Birthdays are a special time in everybody’s lives.  First of all, everyone has one.  Whether you like it or not.  Nobody on Earth can ignore the fact that every year they take another trip around the sun.

Secondly, it’s a time to pause and celebrate the greatness of you and how much you’ve grown in the last year.  And for kids, this is especially important.

As much as I love a good birthday party, birthdays don’t always need to be marked by a large party.  Like most things in life, they can be simpler too.

You can still celebrate a birthday even if you haven’t booked an expensive location or invite hundreds of your closest friends.  Your celebration can be a simple affair with the ones that you love most.

I’ve been thinking a lot about more simple birthday ideas recently in light of the pandemic spreading around the world right now.  Although many people are on shut down, birthdays are still happening.  Kids are still hitting these age milestones no matter what is occurring around them.

And parents have birthday parties planned.  Or at least they did.

Sadly, this worldwide emergency has resulted in many of these celebrations being cancelled or postponed.  Many friends and family members do not feel comfortable attending larger group events.  The location that you’ve booked might have shut down.  Your local government might have banned gatherings of groups.  Realistically, you might not be able to find the food and ingredients to put together a menu to feed your guests.  And many schools have closed.

All of this chaos has left many kids without the ability to celebrate their birthdays with their friends or a party this season.

The good news.  There are lots of simple birthday ideas for celebrating at home that can make your child’s day special.  And most of them use things that you already have.  Without having to go to the store (which might not be possible right now).

And these simple birthday ideas aren’t just useful when the government has put a social distancing order in place.  They also are economic ways to celebrate a birthday or fun ideas to spend time together as a family.

Most importantly, these ideas make the birthday boy or girl still feel special without having an all out birthday party.  Although they might still miss celebrating with their friends, their birthday is still about them and how much they’ve grown.  And that’s what’s really important.

Here are some simple birthday ideas that you can try at home.

The Montessori Way

When my kids attended a Montessori preschool, I fell in love with the way that they celebrate birthdays.  No cupcakes, favor bags or gifts.  Instead, the birthday celebration is a celebration of life ceremony.  Known also as a Montessori birthday walk, the focus is on celebrating the child’s development and their personal journey around the sun this last year.

To hold your own Montessori birthday celebration, start with a series of photos of the child from birth until the year you are celebrating.  On a blanket, set up the following items.  Place a candle or other light source in the center representing the sun.   Showcase the year the child is turning.  This can be represented with number cubes, a decorated paper mache number or paper cut out number.  You will also need a globe to represent the Earth.  If you don’t have a globe handy, use a playground ball or sports ball instead.

Start the ceremony by having family members sit in a circle around the blanket.  Light the candle or turn on the light source.  Have your child walk around the circle carrying the globe and his baby photo.  Every time your child walks around the blanket represents one trip around the sun.  Talk about the things he could do as a baby, happy memories from this time and important life milestones that happened as a family (a new sibling, move, pet, etc.).  You can also sing the song “The Earth Goes Around the Sun” as he walks, if desired.

Continue this process through each of the years.  It’s a beautiful way to celebrate how much your child has grown and all of the wonderful things he’s learned.

Decorations Everywhere

Even if you can’t (or choose not to) host a party, you can still decorate.  Choose a party theme that the birthday child will love and use printable party designs to give their bedroom, dining room or other gathering spaces a special birthday touch.

Hang a birthday wreath or sign on the door.  (I love hanging this balloon wreath on our front door whenever we have a birthday.  It let’s everyone know that we are celebrating someone important.) 

You can also hang streamers from the ceiling, blow up balloons and attach them on the walls or scatter confetti on the tabletop.  My little loves to make a chair sign to attach to the birthday person’s dining room chair.  And we also string lots of buntings throughout the house.

Decorating your home for your child’s birthday makes them feel extra special.  I love my kids excitement at discovering on their birthday morning the different decorations hidden around the house.  It almost becomes it’s own treasure hunt.

Bake a Birthday Treat Together

One of my favorite birthday traditions is choosing the birthday child’s treat.  Usually a cake (sometimes another favorite), I go to our local bakery and select something sweet that they will enjoy.

Instead of surprising the birthday boy or girl with a party treat that you picked out for them, why not make one together.

Bake a cake, cupcakes, brownies or other fun birthday treat.  You can decorate it together and make it extra special.  Although birthday treats are important, the experience of baking and decorating it together will be even more special.

Movie Night

We love movie nights in our house.  They are easy to organize and we always love sharing a good movie together.

To celebrate your child’s birthday, have a birthday movie night.  Make it special by letting the birthday child choose the movie and the snack.

Not sure what movie to suggest?  Make a list of movie ideas that the child might enjoy based on their interests.  If they love fantasy, Harry Potter or The Goonies might be good.  Or comedy could be Princess Diaries or Home Alone.

You can find a list of recommended family movies here to get you started.

And if you don’t have the movie at home, digital rentals are really convenient.  Then, you don’t even need to go out.

Family Sleepover

A few years ago, I read about how Ashley Ann Photography held family sleepovers under the Christmas tree.  All of the family members would grab their sleeping bags and have a sleepover under the tree a few days before Christmas.

This tradition always sounded so magical to me.  I think it was the dazzling lights and everyone being together.

A family sleepover is also a great simple birthday celebration idea to make a birthday extra special.  Get each family member to grab their sleeping bag, plan some snacks (and maybe a movie or board games) and crash together for a night.  You can even build a fire in the fireplace or tell spooky ghost stories (if your kids are old enough).

Summer time?  Why not move the family sleepover outside and have a family camp out instead.  Set up a tent in the backyard and let everyone sleep over under the stars.

Spa Night

This one might seem more for the girls of the family, but boys (and Dads) are invited too.  If your child loves to paint their nails and go to the hair salon, why not host a family spa night.

I did this with my little last year.  Her birthday spa evening started with an extra bubbly bubble bath. Then, I painted her nails and we shared lots of giggles.

To host your own family spa night, decide on the activities that you want your family spa to offer.  It might be too hectic for everyone to have luxurious bubble baths.  Instead, you could have foot soaks, facials, manicures, pedicures and hair blow outs.  Grab the birthday child’s favorite nail polish colors, a foot bath (a small tub with bubbles and warm water works), facial scrubs and other spa supplies.

Let the birthday child go first and enjoy the spa treatments.  You can even add a spa sign and have the services set up a specific room.  Don’t forget the bath robes and towels.

Ice Cream Sundae Bar

Although cake is the traditional birthday treat, if given a choice I love ice cream.  Make the birthday child’s special day extra sweet with an ice cream bar.

Set up a couple different flavors of ice cream and all of the toppings.  Let the family make their own ice cream sundaes.  Scoop out ice cream into a bowl and let them customize their ice cream sundaes with their favorite toppings.

Don’t want to bake a cake too?  Add a candle to the birthday child’s ice cream sundae.  No one said that the birthday dessert had to be a cake.

Backyard Scavenger Hunt

One of our favorite spring and summer activities is going on a scavenger hunt.  We love searching the backyard, house and neighborhood for different items.

Create your own birthday scavenger hunt with these editable scavenger hunt cards

Or check out some of the free printable scavenger hunts we have on the blog.  You can go on a color hunt and look for items of different colors both indoors and out.  Or if it’s fall, search your neighborhood for different kinds of pumpkins with this Free Printable Pumpkin Scavenger Hunt or the pumpkin patch for all kinds of different things.  

Setting up a scavenger hunt can take a little prep work, so be prepared.  Make sure you choose items that can be currently found in the search zone.  You hate to write leaves or pumpkins down when it isn’t fall or the trees are bare.

With the editable scavenger hunt cards, you can add the specific items that you want family members to look for.  If you have different aged kids, you could create cards specific to their abilities.

Once you pick your scavenger hunt items, set the family to work.  Hunt as a group, individually or separate into teams.  You can collect the items when you locate them or take a picture on your camera.  Whoever finds the most items wins.

Breakfast for Dinner

One of the ways that we celebrate birthdays in our family is that the birthday child (or adult) gets to pick what we are having for dinner.  Many times our children love to choose their favorite breakfast dish for dinner.

Turn this idea into a birthday tradition by serving breakfast for dinner on your child’s birthday.  Make a stack of waffles smothered in whipped cream, funfetti pancakes with rainbow sprinkles, fruit crepes or other favorite breakfast meal.  You can even stick a candle in the top and sing Happy Birthday.

Board Game Palooza

Board games and puzzles are really fun weekend entertainment.  We especially LOVE playing Monopoly whenever possible.  It is an entire evening (sometimes multiple evenings) of entertainment.

Turn a normal night of board game play into a special birthday Board Game Palooza.

Have the birthday child choose their favorite board games.  Then, get in your pajamas and play board games until bedtime.  You could also let the kids stay up extra late or play the board games by flashlight only (something I remember doing on sleepovers as a kid).

If you are a family that loves competition, then add a competitive angle and offer prizes.  See how many rounds of Go Fish or Uno each person can win.  It might add even more fun to the celebration.

Check out this post about my favorite board games to play as a family.

Birthday Olympics

Speaking of competition, you could take the birthday celebration outside with a family Birthday Olympics.  Work with the birthday child to create a variety of games and activities to test your family’s skills.  Divide into teams or each represent themselves.

Some ideas for games include rope climbing, long jump, soccer shot, tennis bounce and obstacle course.  Create this printable scoring chart to keep track of where everyone stands for each competition.  And, of course, you’ll need some homemade medals for the awards ceremony.

You can find more ideas for hosting your own Birthday Olympics here.

Decorate your Front Window

Let everyone in the neighborhood know that it’s someone’s birthday by decorating a front window (or back) of your home.  Tape up balloons, hang streamers and write with washable window markers (affiliate link).

Another idea is to hang a party bunting in the window facing the outside.  That way passers by can read it as they go by.

Or place a sign that says “Honk!  It’s someone special’s birthday!”.  The birthday child (or adult) will probably love all of the recognition from others.

What We Love About You Poster

Celebrating your birthday is about feeling special for the day.  And there isn’t a better way to making a child feel special then telling them all of the reasons you love him.

Create a “What We Love About You” Poster and hang on the door.  Roll out a large sheet of paper (or tape together small sheets if you don’t have a big one).  Write at the top “Why We Love (Child’s Name)”.  Have family members write down reasons they love the birthday child.  You can also decorate the poster to make it bright and colorful.

Hang the poster on your child’s door or in their room.  It’s a wonderful surprise to wake up to on their birthday morning.

King or Queen for the Day

One of the most important things about being the birthday child is that you feel special.  And one way to feel special is being in charge for the day.

Make your birthday child king or queen for a day.  You can make them a homemade felt crown and let them wear it all day.

Then, discuss with your child the decisions that they would like to make.  It might be choosing the food that you’ll eat for all three meals.  Or the outdoor activity for the afternoon.  Or picking an art project to do together.  You can have them make snack, assign chores, pick a movie or game, have an extra late bedtime, choose the bedtime story.  The list is endless.

Think about it.  When you were a kid and weren’t allowed to make any of those decisions yourself, didn’t it feel extra powerful to be allowed to make those decisions.  Even if it was just for a day.

Before letting your child be king or queen, though, have a plan.  Know exactly which choices you want him to make for the day or it might get out of control quickly.

Celebrating a birthday at home can be a wonderful family tradition to establish.  Worldwide crisis or not.  You can make a child’s birthday just as special with one of these simple birthday ideas without having a huge party.

And some years having a huge birthday party might not be an option.  Choosing a simple birthday celebration at home is also a great way to save money or might work better for your family.

If you do find yourself stuck at home (or not wanting to go out) and need some quick birthday printables, check out our free printable Awesome Birthday Bundle.  It has over 30 pages of printable birthday fun that you can use for any birthday celebration.  You can download the free birthday printables here.

So, which of these simple birthday ideas is your favorite?  Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Celebrating,

Natalie

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