Birthday rituals, party ideas and guidelines


For our children, birthdays are particularly special times that they seem to look forward to for months before they happen. There’s the banter about how old they will be, what gifts they would like, what theme they want for their party and who they are going to invite. And don’t forget the cake — it’s a highlight because that’s when everyone sings ‘Happy birthday to you!’ and in that moment they feel like the most important person in the universe! 

Birthdays are full of family rituals and we all do it differently. For my family, even though my teenage sons are now enormous — 6ft8″ and 6ft4″ respectively, we still cuddle in our big bed with hot mugs of tea for the opening of the presents in the morning. And from their very first birthdays onwards, my mum has always made their cakes — both the one that went to school as well as the incredible character cakes she created to match the various themes of their parties over the years, before they became teenagers.

One of the most exciting moments at my four year old nephew’s birthday party last week was his reaction to his Dusty crop sprayer cake from the movie Planes. He oohed, aahed and jumped up and down, smiling from ear to ear and exclaimed, totally unprompted: “Ooh it’s Dusty! That’s so nice, I yuv [love] it!”

Birthday ritual ideas

  • Decorate their bedroom doorway with balloons, signs and streamers while they are asleep so it’s a surprise in the morning 
  • You might like to make something unusual for breakfast such as pancakes.• The birthday person gets to choose the meal for the evening — their all-time favourite dish.
  • If you have a family celebration plate then that’s what the birthday person eats off. 
  • For children from 6 and up (maybe not at the official birthday party if there are too many people, but certainly at the family birthday celebration), light a large pillar candle that won’t drip, and pass it from person to person and get them each to say something they like or love about your child, or to share a wish or blessing for the year ahead. I find this so meaningful and affirming as a mother, let alone my child. 

Birthday Talk protocol 

  • Birthday parties are a great way to meet other parents of children your child is at school with. Getting know and like other parents is an important part of building a support structure for both you and your child. While it is more stressful and it costs more to invite lots of children and their parents to a birthday party, it can be a great social investment, especially in the foundation years. 
  • In pre-school you usually invite everyone in the class to the party. 
  • You don’t have to invite siblings – but make it clear on the invitation, either way. 
  • If there is going to be swimming at the party, make sure you say so and that parents need to be present and children must be able to swim. 
  • From grade one or two upwards you can start being choosy and invite specific children only (to get around the trickiness of handing out invitations to some children and not others, rather email them directly to the mother or father).
  • If there are twins, and your child is only friends with one of them, you only need give one gift. 
  • To avoid party date clashes with other children, make sure you have a class list and know the birth dates of others in the class. If your child is particularly close to another child with a birthday on or around the same date, why not share, especially if the children you are inviting are more or less the same group, give or take a few? 


  • Creative fun doesn’t have to be expensive, and it’s often more memorable.
  • Don’t overdo the party pack. Something simple and creative is better than something expensive or overdone. You don’t need to send home a packet of repeat items that were on the party table or an MP3 player for every child (yes I know of parties where this has happened!). Party favours for the party pack can be won, earned or made by taking part in various party activities. Party-goers are far more appreciative of what they have made or won, and can’t wait to show their parents. 
  • Children love to move and play but someone needs to be the director of operations. If you are doing the entertaining and not buying it in, make sure you are well-prepared and that you have some family members and a friend or two on hand to be part of your team. 
  • Always designate someone else to take photographs as you will be far too busy to remember! 
  • And lastly, don’t forget the candles, matches and knife for the cake!

Creative ideas for your next party 

Here are a few really fun ideas taken from some of my Birthday Talk events. You can find a free download with instructions and pictures for the following by clicking here:

  • Cupcake cakes – a fabulously easy way to create a gorgeous ‘cake’ even if you are not a very creative or seasoned baker (all ages) 
  • Jelly in oranges (all ages)• Snowman activity (5 – 9 years) 
  • Newspaper scavenger hunt (7 – 12 years)
  • The Great Peanut Hunt/The Big Bean Drop (3 – 10 years) 
  • Blow painting (3 – 10 years) Click here for video
  • Sweetie kebabs (all ages) 
  • Decorated marshmallows 

Have fun with your your children on their special days and may they be one year more beautifully blessed!

Looking for the perfect birthday gifts?

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