Birthday Traditions: Creating Forever Memories for Your Child’s Big Day

We’ve finally put the kids to bed after a long day of party prep for my daughter’s birthday. We’re exhausted, the kids were buzzing with excitement for tomorrow’s festivities, and we just want to pathetically crawl into bed and pass out. My husband leans in for a goodnight kiss and…OMG, the balloons. We forgot the balloons. He whimpers, crawls out of our warm bed, and heads to HEB for some birthday balloons. Birthday traditions in this family are serious business.

While birthdays at our house could potentially be confused with a national holiday, big or small, birthdays can be so much fun! You don’t have to spend a million dollars for your kiddos (or other adults in your family) to feel special on their big day. While I grew up in a family that observed, at the very least, a “birthday week,” I think special touches are what create that feeling that we all love. Because, let’s be honest, what kid doesn’t love a day all about them?

There is no time better than when you are raising small humans to create some fun annual birthday traditions in your family. Sometimes it’s a mere transfer of family tradition from one generation to the next, like our birthday balloons, but it can also be something you start now. Here is a small list of fun things you can add to your child’s special day this year!

Birthday balloons

Every morning on July 13th from before I can remember, I woke up to a giant bouquet of balloons at the end of my bed. I loved the element of surprise so much that even if I stirred while my parents were trying to sneak into my room in the middle of the night, I’d squeeze my eyes tight so as not to peak at them before daylight. It was such a fun, exciting way to wake up feeling special right off the bat. Another fun take on this tradition is to streamer their bedroom doorway (an easy and QUIET way to celebrate that does not involve creeping around in your child’s room!).

My husband and I continue this tradition for each other and our kiddos (even though it usually involves a late night run to the store). Side note: Because accidentally waking a two- and five-year-old in the middle of the night would be a huge parenting fail, we now keep the balloons downstairs so they are the first thing the kids see as they come down in the morning. Maybe later we’ll be as brave as my mom was and enter the danger zone. Either way, it’s a inexpensive, small gesture that sets a tone of excitement for their big day. (And to be completely honest, I still look forward to it at 35. Thanks, Mom!)


Special Birthday Plate/Meal

Another great (and inexpensive) way to celebrate is with a fun birthday plate. This can be any decorative plate that you use to serve the special birthday boy or girl his/her favorite meals throughout the day. It’s an easy tradition to carry on throughout the years, and is there anything better to a young child than getting the opportunity to choose your meals all day? To add to the fun, there are plenty of artsy shops in town where you can decorate and fire your own ceramic plates! Make a personalized one or buy it—either way, it makes for a great start to a happy day when you can serve those chocolate chip pancakes with a candle on top!


Birthday Book/Interview

This incredibly meaningful tradition can be done multiple ways for a lasting memories for years to come. Some parents write a standard group of questions to ask each year, and others make it a family affair, having all members come up with questions to ask the birthday boy or girl. Record it and watch the videos each year—it’s an amazing way to document just how fast time flies!

Another option is to create a birthday book or journal. Parents write letters to their child each year and keep them in a book that they can eventually give him/her as a keepsake. Detailing the growth and memories from your child’s year or simply sharing a loving birthday message are perfect for this lovely tradition from parent to child on their special day.

Birthday Signs

The night before my daughter’s fifth birthday, Card My Yard-San Antonio delivered and set up a custom-made giant birthday sign so that when she woke up on her big day, she had this wonderful surprise waiting for her on the front lawn. Talk about a five-year-old’s dream! It stayed up for 48 hours and made her day. While this company may be new to San Antonio, they are already providing many smiles and memories for kids and adults alike on their big day. As soon as I saw my daughter’s face, I knew it was certain to become a family tradition for us for years to come. Love this creative and fun way to shout the big day to the rest of the world.



Whether it takes the place of your party guests bringing presents or is just another great birthday tradition to implement, collecting donations is a wonderful way to teach your children to share the love, even on their big day. Allowing kids to choose whom they give to by suggesting options (e.g., animals, children, families, the homeless) and then involving them in the delivery process can be such a powerful and impacting deed. An additional twist on this is donating old toys before their birthday. This makes space for all their new goodies while also helping out the community. You could also hold a book drive to donate to a local library or children’s shelter.

Birthday Scavenger Hunt

This is a fun and creative way to enjoy playful family time while making a child work for his/her gift(s)! Whether you draw up a treasure map of different rooms in the house or drive all around the city, the whole family is sure to have a blast on a birthday scavenger hunt. Hunts can be themed (pirates or Disney, for example) or completely unique to your child, but this fun idea will engage the whole family and take the place of simply handing your kiddo a gift. Plus, if you enjoy flexing your Pinterest muscles, there are tons of adorable ideas for birthday scavenger hunts online. Happy hunting!

Sharing the Birthday Story

Before going to sleep the night before her birthday, my daughter loves to hear about the day she was born. Even at five years old, she likes to hear the details about what we were watching on TV when mommy had her first contraction, what we packed in her bag for the hospital, and how quickly we arrived. (Driving on a bumpy road whilst contracting is super fun!) She has grown to love that story and asks for it year-round. But, it’s a special moment, lying in her bed pre-birthday, in her big girl room, sharing those happy memories of our tiny baby girl. She absolutely loves it. On her actual birthday, we also sing “Happy Birthday” at the exact time that she was born, and her face lights up every single time. It’s a special moment shared in our little family.

Whether you’re on a budget or celebrating a birthday without boundaries, as we begin the new year, make it a personal challenge to incorporate something new and fun into your children’s big day. Make it meaningful to your family, and it will surely find its way into your hearts and birthday traditions for years to come! 

Erin is a born and raised San Antonio native. She is a proud graduate of Southwestern University, St.Mary's University and Texas Tech University. After graduate school, she married the love of her life and moved back to to town to be near both sides of their families. Together, they are attempting to raise three crazy humans: Chloe- 2011, Connor- 2014, and Charlie 2017 who make life fun, happy and hard. Erin is a marriage and family therapist and a contributor and sales coordinator for ACM. She is a lover of all things involving food, music, sarcasm and wine. And love. There must be lots of love. You can find her on Instagram at Instagram Favorite Restaurant: Nonna Osteria Favorite Landmark: Majestic Theatre Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Fiesta Arts Fair


  1. Erin,
    Your mom told me about her birthday ballon surprise idea and some of your other birthday traditions before I had my girls. I enjoyed creating traditions for my family incorporating her ideas with my family traditions too! I always enjoy your blog Erin! I enjoyed watching you and your brothers grow up and now get the pleasure of seeing your generation raising their children! Amen to strong family values and traditions!

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