I want to share a little story with you. For many years when my girls were little, once a year each, they would receive an envelope in the mailbox (you know, that box that attaches to your house or is somewhere on the street near your house). The level of excitement that surrounded the $3 gift card inside was unbelievable and the power that came with how they planned to spend said $3 was immeasurable.
Because toddlers and little kids with permission to “buy whatever you want for around $3” is like magic.
That $3 envelope, my friends, was like a windfall. Well, at least to my kids it was.
But it wasn’t just the promise of $3 to spend that made it so special. It was what they knew surrounded the entire thing that was icing on the cake. And when I say cake, I mean birthday cake. And when I say special, I mean put on a crown, have people sing to you and announce your name on the loud speaker while you walk around a store with a balloon and try to figure out what prize will become yours with your $3 gift card.
For those of you who don’t know, this special day came compliments of Toys”R”Us through Geoffrey’s Birthday Club. We are a few years beyond their club but we still (obviously) have fond memories and still tell people with younger kids all about it. This is just another example of the free and inexpensive birthday traditions that we used for celebrating their special day.
As an example, we take a picture of the girls in the same chair every year on their birthday. As they have gotten older, they have more appreciation for this simple birthday tradition. I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to continue this once they move out of the house. I sometimes wonder if they’ll try to continue it in their own way.
We also try to start their day off on the right foot. If they so choose, we also make them breakfast in bed. A few times they have told me that they didn’t want to throw off their school day routine but other times they’ve set their alarms early to ensure time for it. It’s so important that kids understand that it doesn’t take a gold mine to create magic and memories and these are a few ways to demonstrate that.
While some parents go all out every year for their children’s birthdays, we create quality memories with restrictions. Every other year the focus is on the family where they can invite one friend to join as an honorary family member. Sometimes we will go out to dinner or a place that caters to birthdays and other times we celebrate at home. On the opposite years, they are allowed to invite a handful of friends and have something more festive like a trip to the skate park, local pizza place or (heaven help us) have a sleepover.
We don’t create lavish events with bounce houses and tons of guests and gifts, but you can bet we put a lot of work into crafting the perfect cake. Kennedy has a fascination with powdered donuts so one year we made a cake and topped it with donuts. Unconventional, yes, but each guest was thrilled when they received their own donut-topped piece of cake.
Another year we served a cake decorated with gummy bears and another year a giant bowling pin shaped ice cream cake with cake pop bowling balls was the centerpiece at the bowling party. Years later and our girls STILL remember these types of special additions to their parties.
You know what? Our girls have learned to genuinely be excited about their birthdays. They don’t have high expectations of huge gifts, but understand and appreciate when people put a lot of thought into the gifts they give. Whether families ask us for ideas or go to the local toy store or shop online based on age or interest, my girls know when something is given with love.
We don’t let them rip through paper with speed then move onto the next gift. They stop and savor each gift, pose for a photo with it to know how to address the related thank you note then acknowledge the giver personally if they happen to be present. The same holds true for Christmas, in case you’re wondering.
These little things in life are what lasting, meaningful memories are built on which is why Toys”R”Us put such care and consideration into Geoffrey’s Birthday Club with balloons, a free gift and even a conga line around the store. While that’s no longer an option for families, that doesn’t mean you should look for local stores that make birthdays special. The memories for us were priceless.
What are some of your birthday traditions?