Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Art of Living - Birthday Traditions

our previous hand made birthday invitation for Sophia's 4th birthday

This week marked our (not so little) little brothers birthday and it got me thinking about birthday traditions. The things we used to do as a family to celebrate when we were young whilst all under one roof, and the things we do now we are mothers with our own children, beginning our own traditions and carrying others forward.
With a 6th birthday coming up - 17 more sleeps - we are an excited household anticipating the big day.

paperchain countdwon via findingthecalminthechaos

Birthday's are, like every family, a big thing in our household. As parents we look back at our children's years gone by, remember the birth and those first few days and celebrate all the accomplishments since they arrived. A time when the whole family get together to be together and help celebrate a special occasion.

With my own soon-to-six-years-old daughter a lot of her focus is on the party, the gifts she would like, which also to my horror has begun in her writing her very own wish list! But also the idea that she is older, that she is growing up and is about to move onto another stage in her life as though the passing of a birthday means they will miraculously gain new skills, new powers, and new later bedtimes!
However, birthdays shouldn't be all about the gifts. Yes of course we should give the birthday child a gift something special to mark the occasion and yes there has to be cake and balloons and decorations, and singing and games. There are lots of ways you can make the birthday child feel special;  starting new traditions to celebrate the day in a unique way. Separating it from all the other days of the year and marking it with love, appreciation, laughter and memories for the future. Make it a day that will always be remembered. So, behind the scenes, whilst she is at school and in the evening whilst she sleeps, i'm beginning to ready the traditions, all the special things that we do and make each year.

So, here's some ideas, some we do, some are ideas from friends that I'm now going to adopt, and by no means is the list exhaustive..... just a few ideas to move the focus on to what is important; celebrating your child on their birth day.
  • Celebrate the last day of being the age they are. They will never be 5 again!
  • Ask your child  if there is anything they'd like to do before they turn that one year older. How would they like to spend their final day being 4? Sometimes children are in such a rush to grow up and making the most of being the age they are right now is so much fun. I love doing this with my girls and sometimes its these days that turns out to be even more fun than the birthday party.
  • Tip toe into the child's room at night and decorate their bedroom whilst they sleep. They'll awake to find a room decorated as though by magic just for them. You can cover the floor with balloons, put flowers by their bed, hang bunting or a birthday banner, put presents at the foot of their bed, lay a breakfast picnic ready for the morning, its a beautiful way to start the day!
image via purplehomes
  • Light a lantern. Light a floating lantern and set it free into the night sky, you can write messages the on the side - perhaps messages from party guest and family. 
  • Wishes for the year - there may be things your child might hope to do in the year that comes, places they'd like to go, things they'd like to see. Perhaps learn to swim, visit someone, have a sleepover, finally get those pedals off the bike or stop biting their nails. Whatever their wishes might be you can write them together and hang them.  As the year passes you can help them to achieve their wishes.
hanging wishes from branches - pic C of rew elliot style

  • Messages from relatives - ask friends and family to write birthday messages and wishes and post them. Children love to get things in the post. Hang them, make bunting from them that you can add to each year, frame them, stick them all over the fridge and let them fill the house with joy.
image via purplehomes

  • Measure your child and mark their new height on a family height chart - we use the door frame of our kitchen but I can remember the back of the big farmhouse kitchen door of my grandmothers kitchen having every member of the family and looking up to all those older than me from Uncle Rupert to my cousin Tamerose and imagining being that tall one day !
growth chart via byrdiegrapihics on Etsy

  • Write them a letter or use one side of their birthday card to tell them about their year. Save them all for when they’re older.
tutorial for lining envelopes found here picture C of seekatesew

  • Take a picture of them against something, in something, with something that you can repeat each year showing how much they grow and change each year. A friend takes a picture of her son with his daddy’s T-shirt on and keeps the same t-shirt for each year as he grows. It's never too late to start and both you and your child will treasure those memories for ever.

  • Create a ‘(name), (age) loves’ card with a picture of the birthday child…. 

  • Make a countdown with a numbered paperchain - making the chain shorter and shorter as the days pass and you count down the sleeps! 

-  Birthday paperchain tutorial  -
 cut strips of coloured paper, write a number on each to count the days, glue the ends of the first strip together to make a loop, then feed  the next number through the loop and stick the ends together.  Keep going until complete.
Hang with string or ribbon.

  • Make a birthday crown.
  • Let them make the decisions for the day
  • Set the table for afternoon tea and cake

  • Throw a party, keeping in mind what your children like, don't invite too many people if your child is easily overwhelmed. Let them set a theme if they'd like one, get them to help you make the invitations and hand them out.
  • Collect a few envelopes, stick their fronts to a door using sticky tape and fill with little surprises or messages.
  • Take inspiration from Damien Hirst's spot painting and create your own piece of priceless art:  use a piece of card and create your own spots with fingerprints using paint and ink you can add to it each year and then pass it on to them - perhpas for their 21st. 

  • Bake the cake yourself - or at the very least decorate it yourself. I am useless when it comes to cooking but I know that my own children appreciate my efforts but also baking the birthday cake is a mothers rite of passage!
rainbow cake from our Monday Makery - here

You may have lots of traditions of your own and perhaps some you'd like to share with others here. We'd love to hear them.
However you celebrate your child's birthday - the greatest gift you can give them is the memories, make it to be a special day with laughter, friends and family, and, of course, plenty of cake! 

here's to all the happy birthdays!

This is part of 'The Art of Living' collection. We also have other stories and features including our 'Monday Makery', 'I Spy' and our weekly 'Wedesday Woo'. Check out our Summer Fun too with 100 ideas for fun games and play this summer. If you want to see our latest loves take a look here.
Want to take a look behind the scenes of Sisters Guild? Take a look at our A-Z here where we share a sentimental journey through family life.

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  1. AS ever, a gorgeous post! Scarlett turns 3 next Saturday and we are making it extra special as she just became a big sister too, so tons of attention! I love your ideas and really want to bake the rainbow cake, so effective. I love decorating the house for Birthday morning, and having Scarlett's choice of breakfast (this year I predict pain au chocolat!) I also write a poem in her card about the year and her personality. Time to start some more traditions!


  2. some fantastic ideas & i adore that video. i feel fear that i have let slip the past seven years of my twins birthdays - they are seven ALREADY!! yikes - I shall indeed try that plan with the pre-birthday that - being the last day of the age. Actually, I do it with my man already - "honey - ou want to get laid by a 37 Year old for the last time...!"

  3. Hey - I just saw you are in Frome you two, well one of you, I am just outside of Bath..shall we have a convention?!