A truly inspirational birthday celebration idea (and four more inside!)

5 birthday celebration ideas to make your kids’ day truly special

There’s a certain charm to the usual cake cutting, balloon bursting, candle blowing and gifts. A certain comfort, more like. It might be time for something more special though. It doesn’t have to be something very elaborate, if you don’t have too much time or are afraid of spoiling your kids. I don’t think any of you has raised a Dudley Dursley, who’ll ask for 38 presents just because he wants more than he got last time (which was 36, by the way). Every child deserves one special day a year.

A birthday is essentially a day to commemorate life. For me, it’s an intimate occasion - I like spending it with my closest friends and family, with people I’m very glad to have with me, doing what all of us enjoy best. So, with my parents, I go out for a meal, or we order in, smush up on the sofa together and watch a movie. If my friends come over, we talk, watch a silly romantic-comedy with microwave popcorn, laughing at all the cheesy bits. When I was a kid, though, such a celebration would’ve disappointed me no end. And I’m assuming that that’s the case with your kids too.

Until they’re 15 at least, children like it when you make a big deal of their birthdays, inviting all of their friends. The trick is to find a balance between doing something intimate with all their friends involved. Take, for instance, what Madhavi Rongala and Sohan Pavuluri did for their younger daughter’s birthday two weeks ago. When Kaveri turned six, her parents planned a trek to Bananthimari Betta in Kanakapura, with a bunch of kids and their parents.

The Rongala-Pavuluris love being outdoors in general. Although both of them work full time - Madhavi has her own retail store, House of Taamara in Bangalore, while Sohan works for GE in Finance Operations - they call themselves outdoor addicts. Sohan pursues rock climbing very seriously, along with kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and yoga. Madhavi likes yoga and running (she ran a half-marathon last month). They also hike, climb, cycle and play tennis regularly with both their children.

“So in many ways the idea of getting outdoors is not new to my kids,” explains Madhavi. “But what got my younger kid, Kaveri, excited was the novelty of spending her birthday hiking to a new place with her friends, and cutting her cake at the summit.”

There’s your trick. Pick a regular activity that you and your children enjoy doing together and build birthday party ideas around it. Madhavi and Sohan have encouraged their children to be outdoorsy in such a way that they don’t even find it abnormal to wake up at four or five in the morning to go hiking on holidays. None of them focuses on losing weight; they prefer to be fit instead. Sarayu, their 10-year-old first daughter, ran her own five km and wants to train at mini-triathlons at some point soon.

5 birthday celebration ideas to make your kids’ day truly special Sohan, Madhavi, Sarayu (right) and Kaveri (middle) on Kaveri's epic birthday trek

I’m not saying that all children have to be as fit as these kids are, or that all parents must get their kids to be active (although that is a healthy habit). Depending on your own sensibilities, you could pick one of these five activities for your kid’s next birthday:

  1. Hiking, like we’ve discussed so far.

  2. Have a storytelling session in your house with all your child’s friends. You could tell the story yourself, or you could engage a professional storyteller who comes with several interesting instruments to bring a story to life.

  3. Have a mega cooking/baking session. There are cooking studios that cater to such events, like Something’s Cooking in Koramangala, Bangalore, where they’ll have all the ingredients and equipment. You can plan a menu and a birthday cake, all of which your kid and her friends can make themselves.

  4. Have a magician teach them simple magic tricks. So far, it’s been common enough for a magician to perform at a birthday party, but think about how much fun these children will have the next few weeks demonstrating their newly acquired skills to everyone around them.

  5. Have a theme party potluck. Pick one of your kid’s favourite books or movies and make a picnic lunch out of it by assigning different dishes to different families. For instance, if your kid loves Harry Potter, have one parent come with pumpkin juice, the other with pumpkin pasties, a third with roast potatoes and a fourth with chocolate frogs (you have to improvise, of course). Have kids design their own costumes, without taking their parents’ help if they’re old enough, and conduct a bunch of activities around it that’ll encourage innovation.

“Birthdays are special days for all of us, and so I strive to make my kids’ birthdays memorable for all of us,” explains Madhavi. “We have celebrated 16 birthdays between both my kids so far. We are also conscious of the fact that making each birthday celebration an elaborate affair has its unhealthy trappings.  But when we can, we try to make it a fun home or a destination party.” 

After this, I hope you do too.