We all love our kids and want their big days to be special. The second birthday is one of those special days, but you might find yourself not wanting to throw a party. And that’s okay! My firstborn daughter just turned two and I didn’t have the bandwidth to organize a party, so I came up with 20 ways to make her birthday special that didn’t include a party. You definitely won’t do all of them on one day, just pick two or three options that best suit your situation and it will most certainly turn into a special day for your little one! No need for party favors or the like, and you can do most of these ideas even on a tight budget.
20 Fun Ways to Celebrate Your Child’s Second Birthday Without a Party
1. Go to your local aquarium
This is what we did for my daughter’s second birthday. I got free passes through our local library, so we only had to pay for parking. Extra win! Depending on the day of the week and time of the year, you might have to get on this sooner rather than later, since these passes can be in high demand.
2. Go to your local children’s museum
This is filled with lots of things for your child to touch, explore and learn about. Your local library might offer free or discounted passes!
3. Go to your local museum of science
Our local museum of science doesn’t have a standing toddler exhibit, but even so, my daughter has always had fun here, even when she was only a few months old. This is another museum that we usually visit when we get a free pass through our library.
4. Go to your local museum of natural history
My toddler loves to run around here and look at all the still animals. And as she grows, it will continue to be educational. (Here too, I like to get a free pass through the library. Can you see a theme here?!)
5. Bake a cake together
Nope, this doesn’t need to be complicated! That’s what I did for my baby’s first birthday. My daughter and I baked banana bread together and this is what I used as her birthday cake. She loves helping me bake, so doing this is actually spending quality time together, and I think this might be turning into one of our birthday traditions! If you want to try out baking with your little one, my 5 Ingredient Banana Bread Recipe is a good one to start with. It’s easy and uses simple ingredients!
6. Buy a special birthday cake
My daughter is OBSESSED with Disney’s Bluey. So I had thought about buying her a cake with her favorite character drawn in icing.
7. Have a picnic at the playground
This is another great idea to make the day special without throwing a big party. If the weather allows, you can make it an extra long visit at the playground. I don’t think I know any two year olds who wouldn’t enjoy a special trip to the playground with their parent(s). Extra perk: You don’t even need to engage your child the entire time as they will likely entertain themselves!
8. Go to your local park
Another great way to get your child to be active and get some fresh air. My daughter loves any chance to roam free on grass! Bring a little soccer ball for some extra fun.
9. Buy or borrow a bubble machine
My daughter goes a little nuts when they pull out the bubble machine at her playgroup. Turn this on along with some fun music and your child will be sure to have a fun day.
10. Invite immediate family
No, this does not have to be a party. It can be a very small number of close family or close friends, not a lot of guests and certainly not the pressure of throwing a Pinterest worthy toddler birthday party. Invite people who know your deal, who won’t mind if you have dirty dishes in the sink and – most importantly – make your child’s big day special just by showing up. (And hopefully even take care of those dirty dishes for you!)
11. Walk to your local ice cream parlor for a special birthday treat
We never do this, which is why it would be such a treat. Even so, my daughter loves ice cream. If they have sorbet, they’ll have a vegan option for you too!
12. Visit your local (ethical!) zoo
When my birthday girl turned one last year, I didn’t throw her a birthday party. Instead, I got discounted tickets to our local zoo and we went on a little adventure together. She LOVED it, despite it being well below freezing that late January day. Unfortunately, our zoo didn’t impress me much from an ethical stand point and so we haven’t been back. But I know there are better ones out there who take greater care of their animals and help save endangered species.
13. Cook (or order) a special birthday dinner
Does your child have a favorite meal they might not get to eat often? Or maybe they do eat it often, but would simply be the happiest to eat it again (for the thousandth time?!) on their birthday? Indulge them!
14. Live Music
Nope, this doesn’t have to be complicated. You likely know someone who can play the guitar or some other instrument and can play the classic children’s songs. And if you truly don’t, reach out on your local moms group on facebook. There’s likely someone who would be happy to come for an hour of music for a small fee. My daughter has so much fun when her grandfather plays a few songs on his guitar. If this sounds like too much, then the next option might be more up your alley!
15. Find a singalong at your local library
I’m sure we are privileged where we live. We’ve got lots of little branches in our town and the many surrounding towns. For us, there is some child centered event happening every day of the work week. They’re fun and free!
16. Find a story time event at your local library
Just like the idea above, this is a fun and free little adventure to go on with your little one. And all you have to do is pack a snack and head on over there!
17. Over-sized art
My 2 year old loves to color and draw. If weather allows, take some time with your little one using chalk on the pavement outside your home. Bonus points if you invent and implement a simple game like outlining each other’s entire body or drawing circles and hopping from one to the other. If the weather isn’t great for outdoors, you can buy butcher block paper, roll it out on the floor at home and draw on that. Anything different like this is a great way to create a good time.
18. Open Gifts
It’s likely that your birthday boy or girl will be receiving gifts from you or even from extended family. Make the gift opening a scheduled part of the kid’s birthday. You can draw it out and make it a fun activity by taking time and playing with each new gift. And don’t forget to play with the gift wrap and boxes!
19. Phone call with family members that live further away
My daughter adores video calling her family, many of which live abroad and wouldn’t be able to simply swing by for her birthday. You could even make a group call with multiple loved ones to mark this special occasion.
20. Buy or rent a little slide
One of the easiest ways to make my daughter squeal in delight is to give her the chance to go down a slide. Neighbors of ours gave us their little plastic slide when they moved and it has brought many moments of joy. See if one of your neighbors has one you could borrow or look into buying one. It will be a fun activity long past the birthday! You can find inexpensive cardboard slides online that work really well and fold up when you’re done with the activity! This can be the center piece of a great indoor play area.
Reasons why not to throw a party
When the birthday child is still so little, it makes parties a little more complicated. First of all, you have your hands full caring for the little nugget. Add onto the normal stress the need to create a big birthday celebration with a guest list, come up with party games, goody bags, fun activities, etc. and you will soon find yourself with a head ache and much money spent. For younger children, you would also have to organize good adult supervision. It just isn’t straight forward and the truth is, young children don’t even care much about those things. The best time they have is during free play with the people they love.
Will it still be a memorable birthday?
Of course you want to make it a memorable birthday! But the truth is, your two year old most likely won’t remember this birthday in the future, whether you came up with a sesame street theme, invited the entire class of their daycare or playgroup, or simply spent quality time together in your own backyard. The great thing is that your 2 year old will have a blast if you think of something fun to do with them (list above!) and give them your full attention. And that will make it memorable for you and I would say for them too on a subconscious emotional level.
What matters for the birthday kid
Take a step back and put yourself into your child’s shoes. At this young an age, for their first, second, or third birthday, they don’t care about a treasure hunt, a visit to an amusement park or fancy 2nd birthday themes. At the end of the day, the only real “party idea” you need is to spend quality time with your little one. The above list should give you plenty of ideas on how to do that. Just spend time together, try to limit your cell phone use and simply be present. Soak it up! This actually isn’t just a treat for them, but for you too. As everyone always says, they grow up so fast. Don’t miss it.
Making it a memorial birthday for your child doesn’t have to be complicated. The best place to start is to look over the list above for 20 fun ways to create a great day with minimum effort. There are so many fun ways to ensure that your child’s birthday will be a happy birthday even for little kids without much hassle.
Comment below to let me know how you celebrated your precious little one!
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