Before I had a child, and even up until just this past Christmas, I had the opinion that children didn’t need a lot of toys or store-bought things to occupy them. They should be able to manage with some books and art supplies and fill in the rest of their time playing imaginative games and cooking with being active outside. While I still don’t really feel that they need multiples of things (50 Barbie dolls, 10 princess dresses, etc.) but dang it if as a parent you don’t want to buy them an assortment of toys when they show an interest in something. I am not talking about over the top purchases like child-sized cars or ponies (though quite frankly if I could afford a pony I might get her one!) or the must-have doll that is advertised heavily on TV, but rather toys you know they would love because of exposure at school or in travels.
For example, I know Coco would love a telescope. She is forever rolling up paper to make her own. I love the creativity but I also feel it would be really cool for her to own one that actually magnifies. So I ordered her one for her birthday. Here’s the thing though: she also loves cats, dogs and insects; building forts in the living room; music and dance; Sponge Bob and she’s super, duper active. It’s really hard to not go out and buy toys that cater to all of those! I mean where do you draw the line? I find myself wanting to get her a pet kitten, a toy dog that walks and barks, a bug catcher and a butterfly net, a play tent, a small piano, some CDs and a CD player, some books on bugs and animals, a trampoline and wading pool for the backyard and a new bike! Clearly that would be way over the top but where do you draw the line? I can see how kids get spoiled. But I am going to buy her some things because she never asked for them. In fact, when I asked her what new toy she would want for her birthday she said she wanted more cars (Santa got her two that you wind up by pulling them back). I said, “Are you sure? That’s all? You don’t want a new doll or a stuffed dog?” “No,” she replied, “just a car.”
So I got her two more cars. But then I ordered a lot more. I had decided a long time ago I was going to do my best to not raise a spoiled child but one who appreciates all she has and so far it seems to be working. She really does love and play with her favorite toys over and over again. But I want to make her 4th birthday really memorable and special! I know you can do that without a bunch of toys but to my defense, I really sucked at being the Easter bunny and she didn’t get much at Christmas because we traveled. And the other thing is, my baby is so incredibly social and even though she’s an only child she really isn’t able to entertain herself. She doesn’t want to be alone. When I’m at home she wants me to play with her (and I will for a short while) but frankly I don’t want to play with stuffed animals or in the play kitchen for long periods! I guess I’m hoping if she has more options to choose from maybe she will be able play alone for a longer period of time? We’ll see.
But ideally, I really want her birthdays to be about an experience. Like go to the aquarium and then get a new pet. Or go to the zoo and come home to a bike. Or since we are here and able to travel – go to Hong Kong Disneyland and get a piano or go to Boracay and get a wading pool. You know, one big present along with an experience.You know I am into creating traditions and, duh, I forgot about birthdays! My family didn’t do much in terms of celebrating birthdays. Christmas, yes, but birthdays in comparison got the shaft. Nothing beyond having a special dinner with cake, presents and singing happy birthday. As a child I’m sure I had parties but I can’t remember any of them in detail. Once I got to about middle school I remember planning my party myself like making my own treasure hunts for my friends or a sleep over in the backyard. As adults we call each other and sing happy birthday but that’s about it. Kind of lame. But for my family I want there to be unique traditions in place for her to look forward to every year and for me to document. I have heard of some really fun things that other families do like until just this week when I started researching the experience.
When Coco turned two we celebrated her birthday with family at a 4th of July cookout. There was cake and singing and presents. She loved her stuffed doggie (still does) so I decorated the cake to look like Doggie.
Last year, when she turned three, I took cookies to school for her friends and threw her a party in my neighbor’s backyard. By then I was over the store-bought cake thing and make her Hello Kitty cupcakes from scratch with all organic/chemical-free ingredients. Even the candy decorations were all natural! I invited a few of her friends and had bubbles. It was cute and sweet.I did take a picture of her in front of our house holding up three fingers so that is going to be one of our traditions! Yes, no matter where we are in the world I will have her hold up that many fingers in front of our house. Fun!
I’m also going to create birthday albums! I will do one of those professional online albums like Snapfish and document how we celebrate, including the gifts given. Cute idea and how fun would that be to look back on through the years?!
Here are some other fun ideas I have heard:
1. the birthday girl gets to plan the menu for dinner or all day
2. hiding all the birthday gifts and give clues like a scavenger hunt
3. wake up to a room decorated with balloons/streamers/banner, etc.
4. the birthday girl can design and help bake and decorate her own cake
5. blending of the two cultures in the birthday meal
6. celebrating all week with one gift leading up to her birthday (or to the experience)
7. breakfast in bed
8. the number of gifts for her age (i like this idea for me!!:))
9. while she is sleeping, tie a ribbon to her bed and when she wakes she follows the ribbon to her gift
10. eat dinner backwards starting with dessert, then main course, then appetizers
So fun! What do you do to celebrate your child’s birthday?