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by Penny Warner


Your child’s birthday is the most important day of the year! You can make it even more memorable by adding these 20 easy, inexpensive and imaginative touches throughout the day.

Make your child “King/Queen for a Day.” Let your child do whatever he or she wants all day – within reason, of course!

Wake your child up with bunches of balloons. About an hour or so before your child awakes, inflate a bunch of balloons, and while she is asleep, fill up her closet, bathroom or even the whole bedroom with balloons.

Give your child a birthday hat. Buy or make a silly hat decorated with candles, balloons, ribbons, and so on. Or make him a special birthday t-shirt or slippers using fabric paints, stick-on sequins, decals and ribbon ties.

Do all your child’s chores for the day. Have fun with the tasks by asking your child how he does it.

Bake a cake together. Instead of ordering a cake from the bakery, make it yourselves, and let your child decorate it any way she wants, with colored icing, candies or little toys.

Send your child on a present hunt. Hide the birthday gifts and create a treasure hunt, leading from clue to clue, until he finds the loot.

Gift wrap your child’s lunch. If it’s a school day, wrap all your child’s lunch foods in party paper and place them inside the lunchbox or bag to unwrap at lunchtime. For added fun, fill her backpack with birthday cards and balloons.

Send your child a surprise package. The day before your child’s birthday, mail him a surprise package to be opened on his birthday. Insert a card, but sign it “Secret Admirer” or “Mystery Friend” to keep your child guessing.

Take your child to lunch. Take the birthday child out for a special lunch at a fancy restaurant – just the two of you. Order a decadent dessert and tell the staff it’s your child’s birthday so they’ll sing “Happy Birthday!”

Create “Happy Birthday Coupons.” On colorful paper, write down a dozen suggestions for your child to enjoy, such as “Good for a Dozen Chocolate Chip Cookies,” “Good for a Get-Out-Of-One-Bath-Free” or “Good for One Hour of Game Playing.” Assemble them in a coupon book, and give the book to your child on her birthday.

Serve your child’s favorite dinner. Let your child choose the menu for her birthday and select all of her favorite foods.

Bring your child breakfast in bed. When he wakes up, bring him breakfast in bed. Fill the tray with your child’s favorite breakfast items, a little gift and the comics page.

Let your child design the decorations. Have your child help you with the party decorations and turn it into a craft project. Inflate balloons and let your child decorate them with faces of the guests, using permanent markers or stickers with eyes, noses, and mouths.

Pick a picnic place. Instead of having a meal at the table, spread a blanket on the floor or lawn and have your breakfast, lunch, or dinner picnic-style.

Make your child a “Personalized Picture Puzzle.” Surprise your child by having one of her photos enlarged and glued to cardstock paper. Cut the picture into puzzle shapes, place them in a small box or envelope, and have her do the puzzle – without telling her what it is!

Present your child a “My Life Retrospective” display. Collect pictures of your child growing up, tape them onto colored construction paper, and stick them around the party room so everyone can see how much he has grown and changed over the years. Have the guests try to guess how old the birthday child is in each picture.

Let your child break a rule. On this special day, let your child break one rule, such as “Bedtime is 8pm” or “No elbows on the table.”

Videotape memorable messages. Gather special messages from your child’s friends and family members on videotape, then play it back at the party.

Birthday email. Before your child’s birthday, email friends and relatives and ask them to surprise your child by sending virtual birthday greeting cards throughout the day.

Start a birthday ritual. Choose any of the above tips and recreate it each year on your child’s birthday.

Bonus idea: Capture the Memories. Give your child a disposable camera and let him take pictures of everything that happens throughout the day. Then give him a scrapbook to fill with snapshots of birthday memories.

PENNY WARNER has more than 25 years of experience as an author and party planner. She has published more than 40 books, including 16 specific to parties. Additionally, Warner wrote a weekly newspaper column on family life for 11 years, penned a column for Sesame Street Parents magazine and has appeared on several regional and national TV morning programs. She is a representative for Balloon Time, the leading brand of consumer helium balloon kits in North America. Balloon Time kits feature a helium-filled tank, balloons and ribbon, and are available for $20-$30 at mass merchant, party goods and grocery stores. For more information, visit BalloonTime.com.

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