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21 Free and Frugal Ways to Make a Child Feel Special on Their Birthday

Your birthday is the MOST exciting day of the year if you’re under the age of 21, that is. For children, they believe it is their one special day. No one is as special on their birthday as they are. Little do they remember that they are special to us every single day of their lives. But on their birthday, the whole family gets to celebrate the joy of their life. Getting the entire family involved is a great way to make a child feel special on their birthday.

To keep their enthusiasm alive and see their faces light up like a Christmas tree, we like to do small things on their birthday to show just how special they are to the family.

I say small things because we are always in a frugal mindset for our financial stability. We want each of our children to feel special on their birthday, but we don’t have hundreds of dollars to go over the moon for each kid—we have five kids! Even if we spent $100 on each of them, we’d be spending $300 in one month because three of our children have birthdays every two weeks starting at the end of February.

Make a child feel special on their birthday without spending money. This is a picture of a empty wallet with a note inside that says, "Plan B?"

The parental peer pressure is laid on pretty thick when my child comes home saying, “My friend got over ten gifts for his birthday, and that’s just from his grandparents!” We are happy for other families that can provide in such a big way for their kids, but it still stings when our child doesn’t understand why they can and why we can’t choose not to.

We make our modest income work for us so we can raise our family the way we wish. We don’t give a mountain of presents every birthday or holiday, but we do show our children just how special and loved they are—many of these suggestions I’m about to list we do in our own home. I polled a group of ladies to find out what frugal and free fun traditions they use on their children’s birthdays. I can tell you that I will be incorporating some new ones for our kids! Here are 21 frugal and free ways to make a child feel special on their birthday.

1. Use car window paint.

If you can’t get your child’s name in lights, try putting it in paint on your vehicle. Nothing says you’re special, like branding happy birthday wishes and their name across your car windows for the day or week!

2. Fill the bathroom mirror with sticky notes of affirmation.

Make a child feel special on their birthday by leaving messages. This is a picture of a hand leaving a sticky note on a mirror that says, "I Love You."

You can get 400 sticky notes for less than $3. This is a super cheap way to make a child feel special on their birthday without breaking the bank. Fill the notes with words of encouragement, virtues, your favorite character traits, a funny joke, or maybe just write HAPPY BIRTHDAY hundreds of times and put them all on the bathroom mirror for your child to marvel at in the morning.

3. Write short notes and give them to your child throughout the day.

If sticky notes aren’t your thing, try writing a few brief letters to your child. Express what about them makes you proud, the good you see in their deeds, and what you believe the future holds for them. Give your child these notes at the beginning, middle, and end of their day. These notes also make for great keepsakes!

4. Fill the bedroom floor with balloons.

Make a child feel special on their birthday by filling the floor with balloons. This is a picture of colorful balloons on the floor.

Balloons are so simple yet bring so much fun and laughter! Just remember to blow them all up while sitting down, so you don’t pass out! You’ll need a LOT to cover the bedroom floor. Even if you don’t cover the bedroom floor entirely, it’s still pretty sweet to wake up and have a bunch of balloons in your room.

5. Make a special breakfast.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle to wake up much before my children each day. If you want to make a child feel special on their birthday, go out of your way to do something special for them. If my children see that I created a delicious breakfast for them BEFORE they woke up, then they know I put in a huge effort, especially for them.

6. Have a special “birthday plate.”

Make a child feel special on their birthday by using a birthday plate. This is a picture of a plate that has the words Happy Birthday on it.

The birthday plate is no ordinary plate. The birthday plate only comes out on birthdays. You can have one plate that everyone uses on their birthday or an individual plate specific to each child for their birthday. However you want to play it, it surely makes the birthday meal that much more special.

7. Decorate a birthday chair.

Another fun and personalized birthday tradition to make a child feel special on their birthday is to decorate their seat at the table. Wrap streamers around it, tie balloons to it, and create a BIRTHDAY KID’S CHAIR sign to hang on it. Every child feels special when they get to sit on a thrown made just for them and their special day!

8. Sing happy birthday at every meal.

It doesn’t get more free than singing! Rather than just singing happy birthday before cake, take each opportunity to sing happy birthday to your special kiddo and watch their face light up with joy, and maybe a little embarrassment, depending on their age.

9. Send birthday treats to school.

Make a child feel special on their birthday by sending treats to school. This is a picture of a bunch of colorful cupcakes.

Whether it’s a bag of Oreos and Capri suns or character-themed cupcakes, your child will feel special on their birthday when all they receive the gratitude of their classmates enjoying treats because of their birthday.

10. Take them out for lunch.

If your child is in school, nothing is much cooler than getting to leave class in the middle of the day. Make it a memorable day by going on a lunch date with mom or dad, or both! If grandparents or godparents are available, invite them too!

11. Let them pick the birthday meal and dessert.

A fairly common practice, but I feel it’s worth noting. A few days before your child’s birthday, take their meal and dessert request. I like to have my kids give me three options to cook because I never know what might be on sale and what I may or may not have on hand on short notice.

I’ve also found that not many kids under age five actually like cake—they only want to lick the icing. Consider having an ice cream bar instead! No, not a bar of ice cream, but ice cream with multiple choices of toppings for each kid to personalize and make their dessert extravagant! Putting in that extra effort to make their favorite dish and dessert has a way of saying, “Your happiness is important to me.” What a beautiful message for their birthday and a sure way to make a child feel special on their birthday.

12. Invite grandparents and godparents to share the celebration.

What better way to make a child feel special on their birthday than by inviting family to celebrate with you!

13. Go through their baby box with them and reminisce.

Make a child feel special on their birthday by reminiscing. This is a picture of two baby feet in an adult hand.

I love this idea and will be doing it with the kiddos from now on. We have a baby box for each kid. It’s more like a baby clear-plastic-bin of keepsakes from throughout the years. There are cards from previous birthdays, family pictures from their baby years, the hospital band and crib card from the day they were born, and some things from their baptism in the baby box. Children love to hear stories about when they were younger. This is a perfect opportunity for you to reminisce with your son or daughter and give them a special memory from the day.

14. Invite a couple of friends over for cake and games.

As your children get older, hanging out with aunts and uncles just isn’t as cool anymore. Have your child invite a few friends over to enjoy their special day with them. Not only do they get to hang out with people their age, but they also get to show off how cool their mom is for providing an incredible birthday meal!

15. Start a birthday photo op.

Take a picture of the birthday kiddo in the exact same spot each year. It will be so much fun as your child grows to see that progression captured on camera.

16. Ask all of your family and friends to send them a birthday card in the mail.

Make a child feel special on their birthday by mailing cards. This is an image of a hand putting a piece of mail into a mailbox.

In the era of social media and email, I think it’s safe to assume that many kids these days don’t receive many birthday cards via standard mail. I believe getting mail (not bills!) the old-fashioned way is exciting! As easy as it sounds, getting mail is a sure way to make a child feel special on their birthday. Ask your family and friends to mail birthday cards addressed to your child and watch your child smile from ear to ear when they see so many envelopes with their name on them.

17. Create a banner with a picture from every year of birth.

If you’re feeling more energetic than I usually do, then this an adorable project to make a child feel special on their birthday. You, your child, and your whole family will enjoy seeing how the birthday kiddo has grown over the years! I did this for a first birthday once except did a picture from each month up until their birthday. Seeing the progression from infant to one-year-old brought tears to my eyes.

18. Have a scavenger hunt for their present.

This is a super fun way to make a child feel special on their birthday. All of our children, regardless of age, love a good finding-things game. Whether you have several presents or just one, you can come up with clues that lead to the next clue and the next until the birthday kiddo finds their gift!

19. Make them a Candy Bar Poster!

What kid wouldn’t love getting a bunch of candy for their birthday? Better yet, what kid wouldn’t like to read a poster filled with uplifting, positive messages with candy bars as words? Even Better yet, a candy poster can be used for just about anything! The kids and I made one for Joe when he graduated from college!

Make a child feel special on their birthday by making a candy poster. This is a picture of a message using candy bars to replace words here and there.

20. Let them skip all of their chores for the week.

Despite our children’s popular belief, studies show that completing chores is actually good for their mental health. We understand this as parents and dive further into the topic of chores and our kids here. All the good that comes from our children completing chores doesn’t necessarily change the fact that our kids would prefer to play a video game instead. Letting your child skip their chores during their birthday week is an effective and free way to make a child feel special on their birthday.

21. Write a letter to your child about the past year.

Instead of multiple notes, you could stick to just one loving letter. Take the time to come up with a heartfelt letter to your child with memories of the past year, words of encouragement, praise, and maybe even an uplifting scripture reference to give them courage and excitement for their future. Here are some good ones!

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.

—Jeremiah 29:11

For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

—Ephesians 2:10

I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go.

—Joshua 1:9

Well friends, I sincerely hope you found some good suggestions in here that you can use to make a child feel special on their birthday this year and for many years to come! Know a friend who’s struggling with birthday ideas? Share this post on Facebook, Pinterest, or wherever you most use your social media! Let me know in the comments below what fun things your family does to make each birthday a special one!

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