Frida’s birthday is coming up soon, and I’m starting to get into planning mode for the upcoming celebrations.
I love celebrating her birthday; it gives me so much joy to have a day dedicated to celebrating and honouring this sweet life that I brought into the world. But I also know that with enthusiasm comes the risk of celebrations spiralling just a little out of control! Too many presents bought (we’ve been there before), a party that grows bigger than you’d planned, spending over the budget you’d carefully allocated – and that’s all before the actual birthday itself.
With this in mind, I wanted to share some of my tips for having a calm, beautiful birthday celebration with young children (though I can take no responsibility for amounts of cake consumed!)
Seven tips for a beautiful birthday party
One. Remember that the party isn’t for you! I know this sounds obvious, but I see so many parents who seem to have forgotten this. Follow your child’s requests (where appropriate) and taste, let them guide the theme if you decide to have one, and focus on what they will enjoy rather than on how you think they should be celebrating. Some questions to guide you might include: What does my child love doing? Who do they genuinely enjoy spending time with? How do they cope in busy or noisy situations? What do they most like eating? What would make the day most enjoyable for them? For some children, this may mean not having a party at all and just celebrating quietly as a family, especially for a baby, toddler, or even pre-schooler; most children don’t truly begin to play “with” other children until they are three or four.
Two. If in doubt, simplify. Young children won’t care if they have two kinds of cupcake, an entertainer and meticulously planned decorations – but they will care if you’re so exhausted and stressed out by all of the planning and preparation that you’re not able to have fun and relax with them. Buy or make a cake, put out some snacks, get everyone outside (if you have the weather and/or outside space for it; if you live in an apartment you might want to look into whether there’s a local park or playground you could meet up in instead), and get plenty of coffee brewing for the adults! Most young children will prefer to run around or have a dance party rather than playing organised party games.
Three. A great rule of thumb if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of having a big party is age = number of guests. Three friends for a three year old, five when they turn five, perhaps making an exception for any younger siblings who might need to tag along for practical reasons. The expectation for whole class parties if your child attends school can make this tricky, so keep doing this for as long as you can (and don’t be afraid to buck the trend – especially if your child is naturally quiet or introverted – and have a couple of friends round for a movie and popcorn instead).
Four. You almost certainly don’t need to buy as many gifts as you think. I write this from experience! As someone who tends to buy things and “put them away for her birthday / Christmas”, I’ve had a couple of surprises when I’ve pulled everything out and realised that there was far more than I’d anticipated. Can a child ever really have too many gifts? I think so. Too much can feel overwhelming, and lovingly chosen presents end up tossed aside as they move on to unwrapping the next new thing. Focus on a few gifts they will really love (they don’t need to be expensive) and ask family members to contribute to something special or to gift money towards a yearly pass for a local attraction.
Five. Decorations don’t have to cost the earth. A few fresh flowers or bits of seasonal foliage, perhaps some handmade photo bunting of your child’s life, a decorated celebration ring if you have one (you can make your own out of salt dough!) and it’s job done. Glitter, confetti, balloons, streamers and other decorations can all be harmful to the environment, as well as making mess which you’ll have to clear up later (far better to put your feet up and have a glass of wine and some left over birthday cake!) Which brings me on to…
Six. Ditch the party bags. If you’re having a party, instead of handing out party bags (and either feeling the guilt of handing out plastic “tat” which will end up in the bin, or blowing the budget on eco options) consider giving guests a small useful token to take home such as seeds to grow, a book (you can buy these used or in bundles to save costs), a jam jar of homemade play-dough, or a pair of fun socks. Add in an extra slice of cake to take home and everyone is happy!
Seven. Trust your gut. Avoid comparison with others. You know your child best of all, and will know what sort of celebration will bring them real delight and allow them to feel truly seen and celebrated. Use the planning time before their birthday as a special time to reflect on your child’s unique personality and character, how they have changed since last year, and what would really bring them joy. That is the whole point after all, is it not!
If you want to give your family the gift of calm and meaningful family celebrations, then you are warmly invited to join my Calm Celebrations course. The course has been designed to help you create meaningful and beloved family celebrations that will bring you joy for years to come, whilst staying calm and connected to your children in the process. The course is a true delight to run, and I can’t wait to run it again in May! Find out more and book your place here.