Here are some thoughts/tips for keeping birthdays simple.
- You don't have to throw a party every year- Of course we always celebrate our birthdays as a family, and there will always be a cake and presents, but you don't have to have a full blown party every time. Every few years is fine. We try to rotate with our 3 boys so that each year one of them gets a "real" party.
- Keep the party small- You don't need to invite every child in the classroom. Really, you don't. Keep the guest list to a few of your child's closest friends. We usually aim for around 4 friends.
- Limit gifts to one from each person- I know this is a hard one, and we are not 100% strict on this, but it is the goal. The reason for this is that I really want to impress upon my children to value giving more than receiving. Instead of making the focus be "What do you want to get for your birthday?" we try to bring it back to giving by asking the rest of the family "What do you want to give?" When each member of the family purposefully and thoughtfully chooses one gift for the recipient, it is a lot more meaningful than having a mountain of gifts that your child tears through, not even really knowing/caring who they are from.
- Give homemade/non-plastic gifts- After years of watching the piles of plastic toys amass in our kids rooms, most of them broken within weeks of being bought, I've gotten to the point where I've finally had enough. Our kids do not need all this junk. Simple, thoughtful gifts will mean so much more in the long run, especially when they are hand made. Blankets, stuffed animals, hats and such, are some of the things I have made my boys that they still treasure. For toys, choose traditional toys you know will last. Books are highly valued in our household. Puzzles and old-fashioned games are good options too. My oldest son loves to draw, so for his last birthday I made him this with cute airplane fabric.
- Make homemade cake- Instead of store-bought cake, take a little extra time to make one. And let the birthday boy/girl help you make it! Kids love to be a part of making and decorating their own cake. You can have some one-on-one time with your kiddo and create sweet family memories. Plus, homemade cake tastes so much better and you know exactly what is in it. I always let my kids choose the cake flavor, fruit filling, and frosting. Sometimes the combos they come up with are interesting, but it is their cake, so I make it to order, lol.
- Use homemade/reusable wrapping paper- It always amazing me how much money people spend on wrapping paper and ribbons and bows only to have them ripped apart and thrown in the garbage. I'm all for making things pretty, trust me, I love pretty things. But when it's not something that lasts, I just can't justify the waste of money and resources. Something as simple as using brown paper grocery bags with a nice ribbon is a really frugal, recyclable option. There are also some great ideas for making reusable fabric wrapping here and here.