Ten years ago my friend Bobbi told me about a birthday tradition called “The Birthday String” that sounded like so much fun I immediately glommed onto it and incorporated it into a Team Phenix activity. It seemed like a much more creative and fun way to celebrate a birthday morning than simply running downstairs and ripping open presents.
The idea is super simple to implement with just a little advance planning. Your shopping list should include three things: string, small gifts (think dollar store), and the “regular” birthday gifts you’re giving to your kiddo. After you have all that, this is how it works in three simple steps:
Step One: After your kid goes to sleep, use a roll of twine (or dig up some remnant yarn, or use a big roll of “curling” ribbon for your string) and attach it to the outside of your child’s door.
Step Two: Weave the string throughout the house while attaching little gifts as you go. Our favorite hiding places include the inside of anything that “closes” (like drawers/fridge/stove/dryer), under pillows or cushions, down the stairs, or behind curtains.
Once the sleepy birthday girl or boy awakes, he/she gets to follow the string to find all of the little prizes along the way.
We find it helpful to carry a basket along to bank all the prizes… and scissors to cut them off of the string. Billy is typically the “scissor man” for our family.
We also have a Birthday Hat that the kids like to wear as they follow the string, though they’ve been known to substitute the versions they get from school for the usual one.
Remember to keep the gifts small. Go for quantity over quality. I like using school supplies (notebooks, pencils) or things that I’m going to pick up for them anyway (band-aides, school snacks).
If you have a kid with a sweet tooth, it’s always nice to have some ice cream treat hidden in the freezer.
Step Three: Have the string end at the final stash of gifts.
( BTW – I reclaim time spent implementing the birthday string by keeping wrapping simple – butcher paper and markers do the trick! Bows are over-rated.)
That’s it. Easy peasy.
Since there’s no mystery about who does the birthday string, I usually involve the non-birthday kid in the process of shopping for the birthday kid’s gifts and figuring out where to hide things. They have almost as much fun in the planning process as they do in actually following the string.
Just a final word of caution. Once you start this tradition, it’s difficult to stop. In fact, my friend Bobbi has been doing this for (ahem) 39 years and her husband game-fully plays along. So make sure that you’re really “IN” before you get started. Good traditions don’t die easily…even if you want them to.
What are your family birthday traditions?