Tips and ideas on how to celebrate a teen girl's birthday. From Heart's Desire Days, half birthdays, cooking challenges, and keeping family traditions, a teen girl should choose and plan her own birthday fun.
Once the pink frills and princess themes are outgrown, how can you make a teen girl's birthday special? Much of her enjoyment comes as she plans her party herself, down to the littlest details, so ask your daughter how she wants to celebrate and get her involved. My oldest daughter loves planning her birthdays. She even likes to bake and decorate her own cake with gobs of colors, swirls and sprinkles.
Here are 6 birthday ideas for teen girls.
1. Heart's Desire Days
Let your daughter design the day and select everything you do. We've had paint-your-own pottery outings, horseback riding, hiking trails, and train rides into New York to see a Broadway show. Heart's Desire Days can be planned by giving your teen a budget for her to plot out the day, or you can brainstorm a menu of options that suit your family budget. Get creative. Go bowling, fishing or rollerskating; visit a museum, the movies or a faraway friend.
And, of course, whatever the day has in store, the Birthday Girl gets to pick the meals for her special day. Burritos or burgers, Italian or Japanese, the food choices are all up to the kid-of-the-day from breakfast to dinner. And, of course, there's always a birthday cake, or birthday ice cream, or birthday pudding or birthday cookies.
2. Camping Party
Crazy parents that we are, we've taken ten girls overnight camping to a nearby campground. Yup, instead of the quick hour and a half party at the local trampoline park, we opted for a twenty-one hour party. Tents, campfires, s'mores and ghost stories.
Instead of packing it all up and heading out (though I liked not having to worry about cleaning the house before or after, let the crumbs fall where they may) you could host a camping party in your backyard. Pitch tents, use a fire pit and let the girls shriek with flashlights in the dark.
Favors and activities Provide a trail mix bar, do a scavenger hunt for things found in nature or a contest to find the oddest piece of trash (collect it to toss as they go.) Personalize bandanas or lanyards for flashlights, one for each girl.
3. Half Birthday Celebrations
If your teen has a winter birthday, but instead of sledding or skating she wants a pool party, a camping party, or a beach Heart's Desire Day, offer the option of celebrating on her half birthday. Even a summer kid might want to change things up and host a snowman contest or a Snow Ball dance party instead of her usual BBQ. Teens can delay the fun and enjoy the planning during the wait.
Even when our December baby has chosen to fete on her half birthday, we always acknowledge her real birthday with a family dinner, her choice of menu, cake and candles and a gift on her actual birthdate.
4. Cooking Challenge Party
For a teen who loves to cook or follows the top TV cooking competitions, gather her friends into teams and provide baskets of ingredients. Lay out some rules to start, set a timer, and let them concoct and create. They could compete course by course from appetizer to dessert, or just cook up one dish. Invite some friends or neighborhood judges to do the tasting.
Favors and activities Give out cookbooks and chef's hats, decorate aprons and swap winning recipes. Doggie bags for all.
I have to admit, I don't love sleepover parties, but the kids sure do. The squealing starts when the first girls arrive and seems to persist until after pancakes the next morning. Really, we all know there is so little sleeping going on that the event itself isn't truly the issue, it's the next day's. The second day after a non-sleepover can be painful for the whole family, one seriously grumpy teen spoils the household.
On the upside, a teen girl can plan and run the whole party by herself. Just provide the food, snacks, pizza and they're on their own.
It isn't always popular, but collecting cell phones and assorted electronics when they arrive, or at least at some point before they "go to bed," can allow girls to unplug and to really share and connect.
6. Look Back as You Look Forward
Whatever my kids choose, birthday party or Heart's Desire Day, one of my favorite parts of the kids' birthdays is our tradition of snuggling up and retelling their birth story. In detail, I tell them all about the day they came into our lives, how they joined our family and the moments that uniquely define their birthday. Teens love hearing about themselves and don't outgrow childhood tales.
We share the memories from the day we celebrate each year. Their stories have become familiar to them. They plead to hear certain parts again, and they ask questions about themselves as babies. Sometimes we look at baby pictures or watch the beloved family videos from their earliest days.
Whatever birthday traditions you've had in your family, continue them as your girls grow into teens and young adults.
A teen girl's birthday marks the gift of another year, so let her choose whatever way she wants to revel, whether birthday party, Heart's Desire Day or even a dreaded sleepover.
Leah DeCesare, author of Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Kids with Confidence, is a mother of three and married 20 years. She writes between car pools and laundry. For the past 13 years, her career has focused on birth, babies, and early parenting