Wake up to surprises. Wrap their bedroom door. Fill their room with balloons while they’re sleeping. Write birthday wishes on the bathroom mirror. Decorate a birthday chair and use a special birthday plate. Give your child a balloon for each year of age and fill each balloon with $1. Who wouldn’t have a great day after all of that?

Compare your child to last year and celebrate them this year. Look up last year’s physical stats if you keep those, or call your doctor and ask for records. Measure your birthday kid and compare their height and weight. If you’re feeling crafty, make a sign comparing the stats, along with all their likes and dislikes, their favorite sports, hobbies and school subjects, and what they want to be when they grow up. Celebrate their accomplishments and everything they’ve learned over the past year. Include photos from fun events, trips and moments. Even if you haven’t done this in the past, this is the year to start. Keep all these little signs and save for a scrapbook to present when it’s time for college.

Wear it. Every kid should get to wear a special birthday shirt, crown, pin, necklace or some other accessory. Then they will be wished “Happy Birthday” by everyone they see throughout the day.

Talk them up. Kids don’t tire of hearing wonderful things about themselves. So, have everyone in the family tell the birthday kid what they love. This could be a good exercise for the non-birthday kids to learn how to give compliments without automatically receiving one in return.

Tell your kid their birth story complete with photos, baby books or blogs. It doesn’t matter how many times they’ve heard it, kids will listen up when it comes to hearing how they came into the world. The night before their birthday is the best time to do this. Try to tell little details leading up to their birth. What happened the day before your child was born? What was going on in the world? What were your first thoughts when you laid eyes on your little one? Show them their baby book, their coming home outfit (if you kept it), pictures or maybe a blog … anything documenting their special baby moments.

Let the world know it’s their birthday. Write birthday wishes like “Honk for the Birthday Kid” all over your car. (Buy special markers just for windows.) Or have their birthday announced on TV. At least one week before your child’s birthday, send a “birthday wish” to the Sprout television network and it will be announced at 9 a.m. during the Sunny Side Up Show. (This would mostly be for preschoolers who are home in the mornings.) Take older kids to Medieval Times where they will be made royalty for the day. Their birthdays will be announced during a special ceremony before the show, and also during the show. Birthday kids also receive free admission on their birthdays.

Make lunch special. Eating lunch with your child at school or childcare, or bringing in a treat to share with classmates would be ideal. But if that’s not possible, lunch can still be packed with birthday fun. Pack your child’s favorite lunch, along with a special treat, and wrap each food item in wrapping paper. Include a special note or birthday card.

Send them on a treasure hunt. Instead of just handing your child a pile of presents, send them on a treasure hunt with clues to find each present. Make it even more special by including fun memories from that year on each of the clues

Start the day with a little celebration. Who says birthday candles are just for cakes? Make your child’s favorite breakfast and stick a candle in it. Whether it’s pancakes, muffins or yogurt parfait doesn’t really matter. And, go ahead and sing “Happy Birthday.”

Each birthday is a celebration, but it can also be a milestone. Make children feel special no matter what age they are turning by allowing them a special privilege each year they get older. When they reach a certain age they can drink soda, take pictures with the family camera, stay up a little later, have a playdate without a parent tagging along, walk across the street by themselves, create their own email address … the possibilities are endless. Most of these ideas don’t cost much, if anything, but they make the birthday kid feel special and a little more grown up.

– Kristy MacKaben

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