Birthdays Family Life Parenting

Our Favorite Birthday Traditions


Six simple and memorable birthday traditions

I love birthdays.

My parents made our birthdays really fun when I was growing up, and now that I have children of my own, I particularly love making them a festive event for the whole family.

I think birthdays are an especially fun time to have family traditions, and over the years we’ve developed some fun ones that aren’t too complicated or time-consuming, but make it a really special and exciting day for everyone:


  1. Breakfast in Bed. This is one from my parents and one of my favorite memories from childhood. On the morning of our birthdays, the whole family would traipse into our bedrooms singing happy birthday and holding a breakfast tray. It’s so simple but so out of the ordinary (when else do you get breakfast in bed?). And of course, that breakfast was always. . .
  2. Sugary cereal. When I was growing up, we never had very fun cereal, and we’re pretty much the same now – the regular rotation is mini wheats, plain Chex (my favorite!), or Life. So having Lucky Charms or Reese’s Puffs or Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a very special treat. Plus, it’s so easy. No getting up early to make pancakes, and the rest of the siblings are equally excited about getting a few bowlfuls after the birthday girl has eaten (I wrote a whole post about this tradition here).
  3. A decorated kitchen table. After the girls go to bed, Bart and I set the table and hang up balloons and streamers, and put out party hats and those little party blowers. After breakfast in bed, it’s fun for everyone to come out and see the table looking mighty festive, and ready for the non-birthday children to eat their sugary cereal.
  4. An outing to the candy store. This is a new one this year. On Star’s second birthday, it was rainy and we weren’t sure how to spend the morning. Bart looked up things to do with kids in the area and discovered there was a very large and very popular candy story not too far from us. We gave each of the girls $2 and then we spent an hour looking at every aisle as they decided how to spend their money. It was so fun and the girls were in heaven, with the older girls asking if we could come back on THEIR birthdays and do this again.
  5. Dinner at Grimaldi’s. If you sign up for Grimaldi’s VIP program (which is free), you get a free large pizza coupon around your birthday. We’ve signed up everyone in our family, and so, usually a few days before the actual birthday, we all go out to dinner together. Because of the spacing of our birthdays, we end up going about every third month, so we rarely go aside from our birthdays and it feels like a special birthday outing, plus a fun way to kick off the celebrations. If you don’t have a Grimaldi’s near you, there are plenty of other restaurants that offer birthday freebies. When we lived in Texas, we would go to Fuddruckers during our birthday weeks.
  6. A tiny smash cake for first birthdays. This has been my favorite tradition for each of the girls, and I’m in mourning already that next February will probably be our last first birthday celebration. I love making a tiny cake in a tin can or mug and then decorating it up with a single candle (you can see more details about how I make it here). It’s just so cute and fun for photo ops, plus I don’t feel bad about a ton of cake getting wasted.

I have a friend who does a special both parents/birthday child date for birthdays, which I love the idea of incorporating, but haven’t actually gotten around to doing ever.

Do you have family birthday traditions? I’d love to hear (and then I’ll probably steal them for our own family!).

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  • Reply Nora March 21, 2017 at 7:12 am

    I love making my kids feel special in their birthdays also- they always wake up to a balloon bouquet waiting for them at their spot at the table. The birthday child gets the day free from any chores and gets to choose what I make for supper that night. This is the first year we started taking the birthday child out for a special- they choose the restaurant- date just them with mom and dad. Just a few simple things to make them feel loved

  • Reply Steph Spotts March 21, 2017 at 7:20 am

    We keep a Dollar Store “Happy Birthday” goblet that they get to drink out of at all the meals through the day. The kids love it!

  • Reply Whitney March 21, 2017 at 8:27 am

    I love these ideas and singing up for the Grimaldi’s vip program ASAP. Always looking for fun family traditions.
    So my family has a second verse to the Happy Birthday song. I’m not sure if my Grandpa made it up or heard it somewhere but it’s SUPER important to everyone in my family.
    The other thing I like to do is make a birthday video. We strapped our GoPro on Abe tearing into his cake on his first birthday and interviewed him on his second. I think we’ll interview him again this year (and Max will get the GoPro!).
    I love the candy store idea. Reading that reminded me that Terry took me to a candy store for my birthday the first year we were married and it was THE. BEST. We’re going to have to start doing that one.

  • Reply Brillante March 21, 2017 at 11:49 am

    These all sound so fun! We stole the sugary birthday cereal idea from you last year and have loved it! Such a fun (easy!) tradition. I love getting a few birthday books from the library for us to read leading up to and on the kids birthday as well. I’ve checked to see if you have a birthday picture book post and have never seen one. I’d love to hear your favorites!

  • Reply Kristie March 21, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    We make chocolate mayonnaise cake or cupcakes with chocolate frosting. It is my mom’s family recipe and we have it for every birthday!

    Love Grimaldi’s Pizza!

  • Reply Feisty Harriet March 21, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    We always got to pick all the meals for the day, which was usually sugary cereal (because my Mom always made boring pancakes and eggs and who wants that when CAPTAIN CRUNCH is an option!?!) and then our favorite dinner. Presents were opened first thing in the morning, before breakfast, just like Christmas. 🙂


  • Reply Paige March 21, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    I love your first birthday cake tradition! I think it’s so cute!

  • Reply Lindsay March 21, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    I love making the little smash cake too!

    We hang up a fabric “Happy Birthday” banner and number signs around the house after the kids are in bed. The number signs are drawn and decorated (usually with interests of the birthday boy) by my husband and I on regular sheets of paper. However old they are is how many we make: seven number “7”s, or 10 number “10”s are hung around the house. They always like waking up to find them all and see how they were decorated.

  • Reply Rosemary March 22, 2017 at 7:25 am

    You are a ways out from one of my favorites, but when a member of my family turned 16, we would go on our first date with the opposite parent. My dad would take the birthday girl and the birthday boy would take my mom on the birthday person’s first date. It was so nice to be able to practice our manners and proper etiquette with someone safe and with no fear. And I will forever have that memory of my first date with my daddy.

  • Reply Abbie March 22, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time as today is my son’s 6th bday. He got to choose all his meals today and supper could be take out. He designed his own cake which I made yesterday and hid. I stole your idea of decorating he table and he was so surprised when he came down for breakfast. He got to watch a movie which usually only happens on thr weekend and played video games which he rarely does. It was a great day for him and actually quite simple for me. Thanks for the post!

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  • Reply Anki March 23, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    My family has candle races at every birthday. This started when my uncle was a toddler and wanted his cake with the candle still lit and burning while he ate it. As this is in *no way* safe, my grandparents stuck the candle to a plate (melting the wax on the bottom a little) where he could see it while he ate his cake. And as is often the case, it wasn’t enough for him to be the only person with a candle–everyone else needed to have one as well. The natural progression to having a plate full of burning candles is to see which one goes out the fastest, which is fairly easy to cheat at.

    Eventually, it became an endurance race, where the winner is the person whose candle burns out last. In my immediate family, the rules are that the candles all need to be new, and they all need to be the same color (different colored birthday candles burn at different rates, and it is unpredictable). The person whose birthday it is chooses their candle, and that one is lit last (about the only advantage one can get in a race like this). Only people who are physically present get a candle, and you have to be at least a year old. The lights are turned out, as are things like air conditioners in the summer, as the airflow can cause the candles to burn at unnaturally different rates).

    All told, we spend about a half an hour watching the candles burn down, eating cake, and generally having a lovely time talking to each other. And heckling, based on what the candles are doing, of course. 🙂

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