44 low-cost magical ways to make birthdays special


Make birthdays special - loads of low cost ideas to make your kid's birthday special #birthdays #celebrate #parenting

Make birthdays special - loads of low cost ideas to make your kid's birthday special #birthdays #celebrate #parenting

We love parties. Love them. Love them, love them, love them. Over the years we’ve held many fun parties that make birthdays speical, but the kids are older now. Most of the kids we know are celebrating their birthday with a few friends, pizza, some video games (boys) and a movie (girls). 

Which is absolutely fine, of course. I used to make elaborate parties for the kids every year, but even I was done by age 10. After that, I reckon pizza and a movie does just fine. Frankly, I’m too tired to oversee anything else.

Check out some of our birthday parties here.


Of course, there are plenty of special ways to celebrate birthdays without having a party. Try one of these ideas on your kid’s next birthday.

Fun ways to make birthdays special

Make birthdays special - leave flowers next to the bed to wake up to

Image: Alexandra Gorn

1. Once they’re asleep the night before their birthday, blow up loads of balloons and leave them on the floor of their room.

2. You can also create a balloon avalanche to hit them when they open their bedroom door. Find instructions at Fun With Mama.

3. Or if that feels too hard, simply tie a few balloons to the outside of the bedroom doorknob.

4. For a more environmentally-friendly option, put a beautiful bouquet of flowers or a cute pot plant next to their bed for them to wake to in the morning.

5. If a statement piece is more your style, one giant helium balloon tied to their bed should do the trick. You can buy them at most party shops.

Wake up happy

6. Spoil them with a new outfit for them to wear (after school if they are otherwise uniform-bound).

7. Make a homemade happy birthday sign and hang it in the family room. A few wrapped presents under the sign make for an extra-early morning treat.

8.  Surprise them at breakfast with a pancake stack birthday “cake”, complete with candles. Drizzle icing over the stack for extra points.

Make birthdays special - pancake breakfast birthday cake

Our wholemeal buttermilk pancakes recipe is perfect.

9. Create a special birthday drink (non-alcoholic, of course) that you only make on birthdays. Something like a pineapple ginger sparkler or Zingy blackberry lemonade. Drink it with breakfast.

10. Play their current favourite songs while they eat their birthday breakfast. You could create a Spotify playlist for them to keep adding to after their birthday.

11. Arrange for their grandparents to join the birthday breakfast table via Facetime.

12. Add sprinkles to everything edible.

13. Add googly eyes to their fruit.

14. Or to make the birthday just as much fun for you, take the family out for a birthday breakfast before school.

Added surprises

15. A cheeky one for your son – put a birthday note under the toilet seat. (Bonus: you’ll soon know whether he’s lifting it to pee!!)

16. If it’s a school day, surprise them with a day off school.

17. Round-the-clock gift giving is a fun way to spoil your kid, if you’ve got the cash. The gifts don’t have to be big at all.  Something small in the morning, afternoon and evening is a cute lead-up to their ‘big’ present (if they are getting one) right before bed.

18. Take care wrapping each small gift. A beautifully hand-wrapped gift just screams love and attention.

Make birthdays special - gift wrapping makes things extra-special

Image: Ekaterina Shevchenko

19. It’s also fun to create a scavenger hunt for them to follow to get to their birthday gift treasure.

20. You could also try the “birthday string” idea from Between Parents. You roll out a piece of string around the house for your kid to follow to reach their birthday present hiding place.

Birthday anarchy is possible

21. “No rules” is a fun one for birthdays for older kids. They may surprise you with not actually becoming completely feral when the rules are removed. Or they might not. Either way, as long as they stay legal, what harm can one day of birthday chaos do?

22. If you’re not quite ready for “no rules”, have a “yes” day instead. Whatever they ask for, you have to say “yes”. You may need to be creative with your responses, depending on what they ask for!

23. I love this ‘birthday in a can’ idea from Oh Happy Day. Sneaky fab. Click here for instructions..

Make birthdays special - party in a can by Oh Happy Day

Image: Oh Happy Day

24. At The 36th Avenue, they just bake a birthday cake in a can instead.

25. Oh Happy Day also recommends putting balloons in things. The fridge would be a wonderful surprise when the birthday kid goes to get the milk out.

The power of a text

26. Text your child every hour telling them something you love about them.

27. Put a secret birthday cupcake in their lunchbox. Even better, add a little note inside the cupcake – just make a slit in the cake and put the folded note inside, then ice over the top. If it’s a store-bought cupcake, make the slit in the bottom of the cake and put your note in that way.

28. You could also sprinkle some paper confetti into their lunch bag (but just remember who will most likely be cleaning that shit up!).

Make birthdays special - confetti

Image by Mockaroon

29. Speaking of the lunchbox, a great way to totally embarrass your kid at school (and we all know that’s a mum’s mission in life) is to wrap each of their lunch items in birthday wrapping paper.

30. Or skip the lunchbox altogether and arrange delivery of their favourite takeaway food to school at lunchtime. You may need to organise a friend accomplice so you can deliver the bag to them at the gate. Trust me, no kid past Year 4 likes seeing their mum at school at lunchtime. 

31. Slip a birthday card inside their homework book or a class notebook. If you’re feeling flush, you might like to add a gift card to their favourite store inside.

Charitable joy

32. Make a birthday donation to your child’s charity of choice.

Chalk the driveway or footpath with lots of colourful happy birthdays.

33. Invite their friends over for afternoon tea after school. Serve fruit, fairy bread and birthday cake.

34. Studio DIY suggests having a giant box delivered to the front door with your child’s name on it. Open up the box and it’s a giant happy birthday surprise.

Make birthdays special - DIY Studio balloon box

Image: DIY Studio

35. Let them set the menu for the entire day. Plan this in advance so they can eat exactly what they want for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

36. Wrap their present in layers, like a pass the parcel. Under each layer, leave a note telling them something you love about them.

All about meeeeeee

37. Make a slideshow of their past year to watch after dinner (if you have time, which you most probably do not).

38. Write different times on helium balloons. Your kid gets to pop the balloon at the allocated time and find out what activity you have planned at that time. Up the fun factor (and the clean up factor) by putting confetti inside the balloons.

39. Leave a sweet little matchbox card next to their dinner plate. This one by Oh Happy Day is a keeper.

Make birthdays special - matchbox card by Oh Happy Day

40. Write your child a letter telling them how proud you are of everything they’ve accomplished this year, and everything you hope for them for the coming year.

41. Leave a small gift under their pillow for one last birthday surprise.

42. If a ‘special’ birthday is coming up (this one is perfect for double-digit or hitting the teens), go all out with a “12 days of birthday” theme, found on Mothers Niche. Just like Christmas, only just for them. A small gift, or special lunch or activity, even a note, each day for the twelve days leading up to their birthday. 

43. To completely blindside your kid, throw them a surprise ‘half birthday’. Do all of the above, but six months before their birthday… it will be a very memorable year.

44. And don’t forget the classic “forgot your birthday” move. Always mean-as, but memorable. Best make sure the “oh we remembered after all” surprise includes all of the above ideas. You need to go large to be forgiven.

Do you have any traditions that make birthdays special?

Feature image by S O C I A L . C U T 

Magical birthday surprises - low-cost ways to make birthdays special

Written by Bron Maxabella

Bron is the founder of Mumlyfe and is so happy to welcome you here. Bron has been writing in the Australian parenting space as Maxabella for more than 10 years and is mum to three mostly happy kids and wife to one mostly happy husband. Mostly happy is a win, right?

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1 Comment

  1. Erin

    no 35 is our go to every birthday. We’ve got a birthday coming up in a fortnight, our baby boy will be 8!!
    Huge list! lots of great ideas


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