Start a birthday tradition the whole family can look forward to

08/19/2013 5:17 PM

08/08/2014 10:18 AM

Few things with children are cheap. But for traditions, usually the best cost little or nothing – and have a priceless payoff. Birthdays are no exception.

“It makes kids feel really special, that they’re the center of attention,” said Ingrid Talpak, owner of the frugal lifestyle website More Style Than Cash. “It also makes your family unique because it’s something you make your own.”

The most memorable ones are often the simplest too, which is something any busy parent will embrace. Tacy Osler, owner and designer for the online personalized gift and party story Paper Nook creates plenty of beautiful and intricate products. But she tends to go more minimal when it comes to her family’s traditions.

“Although I do all of this party design, I don’t go all out on my children’s birthdays,” she said, noting that a tradition is more likely to stay that way if it’s easy. “I’m all about simplicity.”

Here are a few ideas for making your kid’s day extra special, without the cost or stress.

• Birthday questionnaire. What better way to capture the essence of your child at each age than through his or her own words? Osler uses these questionnaires each year with her children – asking hard-hitting questions such as “What is your favorite toy?” and “What is your favorite thing to sleep with?”

“It’s really fun to see their answers change as they grow,” she said. “You forget small things like that, so it’s nice to have a yearly record of it.”

Now that her daughter is old enough, she fills out her own questionnaire, which Osler finds entertaining to see how both her answers and handwriting evolve.

You can make your own or use Osler’s, which are free and downloadable from her website: You can either print them out or save them on your computer.

• Crepe paper doorway. Sure, you can decorate the house with crepe paper. But what about covering your little one’s bedroom doorway for an Incredible Hulk-style breakout?

Angela Giles, owner of the Secrets of a Super Mommy blog (, and her husband make their children’s day special with this fun tradition that’s great for any age. A toddler can fumble through the paper, while a teenager can feign apathy with a slow stroll (but secret appreciation).

Just tape the paper as you’d like and let the birthday boy or girl tear through it with gusto. Take a photo of your child in action every year for a fun way to track their growth.

• Birthday confetti trail. Through her website More Style Than Cash, Talpak is all about showing readers how to “live the good life on a dime,” and she extends this to her children’s birthdays by creating a confetti trail through the house and a decorated birthday chair.

All you need is some colorful construction or scrapbook paper – the wilder the colors, the better – for the confetti and chair decor.

Although you can buy your own confetti, it’s also easy (and cheap) to make with a hole punch. Create a trail that leads from your child’s bedroom to a special destination such as the kitchen, where they’ll find a custom-decorated birthday chair.

Talpak likes to embellish the chair with multi-colored triangles cut from construction paper, but you can customize however you’d like: balloons, a sign that reads “Birthday Boy” or “Birthday Girl,” anything that makes your child feel really special when they sit down for their birthday breakfast.

The point, Talpak said, is for them to feel like the center of attention.

It doesn’t take a Pinterest-worthy scene to make your child’s birthday memorable. “You just need a little bit of time and a little bit of thought,” she explained.

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