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Alternatives to birthday parties

How can you celebrate your child’s birthday without a big, expensive party?

Birthday celebrations for children have become grand and often expensive affairs. People share photos of meticulously planned and themed parties for their children and there’s often a lot of social pressure to have the perfect party for your child. These parties can be expensive, difficult to plan and stressful. There are lots of meaningful ways to celebrate your child’s birthday that aren’t big, fancy parties. Michigan State University Extension has some ideas for alternative birthday celebrations for your child.

Community service or volunteer project. Encourage your child to spend their birthday giving back. Find a community service or volunteer project that matches your child’s interests. Your animal-loving child can volunteer at an animal shelter, or your nature-loving child could participate in a river clean up.

Go on an adventure. Even if you can’t take a big vacation, you could have a mini-getaway for your child’s birthday, even if it’s just a day trip. Hop in the car and take a mini-road trip to visit someplace you’ve never been or visit family or friends.

Plan an event. Allow your child to pick an event to attend on or around their birthday. Maybe there’s a play, concert or sporting event they would love to see. You could also offer to bring a few of their closest friends to really make the event special.

Make it a day of surprises. You can plan your child’s day and not tell them what will happen—make it a day of surprises. Plan a special meal, trip or activity, something you know your child will love! Surprise them with a list of the reasons that you love them, or with the people they love to be around.

Have a day of favorites. Give your child a day of favorites—eat their favorite meals, do their favorite things, see their favorite people, watch their favorite movie. Make their special day all about what makes them special.

Make it meaningful. However you celebrate your child’s birthday, you can make it a really meaningful day. Have your child reflect on their last year: What were they most proud of? What were their successes? What friends did they make? What did they accomplish? Ask them to think about what they wish for the next year: What do they want to achieve/get better at/explore?

Despite the many Pinterest pages devoted to excessive children’s birthday parties, your child’s celebration does not need to be big, extravagant or expensive to be special. Choose a celebration that works for your family, your budget and what it is you really want to celebrate.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2017 impact report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2017, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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