How do you make birthdays special when you have a lot of kids and a lot of birthdays to celebrate? These ideas won’t stress you out or break the bank!
It’s birthday season in our home, and that means lots of partying and noise and cake! But, I would venture to guess birthdays in our home don’t look “normal” to an outsider.
There are no big parties with friends. There are no sleepovers. And frankly, there are no stressors. We get to truly celebrate what an old family friend always called “the anniversary of their birth.”
In fact, I hesitated to name this post “Large Family Birthdays” because I didn’t want to give the wrong impression. I didn’t want people coming to this post with the hopes that they would find a list of 25 ways to have the perfect birthday in a large family, complete with party favors and a bounce house for each kiddo.
None of that is in this post.
Instead…this post is about how WE do birthdays in OUR large family, plus some out-of-the-box ideas from other large families. And the one thing all of these ideas have in common is that they are LOW STRESS, LOW HASSLE, LOW MAINTENANCE.
And if you have a large family, you know that’s worth its weight in gold!
Now, I want to be up front with you…
We stopped doing traditional birthday parties long before we had a large family. We started leaning toward what I call a “large family mentality” when we only had 2 children – a point in parenting when it is VERY easy to make birthdays a HUGE affair, and continue that trend forever and ever, amen.
And don’t get me wrong – we HAD tried the “traditional” birthday celebrations. They went something like this:
A room full of people
Tons of children (not my own)
Gifts being discarded within seconds of being opened
Very few decent birthday pictures because of the chaos
Tons of money spent on birthday extras that were really just a way to “keep up with the Joneses”
Exhausted parents & cranky children
Sounds like fun, eh?
Now, I know some of you LOVE the birthday party atmosphere, and you don’t mind the exhaustion and stress leading up to the big day, but for our family, it just wasn’t working.
And as our family grew, all we could envision was more and more chaos on more and more days of the year “celebrating.”
So, we ditched it all and started NEW birthday traditions that felt WAY more like celebrating!
How we celebrate birthdays in our big family
Sometime in the week before a birthday, I sit down with the birthday kid and plan out their meals for their day. Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner are all their choice, and they LOVE THAT!
For instance, my little guy who is turning 8 this week ordered up boxed mac and cheese for his lunch meal! We don’t have that often, so this is a REAL TREAT for him! He is beyond excited about it.
HINT: If your child wants a lot of extravagant foods on their birthday and you don’t have the energy to make them all, spread it out over a “birthday week” or ask them to pare it down a bit. It’s ok, mom!
I think this might be my kids’ favorite part of birthdays. On their birthdays, they are exempt from school and chores. This means no Table Chores, no 15 Minute Tidy. They get to sit and look pretty while their siblings work.
They are also exempt from one Friday whole house clean (we call it Home Blessing). They choose either the Friday before or the Friday after their birthday.
NOTE: Some of my children have informed me that they feel “bored” when they watch their siblings clean on their birthday. They don’t know what to do while they wait for everyone to be done cleaning.
Rule the Day (within reason)
The birthday child is the King or Queen of the day. They are in charge of the TV remote. They are in charge of when they open presents. They can request a special outing, a special game. And they get the Special Plate (as seen in the post: How to Make a Special Night for Each Child).
This is also a day when they get to watch what they want and play video games as well. Usually, we take turns with choosing television shows, and game day is only once a week. So, this is something SUPER special!
READ >> Managing Computer Time for Kids
We typically get 2 presents for the birthday kid. There’s no gift opening frenzy (although, we do like to yell, “1, 2, 3, RIP IT OPEN!” when they open their gifts!).
The siblings also like to give gifts, but it is not a requirement. Back in the day, sibling gifts were often an old toy wrapped up in wrapping paper because they LOVED having something to give. Now, many of them have their own money and like to give new gifts.
Our littlest children like to make cards and tape a few coins to the card for their sibling. So precious!
HINT: Don’t try to make presents monetarily “fair.” Some birthdays are bigger than others in our home. One year, a child might get a digital camera. The next year, it’s a much smaller gift. I don’t want to be beholden to a certain price point every single year for every single child. It just doesn’t make sense and shouldn’t be how you gauge your gift-giving.
Anyone who knows me knows I am not fancy about anything…birthday decor included! I buy rolls of the kids’ favorite colors of streamers about once a year and we decorate the dining room (since that’s where the cake and presents usually take place).
I sometimes buy themed plates and napkins, and this past year I bought a Paw Patrol Happy Birthday sign since several of my kids love that show.
My 16 year old daughter helps decorate after the birthday kid is in bed (unless it is her or another older sibling), and frankly, the dining room ends up looking like we tp’ed it with crepe paper! Fun stuff!
When my husband’s Granny was still living and able, she would make a special cake for each birthday child. Even if she couldn’t be there for their actual birthday, she would have a cake ready for when we came to visit. And usually, it was made to their specifications, like this horse themed cake Megan requested:
Some kids choose ice cream cakes from Dairy Queen. Some kids choose cakes smothered in jelly beans. Some kids choose cookies! It’s fun to see their little personalities come out in choosing a cake!
We also have a special way we light candles which is extremely obnoxious, but all our own!
As dad lights each candle, we count – rather loudly – until the very last candle, when we are nearly yelling their age and then break out into a resounding chorus of Happy Birthday!
Every so often, we deviate from our usual birthday traditions. Sometimes it is because it’s a monumental birthday – like 13 or 16. Sometimes it is because of our current circumstances (think moving…since it seems we are always moving!).
READ >> Large Family Moving Series
When our son turned 13, he planned a trip for him, his dad, and a friend and his grandpa. He made all the arrangements himself!
When our oldest daughter turned 16, we took her and a friend to a Deaf Culture Museum.
But, these are RARE occasions.
And we NEVER invite more than 1 friend because we tried inviting a couple of friends and someone was always left out. It just didn’t work well.
We also sometimes do half-sleepovers where the one friend gets to stay at our house until midnight or 12:30. The kids LOVE this! (We do not do regular sleepovers at all.)
But, for the most part, our large family birthday celebrations simply include our immediate family (which is a party all by itself!). I have found that celebrations like these include the entire family which teaches humility and sharing for the birthday child and patience and servanthood for the other children.
Everyone definitely knows who the birthday child is, but the birthday child is encouraged to be considerate of his or her siblings.
Our celebrations are calm, but fun.
There are pictures galore and they are really, really good ones.
Presents are kept under control, and I never feel the stress of needing to put on a gala affair.
It’s been the perfect way to celebrate the anniversary of each child’s birth!
Other large family birthday ideas:
- Hot cocoa in bed for the birthday child.
- Breakfast table set with gifts all around that are opened first thing in the morning and CAKE for breakfast!
- Going out as a family to eat at birthday child’s favorite restaurant.
- Birthday kid gets to wear PJ’s all day.
- Birthday child stays up until midnight.
- Birthday WEEK instead of just a day – works well if you have other commitments on their birthday that you can’t get out of.