Saturday, 1 July 2017

Simple birthdays

I'm sure we all want our children to feel special on their birthday - and rightly so! Is it possible to create lasting memories with our children in a way that is purposefully simple? I think so! Here are some of my ideas for meaningful ways to mark special days.

Traditions over gifts:

In our family we have a few traditions we repeat each and every birthday. Some are special items such as the birthday crown (a handmade felt crown gifted on their first birthday) and the wooden birthday ring (a tradition which is German in origin. We simply use ours as a candle holder for birthday meals and a table decoration) Some are verses and songs and some are little activities (such as helping siblings make the birthday child a gift, making birthday candles and getting out newborn baby photos) of course there is also the birthday cake!

You can start a new tradition anytime! They don't need to be fancy and they don't need to be the same as ours. They do need to be simple enough to be sustainable (don't have too many to prepare for each year or they will become burdensome)

Consistency from year to year is important when building traditions - children come to rely on these predictable, comforting rhythms in their lives.

A verse for a child the night before their birthday;

When I have said my evening prayer,

And my clothes are folded on the chair, 
And mother switches off the light,
I'll still be (5) years old tonight. 

But from the very break of day, 

Before the children rise and play, 
Before the darkness turns to gold, 
Tomorrow, I'll be (6) years old
(6) kisses when I wake, (6) candles on my cake.... 

A Montessori birthday song (to the tune of the farmer in the Dell)

The Earth goes around the sun,
The Earth goes around the sun,
It takes a full year to go around,

And then (child) was 1!

Sing each verse changing the last line until you reach the age of your child. In a Montessori classroom each verse is sung as the child walks around the "sun" (candle) holding a globe of the earth. This simple celebration gives a concrete understanding of each year to a child who is only beginning to understand the concept of time.

Keeping gift giving simple:

Although our special traditions are the main "treat" on their birthdays we do still like to give the children a special gift to mark the occasion.

It's important to us to avoid fads and gifts that cause clutter, to choose gifts wisely and with intention (What values does this toy convey? Is it a passing fad? Will it cause clutter in our home? Does it allow our children to use their imaginations, practice a skill, further a special interest? Will it withstand the play of several children over the years? Is it ethically produced?) and to prioritise giving the gift of time together over things where possible (ie. a trip to a special place, a special activity or class, an experience of some sort to share with friends)

Old-fashioned birthday parties:

Remember birthday parties when you were a child? Think pin the tail on the donkey and sitting around your friends dining table perched on a phonebook and wearing a party hat. Consider playing those old fashioned, low cost party games if any (most children simply want to play with their friends)

If you want to do something more extravagant one year why not combine it with your child's birthday gift? We hired a pony for rides around our backyard as a clutter-free gift for our 5 year old one year!

It's not worth going to too much trouble with the food since (in my experience) excited, playing children scarcely have time to eat. My thoughts? Just serve up some real food for snacks and let the birthday cake be the sweet treat.

Keeping perspective:

At the end of the day the things we as a family want our children to take to heart are: knowing that they are a valuable and loved addition to our family, learning to accept gifts graciously, striving to be good stewards of their toys and belongings, being willing to practice hospitality, enjoying spending time with others, and to value giving over receiving.

I truly believe that if we keep these objectives in mind we will experience freedom from any guilt associated with simplifying ours and our children's lives - and birthdays!

Do you have any special birthday traditions in your family? I would love to hear about them!

Shared at Arabah JoyWise woman link upSaturday sparksMaking a homearound the home & homestead


  1. I love traditions and love that sweet poem!! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

    1. thank you jann! it is a sweet little verse, one of my favourites too :)

  2. I love this post! Tradition over stuff is a huge part of our family's philosophy. We do parties with those we are closest to. Parents, grandparents, some cousins, occasionally a really close friend, and our 'friends that are family' group. All in all, I'm expecting 8-10 guests for my son's birthday party next week. Everything will be homemade and the event will be wrapped in our family's peculiar traditions. Thanks, for sharing!

  3. happy birthday to your son! enjoy your festivities and traditions!


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