5 Unconventional Ways to Celebrate Your Kid's Birthday

Mighty Mommy shares five ways you can make your child’s birthday a blast without (or in addition to!) the big fuss of a party.

Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #488

After many years of infertility, my first four kids were born within four years! Having waited for so very long to finally become a mom, my first milestone holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and those momentous first birthday celebrations—were something I didn’t take for granted.

In fact, looking back, I’d say I probably went a bit over the top when it came to their birthdays. I picked a theme and then went hog wild. Circuses, carnivals, Pooh Bear, the Hundred Acre Wood, the Wizard of Oz, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...the themes went on and on.

Those parties were memorable (as well as tiring, expensive, and time-intensive), but as my kids got older, I learned quickly that it wasn’t the actual party that got them so excited about a birthday. It was the fact that their birthday was a special day devoted just to them.

Celebrating them individually, with the focus entirely on them, mattered much more than all the hoopla of a big birthday bash. Equally as important was the excitement we’d create days before the actual birthday. After all, anticipation is half the fun.

Here are five ways you can make your child’s birthday a blast without (or in addition to) the big fuss of a party.

5 Non-Traditional Ways to Celebrate Your Child's Birthday

  1. Start a Family Birthday Tradition
  2. Make a Birthday Date
  3. Plan a Mystery Day
  4. Get Sporty
  5. Book a Destination Birthday

Here's a closer look at each.

1. Start a Family Birthday Tradition

Traditions and rituals are such an important part of growing up. As the oldest of five siblings, I recall always receiving a new pair of holiday pajamas every Christmas Eve and being allowed to open one gift under the tree before we went to bed. Another favorite was having picnic dinners on the beach for the first and last day of school. Some of our family traditions were those my parents experienced as kids and others they created just for the five of us.

All to say that holidays aren’t the only time to enrich your children with tradition. Birthdays can be a great opportunity to start a new tradition if you haven’t already. Some fun ideas include...

  • Birthday Mail—Kids rarely receive old-fashioned "snail mail" these days, so put the word out to family and friends to send a special card to your child on their birthday. I purchase birthday cards all year long so I always have a stash to mail to my kids during their birthday week. This is especially fun for younger kids who will be eagerly anticipating checking the mailbox when their big day draws near.
  • Balloons in the Bedroom—Sneak into your child’s room after they’re asleep and place a bouquet of balloons at the end of their bed, or in the bathroom, at the breakfast table, or even in the car.
  • Birthday Fairy—Leave a small gift, special treat, or little note under their pillow for a surprise first thing in the morning. I still do this for my teens and college kids.

For more ideas see 5 Ways to Create Family Birthday Rituals

2. Birthday Date

Raising eight kids means living in a household that never lacks activity. There’s always plenty of action and the chances of having a lot of one-on-one time with each child has always been a work in progress.

Most of our kids have summer birthdays, so years ago their dad came up with the idea of scheduling a birthday date for each of them. Regardless of whether their birthday fell during the summer or during the school year, he made a date with each of our kids to treat them to a special day of their choice. Weeks before their birthday, the birthday child gets the wheels in motion with ideas of what he/she would like to do.

Just recently, my 17-year-old son chose a deep sea fishing excursion for the day. He had a blast! We’ve been doing this now for nearly 20 years, and it’s still something our family looks forward to and enjoys.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.