5 Ways to Make Birthdays More Meaningful - Even in Quarantine

Kids don’t ask for much in the way of a happy birthday celebration: cake (check), balloons (check), presents (check). Easy, right? But as President Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort...” So while we love happy, and we adore meaningful -- we cherish intentional. Here are some out-of-the-(gift)box efforts to have happy, meaningful, and intentional birthdays ever after!

My sister, Aleah, and my son, Tate -- are nearly birthday twins (just 12 hours apart)!

My husband and I were also born on the same day.

Thus began my lifelong quest to make birthdays feel as significant as the milestones that they are. Even better when shared!



A new privilege and responsibility

As we get older, we also earn more freedoms and responsibilities. Each birthday, present your child with two envelopes – one labeled “New Privilege” and the other labeled “New Responsibility.” Each year, award an age appropriate privilege and responsibility to the birthday girl or boy. For example, privileges could include an extra ten minutes of reading before lights out, or an “upgrade” to a booster seat from a car seat (if their weight merited the change anyway – safety first!); responsibilities could include bringing their own dirty clothes to the laundry room, setting the table, or helping to care for a pet.




A Moment in Time

In 2000, my school class buried a time capsule on the school grounds.When we returned for our reunion 20 years later, we shoveled our way back in time. My former classmates and I rediscovered a great mix of songs downloaded from Napster, butterfly clips, dried out milky gel pens, faded polaroid photos, and letters to our future selves. These time travel treasures kept us laughing into the night. How awesome would it be to bury a time capsule at eight years old, to open when you’re 18 years old and heading to college? Imagine all the interesting discussions we could have with our kids now and later about what we put inside.



A Word of Advice

In lieu of birthday gifts for my son Tate’s first birthday party, we instead asked our family and friends to write him a letter about a lesson they’ve learned which they would like to pass along to him. Tate will not be opening these words of wisdom (let’s hope!) until his high school graduation. I have no idea what is in the letters, but knowing that some of his grandparents are in their 80s and may not make it to his graduation means that these pieces of paper will be the most precious graduation gifts he’ll ever receive.




Another Year Older

When I first had a baby, an older woman told me “the days are long but the years are short.” Children grow up in the blink of an eye, and so often milestones pass by and we forget to take an intentional [or “meaningful”] photograph. I love some of these ideas for birthday progression photos. What a blessing it is to age – and these photos are a great outward tradition reminding us of internal transformations and how important it is to celebrate every number.


For more ideas, see our Pinterest board here!



A gift given is a gift received

Talk to your kid about what she (or he) would like to give on her birthday. If donating all her gifts is too big of an ask at this age (we understand!), tell her you would like to honor her with a gift to the charity of her choosing. Maybe that’s an animal shelter, the Boys and Girls Club, care packages for the military, or supplies for new moms in need. Let her think about it and get back to you about which organization she would like to donate to and why. To family and friends asking what your birthday girl would like for her big day, consider asking for charitable donations to that special organization close to her heart.