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3 Dollars, 5 Minutes and the Best Birthday Ever

I used to stress about my kids birthdays. I put such high expectations on myself to make their birthdays perfect… “good moms pull out all the stops to make their kids feel special on their birthdays” I thought.  I really struggled with making that come true without spending a lot of money and time I didn’t really have.

When Jacob turned 4, we had a huge “Pinterest Worthy” birthday bash for him. Tons of friends, food and carnival style games with prizes galore. We spent a lot of money and time we didn’t have to make that birthday extra special. As I tucked my exhausted birthday boy into bed that night, I asked him what his favorite part of the day was. Did he say all the presents he got? No. How about the hours worth of carnival games he got to play with his family and friends? Not at all. He said “I really liked the big, silver, happy birthday balloon on the kitchen table when I woke up this morning.”

A balloon? He liked a $2 helium balloon, which was a last minute afterthought when I was picking up even more party goodies at the store? I then realized that kids don’t need big productions, their parents going into debt, or time spent away from them planning extravagant parties. All they want is to feel special, and that, my friends, is one thing I can do. I can make my kids feel as special as possible on their big day by doing really simple things to let them know they are loved.

I’m grateful to a friend who passed on what is now our most favorite birthday tradition to us. The night before a birthday, my husband and I spend a whopping $3 and 5 minutes weaving a maze of streamers from the birthday kids room downstairs to the kitchen table, which holds their family birthday presents and their special request birthday breakfast. Those $3 streamers are used throughout the day as lasers you have to avoid touching, limbo, nets for balloon volleyball and more. Sure, my house is a complete and total disaster with streamers everywhere, but the smiles and anticipation of their birthday streamers is well worth any mess.

Birthday’s are extra special in our house and we do whatever we can to make our kids feel like they are the most important person on earth that day. For a mere $3 and 5 minutes you can have, in the words of my yesterday birthday girl, “the best birthday ever!”

What do you do to make birthdays a special occasion?


Disclosure: I am honored to be a 2012 paid brand ambassador for Hallmark Life is a Special Occasion. All opinions expressed are my own. For special discounts, product offerings and news about Hallmark, feel free to sign up for their newsletter.


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  1. The look on your little girl’s face is priceless. :-) The streamer idea sounds so fun, I know my kids would love that. We went to a great birthday party for two little friends this weekend and we were remarking about how refreshingly simple it was – activities in the backyard, food, cake and friends. I enjoy those the most!

  2. That was so sweet! You’re a great Mom!!

  3. I do the exact same for my hubs every year! Streamers mania.

    Love this!

  4. What an adorable and completely memorable way to celebrate!

  5. Um, I love this — I want this done for me! : )
    I love your happy pics — so cute! And I spy a bicycle! Fun!!!

    • Yes! She got a new bike for her birthday… still learning on how to ride without training wheels but hopefully she’ll get there soon so we can enjoy it over the summer!

  6. How cool! We so often forget it’s the simplest things that make our kids laugh and what they remember the most. Happy birthday to your girl!

  7. So very true! I think the same often applies to many areas of raising children – we get so caught up in what we think they should want and have that we lose focus on what means the most to them.

  8. Love this idea!!!!

  9. LOVE this idea. What a fun Mom you are :)

    • You know, it appears that way, doesn’t it? That’s what I love about this idea. The kids think it is the coolest thing ever and we get major props from them for “going all out” when really, it is so simple!

  10. Now that’s a great idea and a family birthday tradition that they will remember for a long time to come.

  11. You never cease to amaze me. I love how grounded you (and your husband!) are, and how you’re spending your time in the most meaningful of ways. This looks like an incredibly fun way to wake up on your birthday… and much less threatening than the promise of getting butter up your nose! (A Judd family birthday tradition.)

    • Michelle – you are so sweet! We’re not perfect, by any means, but I know we are learning and trying as we go. It’s all trial and error, so I love it when something meaningful like this sticks!

      You’ve got to share… butter up your nose??

      • The night before our birthdays, my father would tell us to be careful the next morning or he’d put butter up our nose as a means of waking us up. It became a tradition to wait in anxious anticipation to see if he’d actually attempt to do it.

        After all these years, he only successfully buttered my nose once… The one year I let my guard down!

  12. What a great idea to do the maze out of the streamers! Brilliant!

  13. She’s adorable, Kristen! Happy Birthday to her. I love the idea of streamers…fun for everyone in the family.

  14. It’s so funny because I’ve come to realize that my kids like “sugar cereal” on their birthday since I never buy it otherwise. This year I bought my 5 year old one of those variety packs with the tiny boxes. He lit up when he came downstairs and got to pick his cereal. $3 who knew?!

    • I used to only get sugared cereal when I’d go to my Grandma’s house to stay. We’d make a big deal of going and picking out the cereal at the store and everything (Always Captain Crunch, for me!) I love how the simple things, like tiny boxes of cereal, can make them smile :)

  15. I love this idea so much! I’ll definitely give this a go on my little one’s birthday this year.

    And while I don’t have much experience with throwing kids birthday parties yet, my husband and I agreed before our daughter was ever born that “homemade” birthdays were important to us. Favorite meals and we’d make the cake ourselves. Just family and a few close friends. Balloons and streamers for decor. I know some people truly enjoy entertaining and planning parties, but I also sometimes wonder who those extravagant kids parties are actually for …

    Pinning this idea now :)

    • You are so right – I think often times the “show” of the big parties is just another way for parents to outdo each other. Of course, like you said, some people truly enjoy that!

      Thanks for the pin!

  16. What a neat idea, Kristen! And you’re so right – it’s not about the money or time, it’s all about making your kids feel special. That’s the part they’ll remember.

    • I shudder to think of all the time I spent away from my son when I planned that huge party for him way back when! And does he remember it now? Nope!

  17. My mom let us choose the weekly menu during our birthday “week”. One night was our favorite restaurant and the rest our favorite homecooked meals. I always enjoyed that b/c it was the ONLY time I ever got to eat Tatertot Casserole. :)

    • I love that – that’s what my mom did too! I don’t do a week but we do let them choose breakfast, lunch and dinner on their birthday. Ella wanted Green Eggs & Ham for breakfast, movie theater popcorn for lunch and her favorite baked chicken legs for dinner!

      My husband would be like you – he loves tatertot casserole and I never make it! Do you have a good recipe for it?

  18. My kids are adults now but I was adamant when they were little that parties where to be for best friends and to be held at our home. That meant maybe 8-10 kids total. We had some games to play, a special cake I would make and decorate, presents to open and always music to dance to. Homemade treats when home with each kid for a goodybag.

    My daughter’s friends on the other had always had lavish affairs at big ‘fun’ centers. Everyone they had ever known were invited and they combined with what seemed every other kid in town for a noisy affair that drove me a bit crazy.

    Where my kids jealous? Yes. Until the day one of their best friends told them this, ‘I wish my Mom would do what your Mom does. I always feel so special when we’re at your birthday parties.’

    That was always the point; I’m glad it was not missed even it if took someone else to let my daughter see that truth right in front of her eyes!

    • This made me smile – because that is exactly what I’m going for when it comes to birthdays. I want each and every one of my kids to feel that special feeling you get when you are the star of the day and not overshadowed by some big, elaborate party!

  19. Such a great idea, Kristen. I too am guilty of going overboard for birthdays and it always comes back to the little things! Thanks for the reminder and Happy Birthday to your sweet girl!

    • It’s so hard not to get caught up in the extra stuff… but in the end, like you said, it’s the little things that matters most!
      Thanks for the b-day wishes for her!

  20. I love this! I have always hung streamers from the birthday child’s doorway the night before so they wake up to them on their birthday – I may have to step up my game this year!!!


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    3 Dollars, 5 Minutes and the Best Birthday Ever – Dine and Dish

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