His birthday joy can be contagious.

Ways to Make Kids Feel Special on Their Birthday

by Kathryn Walsh

Anyone within a 50-foot radius of your birthday child the week before the big day will know that he is almost THREE and his birthday is on TUESDAY and there will be CAKE. You're the one who spent 18 hours in labor, but you'd think he's the one who did the hard work to get him here. He does work hard at being a great kid, though, and his birthday is a great time to show him you know it.

1. Advertise the Occasion

Young kids light up at even the smallest hint of recognition from adults, so show you child just how much you love him and how important he is by giving him a taste of fame. When he's with you, tell cashiers and kindly elderly passersby that it's his birthday. Make birthday signs featuring his name and age and hang them in the windows of your house, or write his name and draw balloons on your car windows with washable window markers. Post updates about his upcoming birthday on your favorite social media website, and read the posts and follow-up comments out loud to him so he knows that everyone is celebrating him.

2. Give Him Choices

Being 3 or 4 years old sometimes feels like being a powerless peasant living under the thumb of a tyrant (sorry, that's you). Your kiddo has to do what you say, when you say, and some days the only choices he gets to make are whether he'll build a block tower or a block castle. Put him in charge of some things on his birthday to make him feel like a big kid. In addition to letting him choose his meals and birthday dessert, let him decide how he wants to spend the day, within reason. You still have to be in charge, but if he wants to go to the zoo all morning -- even though you were just there yesterday -- or wants to wear his Halloween costume on a walk around town, go along with it. He'll feel like he has all the power in the world, a special feeling for a little preschooler.

3. Give Him Something Special

Most of the gifts your preschooler wants probably require four batteries apiece, are made from 50 cents of plastic and cost $50 in the store, and he'll probably get a solid week of enjoyment out of these gifts. But you can also try giving him one thing that has value. You can explain why it's so special, teaching him that you trust him enough to give him something important in the process. Give a little girl a piece of jewelry that once belonged to you, or buy her a real gold chain with a pendant. A child of either gender might like a carved wooden box to store treasures inside, or a toy from your childhood. Tell your child in a serious voice that the gift you're giving is a very special treasure, and he needs to keep it safe. Keep the gift practical, though -- you want to set your child up for success in taking care of his special treasure.

4. Tell Him He's Simply the Best

Before you had kids, you might have had visions of snuggling with your little one under a downy white comforter, holding hands and sharing your thoughts and feelings. Reality includes a lot more crumbs and timeouts and a lot fewer heart-to-hearts. On his birthday, let the dishes sit in the sink while you spend some serious one-on-one time with the little guy. Burrow under a blanket together and show him photos of your pregnancy and his life up until now. Tell him stories about his babyhood or early toddler years and tell him all your favorite things about him. He'll go back to his mud pies knowing for certain that you're glad he was born.

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