Simple, Frugal and Special Birthdays for Kids

We have many reasons for wishing to keep our birthday celebrations simple and inexpensive, while making them special for our children.  Keeping in mind that time and tradition is more important and says, “I love you” more than lavishing money and things on our children, here are some things that we do to celebrate each birthday in our home.

We celebrate their history.

Each year on their birthday, Mark and I work together to tell them the special story about the day that they were born, the events surrounding it and our joy at meeting them for the first time.  When we are done all of the children that are old enough to remember the experience, tell about the first time they saw and held their new sibling and their joy at meeting this wonderful little person that God brought into our family.

Another thing that we do is we watch the clock all day long and when their actual birth time rolls around we celebrate with with singing, hugs and kisses and congratulate the child for actually being their new age.

We express often and openly how grateful we are to God for giving this child to us for the amount of time that He has.  (Of course we do that throughout the year, but we give it a special focus on their birthday.)

Sadie celebrates with ribbons

We celebrate the day.

If you live in our house we will wake you up on your birthday morning by coming into your room singing a rousing version of “Happy Birthday to You”.

We sing “Happy Birthday” a lot on the kid’s birthdays.   At any point in the day, anyone may start singing and everyone just joins in.  Of course it has to end with more hugs.

At different times during the day the grandparents call, sing to the birthday child and give them their love.

The children use our magnetic wall and our chalkboard wall to decorate for the special day.

A train "mural" to celebrate Colby's train birthday

We celebrate them.

Each child gets to plan the whole dinner (and sometimes breakfast and lunch menu) on their birthday.  We’ve had elaborate dinners like Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops or a completely made from scratch (including the pasta) Italian feast to more kid-like choices like homemade pizza or hot dogs.  Sometimes the choices are odd (like mashed potatoes with spaghetti and meatballs), but we always enjoy a special meal of our child’s favorite foods.

Soup in bread bowls with fresh green and fruit salads

Soup in bread bowls with green salad and strawberry cake.


As each birthday rolls around I try to get the camera and head outdoors (or to someplace with natural lighting) to get some nice portraits of the birthday kid.

We typically choose one special gift for each child’s birthday.  Siblings also enjoy making or purchasing gifts for each other.

Savannah gives Alyssa a birthday drawing

We let our children choose what type of birthday cake that they want.  A favorite option is decorating it themselves.

We celebrate their future.

Before cake Mark prays a special birthday prayer, asking God to guide and direct this child and that our child would grow to be a mighty servant of Him.

We use this day as a time to focus on and pray about what God has planned for their future.

We make it theirs.

Despite having birthdays every week for four weeks in August/September and then another group of birthdays in January and February, we’ve never combined birthdays.  We always give each child their own celebration.  I know a lot of people combine birthdays with great success, but for our family individual birthday celebrations rule.  🙂

You may also enjoy simple, frugal birthday cakes.

I’d love to hear about your special, frugal birthday celebrations.  I’m always up for new ideas.

4 Moms, 35 Kids Live Blogging Event, Thursday, March 18.  All four moms will live blog throughout the day about what really happens in a homeschooled, houseful.  Coming tomorrow so don’t miss it and check back for often for live updates.

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25 Responses to Simple, Frugal and Special Birthdays for Kids
  1. Grace
    March 16, 2010 | 11:55 am

    Such beautiful, and sincere ways of celbrating one’s birthday. Thank you for sharing because it just sets the REAL reason one celebrates birthdays into perspective. Lovely!


  2. BrassyMom
    March 16, 2010 | 11:56 am

    Nice! I have a question for you, though. When you celebrate them at the time of their birth on their birthday, what do you do if you have a child that was born at night? Or has that not come up yet?

    My little one was born just shy of midnight, and I was a minutes-before-midnight baby as well. I remember making a fuss about my older siblings’ birth-minutes and then feeling left out that we were in bed for mine…


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Great question. We do have a couple late night birthdays 11 and 12:15. For them we celebrate their birth time first thing in the morning. It is a VERY big deal to get their first 10 year old kiss and hug and they give that out first thing in the morning.

    We’ve also been known to let the birthday kids stay up until their birthday time, but that is NOT the norm.

    I hope that our late nighters don’t feel left out!


  3. Leeann H
    March 16, 2010 | 12:00 pm

    I haven’t posted before but I’ve been following your blog for a while. I love the “decorate your own cake” idea. I can just see my oldest feeling so proud of himself. The process and the result will be so sweet…I can’t wait to experience this!


  4. Dawn
    March 16, 2010 | 12:22 pm

    Our celebrations are very similar to yours, except that we do a party with friends every 5 years. We don’t sing to ours at the actual birth time, either. That would be in the middle of the night for both of my sons. I just don’t see us singing at 3:47 a.m. 😉
    I wanted to let you know that we are sort of keeping up with the 90 Days. I had to take a couple of weeks slower and haven’t been able to blog much, so I am not doing the updates.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    We do a special “friend party” or trip with mom or dad at age 10 and we have some special traditions for the 12 year old birthday also. I’m hoping to post more about that soon….maybe.

    Keep on keeping on for the 90 Day challenge!


  5. Rachel
    March 16, 2010 | 12:41 pm

    Hi Kimberly. Thanks so much for this. I am so excited to show this to my hubby when he gets home from work tonight. Our older child Sarah will turn 5 in a couple weeks and I’ve been trying to think of things to make it a special day for her. I love reading your blog and getting ideas and advice from a more seasoned mom. I only have 2 kids at the moment, but long for more :-(. They are 2 and almost 5.


  6. Katie from NC
    March 16, 2010 | 1:56 pm

    Some great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

    I also am wondering about the night time birth minutes. Three of mine I don’t want to even think about having my eyes open, much less singing to them. 😉

    I hadn’t thought about getting some portrait shots on their birthday. Great idea. I’m going to implement that.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Good question Katie. Be sure to see my response to BrassyMom above. 😉


  7. Stephanie
    March 16, 2010 | 3:40 pm

    Thank you for the wonderful ideas again 🙂


  8. Erin
    March 16, 2010 | 8:01 pm

    I love that picture of your daughters with the birthday drawing. Such sweet smiles 🙂


  9. Alene
    March 17, 2010 | 9:30 am

    Lots of similar ideas. Birthday child chooses supper menu. Others vie for the privilege of setting the birthday table. 🙂 We also have a special birthday breakfast. We NEVER have cold cereal for breakfast – except on birthdays. My husband always buys one of those variety packs of individual cereal boxes and the kids LOVE choosing which one they get to eat. As they grow older we give them the option of those or store bought granola. The oldest of the second batch is 14 and she still chose boxes for her last birthday. 🙂

    We do the birthday celebration as a family affair, but I have happy memories of parties and party games from childhood. Our solution? We host a yearly “end-of-summer” party. Lots of kids (and moms), hot dogs on the barbecue, and all those fun games from yesteryear. Prizes are usually cute school supplies – colourful pencils, mini erasers, etc. Lots of fun!


    BrassyMom Reply:

    Oh, I love the end of summer party idea!


  10. Sandra
    March 17, 2010 | 10:03 am

    Thanks for sharing the way you celebrate birthdays! Your ideas truly make the day more memorable and meaningful.


  11. Young Wife
    March 17, 2010 | 12:12 pm

    How sweet! I love that you tell them their birth story and about siblings getting to meet them for the first time. So special, and it’s free! And how neat that you watch the clock for the exact time! Great ideas.


  12. courtney
    March 17, 2010 | 1:23 pm

    I love this! We do birthdays simple too – but I just love your ideas!


  13. Mama Mirage
    March 17, 2010 | 1:47 pm

    When I was a child we were very poor. For birthdays we got to choose supper, choose ice cream and cake, and pick 1 friend to spend the night. We would eat the chosen items for dinner and the next morning before taking the friend home we would eat the birthday kid’s choice of sugary cereal we were not allowed any other time of the year. 🙂 Ahh great memories!


  14. janice
    March 21, 2010 | 8:37 am

    Love it!
    We always take the birthday kid for a special outing with just mom & dad. Usually bowling and lunch at a restaurant they can pick. It is so nice to be able to enjoy them one at a time.. Then it is back home for a family party and homemade ice cream.


  15. Chris Cuppage
    August 5, 2010 | 8:14 am

    I am loving these ideas… but I have one request for ideas.
    You see my first born (miracle child) was born at 1.20am on 25th December… yup Christmas Day which means of course that there are other celebrations going on too. We generally have Christmas in the morning and Birthday in the afternoon but I wondered if anyone had some suggestions about making it feel extra special without oosing out on the Christmas focus? We have a Christmas cake that we tend to save until Boxing day (26th) so that she has a cake of her choice but I really want her to feel that this special day is hers. Of course you can’t get more special than sharing a birthday with Jesus, but 2 years ago a cousin arrived on… Christmas Day also.


    Mama Mirage Reply:

    Hi Chris, maybe I can help. I was born on December 27th. 🙂 Which meant alot of things. Almost all the friends and relatives forgot my birthday in the hustle and bustle. My gifts when I was younger were often labelled as “combination” gifts so I didn’t get any real birthday gifts. My spring-born siblings got birthday cards full of money from friends and relatives and they got the same number of gifts as I did at Christmas, but they got lots of gifts on their birthdays too where my Christmas gifts were labelled as “for both.” Sometimes we were on the road on my birthday, on the way home from the grandparents’ house. I could never have a birthday party because nobody could come- they were all out of town.
    So I understand all too well the challenges of having a Christmas birthday. I grew up very poor. What hurt the most was how much of a fuss everyone would throw over my siblings’ birthdays a few months after completely forgetting mine. I was so hurt by it that I tried to start celebrating my half-birthday in June instead. This didn’t do me any good at all- what it did was make 2 of the 3 relatives who actually DID remember to mail a card for my birthday forget it. I was almost a teenager when I tried this and to this day they never send a card anymore. My own brother forgot my most recent birthday.
    The most important thing is that you as a parent keep doing what you’re doing trying to make it just as special as everyone else’s. Never ever combine Christmas and birthday gifts unless it’s something the child wants more than any other gift and you have discussed with them beforehand that if they get this gift it will be for BOTH because it costs twice as much. Just as long as they understand beforehand. Because it’s not fun to wake up on Christmas and when you go to open your gifts you got the same number of gifts as your sister but yours are wrapped in birthday paper and labelled “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday!” So combining gifts is a big feeling-hurter unless it’s been discussed beforehand. It’s not the gifts themselves that matter, getting alot or just one, what has the potential to hurt the child is if there is a difference in treatment between siblings. We only got 3 gifts for Christmas and it was not an issue that we knew kids who got 30 gifts each. The important thing was that mom and dad cared enough to make it equally special for all of us. Christmas has always been my favorite holliday. My birthday however, I don’t like very much.
    For the celebration I also kind of felt shorted that I was all tired out from Christmas and then it was already my birthday and there wasn’t much time to look forward to it. Later in my childhood my family took to celebrating birthdays on the weekend following the birthday, which I liked because it meant that we’d have time to get home from our Christmas travels and get settled back in and build a little excitement before celebrating my birthday. And by then some of my friends were home and one of my family’s later birthday traditions was that we didn’t get a party but we could have one friend over for a sleepover. It was nice to celebrate a week after instead so I could have all the same birthday traditions my siblings did.

    I think the most important thing is that if your child is a toddler then you can play around with things to find what fits best and feels fairest. If your child is older than 5 however it might be good to get her opinion. Just remember to be careful of how you word things to a child- if she has no negative feelings about the way you do it now, you do not want to seed discontent in her heart! If you see her struggling with it though then find a way to find out what parts are bothering her (again being careful of how you say it so you don’t cause her to start feeling hurt about something that she is currently enjoying just the way it is) and how you can change them. And also don’t make any special allowances for the Christmas birthday that you wouldn’t for the other kids’ birthdays- fairness is equally important both ways. 😉 Being assured that Mom and Dad love them each just as much as the other means more to kids than the number of presents or parties or guests or fancy cakes.

    So not sure if I helped at all but I hope at least something I said did. 🙂


    Chris Cuppage Reply:

    Thank you I will re-read and make notes! Tam will be 6 next birthday and I should add that we allow her to pick a treat on (or around) her half birthday – this year she choose having 3 friends over (very big treat) and last year she chose to go out somewhere. Relations understand that we do not like joint presents unless it’s special but it’s good to have that confirmed. Thanks for your interest


    Jane Reply:

    We also have have a child with a Christmas Birthday. We have tried many things over the last few years, but always make sure to have a special celebration for Caleb. Often we do this a couple days before Christmas; sometimes on Christmas afternoon. We just have a couple “rules”: no birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper, and Caleb gets a cake, regardless of how many other desserts we have already had!


    Farmer Reply:

    Though I am replying 3 years late . . .
    Since the Dec. 25th is simply symbolic of Jesus’ birth, why not celebrate Christmas earlier or later?
    I have considered changing our “Christmas” to the 28th simply for the discounts lol . . . or why not the 31st and worship in the new year? Jesus isn’t in for a competition nor does we enjoy the hustle and bustle attitudes, the commercialization, nor the depression that so many are burdened with, “in His name.”
    He chose that day for that child to be born, if you want to make her feel spacial then do so. And in turn give a whole “birthday” to Him.


  16. Jane
    October 27, 2010 | 3:06 pm

    We have borrowed a birthday tradition from Noel Piper’s book (Treasuring God in our Traditions) that is so much fun! The kids wake up to cake (usually a coffee cake) or sticky carmel rolls for birthdays. The birthday person’s chair is decorated with balloons, and sometimes we even buy the balloons that can be made into shapes (sword balloons are always a hit with the boys, and crown balloons for the girls:) We always have a special dinner with cake, too, so it is a “sweet” day. Very special!


  17. Stacey
    November 23, 2010 | 2:53 pm

    Hi, I really enjoy your blog. My husband and I have been married since 1995 (15 years) and don’t have any children of our own YET. We’re hoping to adopt soon. I am a Family Home Daycare Provider, since 2000. I’ve started compiling ideas I’d like to incorporate for our kid’s birthdays:
    ~ Make Treasure Stones (from Kid Concoctions)
    ~ Make a Birthday Flag
    ~ Balloon Painting (younger kids)
    ~ Make birthday cake cookies together
    ~ Make Shake and Make Ice Cream together (Ziploc bags)
    ~ Decorate a birthday T–shirt for their party
    ~ After they’ve gone to bed the eve of their bday, blow up helium balloons for the # of years old they are and tape them to the lights, kitchen cabinets, picture frames, etc. On their bday, let child either take them outside and release them or play a balloon popping game.
    ~ Decorate child’s bedroom door with a poster decorated with pictures of the bday child
    ~ Decorate child’s bedroom with balloons and streamers while they’re sleeping.
    ~ Hang a Happy Birthday banner with $1 bills clipped to each letter with clothespins for each year of their age
    ~ Write “Happy Birthday” with lipstick or washable marker on the bathroom mirror and their bedroom mirror
    ~ Let child open 1 present at a time increasing child’s excitment–1 gift throughout the day (1 present @ foot of bed for when they wake up; 1 at their place at the breakfast table; 1 in their lunch; 1 at their desk; 1 at the dinner table, etc.)
    ~ Create a special “throne” by draping & securing silk cloth over their chair. They get to wear a crown at all meals that day.
    ~ Suprise child with a new birthday outfit to wear
    ~ Arrange flowers, balloons, and/ or fruit basket (Edible Creations) to be delivered
    ~ Mark child’s height each birthday
    ~ For younger kids, make a Counting Cupcake (from
    ~ Provide scrapbook pages to add to their baby book; spend time as a family decorating & adding things, reading/ looking through the previous years. Take a picture of child by a special item, like a teddy bear, each year to show how they’ve grown.
    ~ Have a Stargazing Party (sleepover with star maps, flashlights and a telescope)
    ~ Have a Movie Night party (
    ~ For December child, celebrate with family on the actual date, then with friends in January after the holiday rush. I’ve heard of some that celebrate Christmas day birthdays on Christmas eve.

    For young kids, read “birthday” stories and watch “birthday” movies, such as:
    ~ Maisy’s Birthday (DVD)
    ~ The Berenstain Bears: Too Much Birthday (DVD)
    ~ Where’s Waldo: The Birthday Blowout (DVD)
    ~ Moira’s Birthday by Robert Munsch
    ~ If You Give a Cat a Cupcake! by Laura Numerof
    ~ Some Birthday!
    ~ Angelina’s Birthday
    ~ Happy Birthday, Dear Duck
    ~ Happy Birthday, Everywhere
    ~ Alfie and the Birthday Surprise by Shirley Hughes
    ~ Lyle and the Birthday Party
    ~ The Secret Birthday Message by Eric Carle
    ~ Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch
    ~ Clifford the Big Red Dog Happy Birthday Game
    ~ The Happy Birthday Game (ages 5–8; Grades K–3; for 2–4 players)

    By the way, here are our adoption websites if you wan to pass them along to help us get the word out:
    Hope these ideas help.


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