids wake up to a new outfit on their bed. They love having
something special to wear on their birthday.
Natalie Bradley Holladay, UT
Explore a New Culture
On our globe, our birthday child picks a country or sometimes just a different state, then we make a dessert from that area. It helps teach about faraway places (and some not so far away!). We?ve had Egyptian pyramid cake and Irish green apple pie. The next one is France, and we're going to try some crème brûlée!
Sherre Sidwell Highland Heights, KY
Have a Theme
I get an item that goes with the party theme (a beach ball, a
book) and have all the guests write a birthday note on it!
Make an Add-on Keepsake
A few years ago, we decided to document our five kids' birthdays with a fun project. I laid out a white tablecloth along with some fabric markers and let the kids draw pictures and write notes to the birthday girl or boy. We've since seen all kinds of drawings, from dragons to chickens wearing birthday hats. The kids look forward to adding to it on each birthday.
Katanya Elliott Harrisonburg, VA
Originally published in the February 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.