7 easy and cheap ways to make your child’s birthday special

Posted by Anna Hamill on

During the covid restrictions, we had to be a little more creative with birthdays. There were no parties, no visitors, no special trips and no meals out for a lot of our children.

One of my children in particular is big on celebrations and doing something special makes her feel loved. I don’t know if this is another love language or if it’s a mash up of several of the five classic love languages, but celebrating is her love language. She does it for others, and she loves when others do it for her.

I remember as a child doing everything I could in advance of Christmas or my birthday so it would be just right on the day itself.

Little things, like cutting my nails a few days before so they were just my favourite length on my birthday. Making sure my favourite clothes were not dirty - so I didn’t wear them for a few days before, making sure mum had had time to wash and dry them. Silly things like that.

These days, I still do these kinds of things. I shave my legs the day before, so I don’t have to on my birthday. I change the sheets so I wake up in clean sheets. And I feel disappointed if I have a spot or haven’t quite shaken off a cold before the big day. I say big day, it happens every year so it’s not that big a day. But it is worth celebrating. More on why celebrate another time!

7 easy and inexpensive ways to celebrate your child’s birthday.

I have found some easy and inexpensive ways to celebrate a child’s birthday. Here are 6. Some may be a little time intensive, but definitely worth it.

1. Wrap gifts meaningfully.

You know what meaningful is for your child. It could be their favourite tv character wrapping paper.

It could be adding a bow.

It could be taping crayons to the front of the paper so they can make their own creative and fun wrapping paper (before or after they open it) and doing this adds another extra little gift.

Give it some thought, and make it special and unique to the child whose birthday it is.

I have some gift wrap options and ribbon spools too that you can browse here. More designs are in the works, so check back and get in touch if you’d like to see something specific!

2. Make a treasure hunt.

This is something my daughter, Bethany (whose love language is celebration) loves to do. She finds an empty box, decorates the box like a treasure chest, puts the gifts in it, hides the box and makes a treasure map for the birthday child to use to find their gifts. 

An alternative to this for older children is to make up clues and each clue leads to another clue (or one of the gifts with a clue to get to the next gift) until they get to their biggest gift. Especially good if it’s a bike or something like that. You end up in the garage/shed.

3. Bake a cake.

Seriously, this is the most birthday necessary thing. It doesn’t have to be complicated, there are loads of easy children’s cake ideas on the internet.

I usually make a sponge cake or two and chop them up to make the shape I need, then make some buttercream icing and finish off with little details made out of shaped sprinkles. A recipe for quick and easy sponge cake is at the bottom of this blog.

My favourite I’ve ever made was a Duggee cake for Bethany’s 2nd birthday. A dinosaur with loads of sweeties was up there (made the day before giving birth) for James’ 4th birthday and the Gruffalo was pretty cool for Daniel’s 1st birthday.

Homemade cakes for children’s birthdays

It can be even more simple than that though, add on some toys and the cake decoration acts as one of the child’s gifts. Trains on a train track cake, a Disney princess figurine to decorate a Cinderella or Rapunzel cake… 

4. Shop small.

Small businesses are perfect to find a lovely unique gift and often these can be personalised and customised to fit your child exactly.

I’ll do a gift guide at some stage but for now, browse Etsy, And So To Shop or if you’re looking for a Christian gift, Cheerfully Given. You could also find some local small businesses on Instagram using local hashtags. #smallbusinessNI #shopsmallNI and #shoplocalNI are good ones for Northern Ireland, but you can insert your location instead of NI and be likely to find something near you. Changing NI to UK will give you a larger pool of small businesses to browse.

Of course, the same is true for cards. You can browse my selection of birthday cards here.

5. Balloons, decorations, dressing up!

Make it a special day! Decorate. Bunting, streamers, balloons… Last year was my son James’ 5th birthday, which he had been counting down to excitedly for 10 weeks. I still have videos saved on my camera roll of him saying “Hi, my name is James and my birthday is in 6 Sundays. Isn’t that exciting?” And making his eyebrows go up and down, which we now call “exciting eyebrows”.

Gif of the family in superhero masks to celebrate james’ 5th birthday

Most restrictions here were not lifted by the time his birthday came around, so instead of going to the dinosaur restaurant like he’d wanted to for 8 months, we got takeaway ice cream and did stuff at home. I got superhero masks for us all to wear, and he thought it was the best things ever. We got glow sticks, and confetti canons.

6. Cinema at home.

Something my kids have come to love during lockdowns is cinema at home. They close the curtains, often bring their duvets down (they haven’t been to a real cinema more than twice…), make themselves comfy and each get a bowl of sweet and savoury popcorn (a foolproof way to make this is at the bottom of this blog post).

Cinema at home with popcorn and superhero masks

Back to James’ 5th birthday last year. To end his extravaganza birthday day, him and Bethany oldest two stayed up a little past their bedtime and enjoyed popcorn and a dvd night with us. It was simple, but it was special.

7. Spend time together.

It’s easy to do things, but something kids really thrive on, is time together. Special, uninterrupted, phone off time together. Help them with their gifts, have a water fight (or a snowball fight…), read new books, hug them, laugh together, eat dinner all together, chat. There is so much to do to make memories of their birthdays special, but being there, involved and with them is the most important thing.

Spend time together doing Lego, father and son, superhero masks and all

Sponge cake recipe

You will need:

100g caster sugar
100g margarine or butter
2 eggs
100g self-raising flour
a tsp of vanilla essence if you have it.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Mix all the ingredients together with an electric beater, grease a cake tin.

Pour the mixture in and put it in the oven for around 25 minutes. When it starts to smell good, check the cake. If it bounces back when you give it a little press with your finger, it’s ready.

Wait for it to cool then tip it out. If you’re making a birthday cake that isn’t circular, you will most likely need to double the recipe and make 2 cakes so you can cut them up and join them together with buttercream icing or royal icing.

Blowing candles on a birthday cake

Foolproof popcorn

You will need:

Popcorn kernels (I use 1/3 cup of kernels for my 4 kids)
1 tbsp Coconut oil
A couple of pinches of salt and a tsp or two of sugar (or whatever topping/flavouring you want for your popcorn)

a large saucepan with a lid (preferably see through)
a large bowl

Melt the coconut oil in the pan on a high heat. Add in 3 or 4 popcorn kernels. Make sure you cover the saucepan with the lid.

When the kernels pop, take the pan off the heat and pour in the rest of the kernels, giving the pan a shake about to cover the kernels in oil.

Count to 30.

Put the saucepan, covered, back on the high heat. Give it a shake about regularly so that all the kernels get to the heat they need. They should all pop in very quick succession and not burn.

Once they’re popped, don’t hang around, put them in to the large bowl and add in the toppings. Give it all a mix and serve.


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