Birthdays are such exciting days for little ones! Sometimes, this event can be a stressful for adults as they try to arrange special activities and refreshments for the birthday child and friends.
The first thing to remember is despite cultural pressure young children do not need extensive entertainment, restaurant food, or expensive theme parties to be happy. Most preschoolers are quite happy with a simple celebration that includes basic refreshments and a chance to play together.
Summertime and early fall offer the best chance for easy parties outdoors. A simple party at a local park with playground equipment and a handy picnic table is easy to plan. Invite several children and parents from the neighborhood, family or school. Pay for each child to have a treat from the ice cream truck or bring cupcakes, lemonade and other treats to share. Adults often appreciate a fruit or vegetable tray instead of birthday cake. Sing "Happy Birthday" and take some photos. During cold or rainy weather, a group visit to the recreation center, library puppet show or children's museum provides ready-made entertainment.
Very young children do not usually expect gifts. You can inform parents that gifts are not necessary or that just a birthday balloon would be fun. Some families set up a used book exchange so that each child brings a wrapped book in good condition. Every one gets to choose a gift book to take home. Sometimes the birthday child gets to hand out a little bag full of treats and/or trinkets to each visitor to thank them for coming to help celebrate. If there are gifts, remember to start the thank you note habit.
School party rules
Avoid sending private party invitations to school. Mail them to avoid hurt feelings. If you decide to have a birthday celebration at your child's school, talk first with the teacher or principal. Some classes now discourage activity as it disrupts the daily schedule. In addition, a growing number of children have special food allergies or restrictions. Some schools do not allow homemade treats to be brought into the classroom. While birthday parties at school were once the norm, expectations are changing.
How can you help your young child know more about their special day? Preschoolers should learn their birthday month and day. One way is to make time visible with a birthday calendar chain. Plan and work together to cut strips from construction paper.
Glue them to form a chain that represents how many days are left until the birthday. Make a big star with your child's name on it and attach the chain links. Hang the chain low enough so that each day a link can be broken off. Now everyone can count and see how many days are left until the big day.
Editor's note: Grandparents Teach ,Too is a non profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. Writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers.Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan (PAM), Upper Peninsula Association for the Education of Young Children (UPAEYC), Northern Michigan School of Education, U.P. Children's Museum, and NMU Center for Economic Education.