Have you ever thought about the natural events that coincide with your kid’s birthday? Not all birthdays fall at a time of significance in nature, but for those that do, this is a great opportunity to teach kids about our planet, plants and animals. At the same time, your child will feel a personal link to the rhythms of the natural world with a memorable event tied just to her.
My granddaughter, Emma, was born on August 14, and when she was a toddler, I remembered that the most visible meteor shower of the year, the Perseids, occurs every year around August 13-15. Coincidentally, Emma’s mom called her “my little star” when she was a baby, and her first Halloween costume was a star. How appropriate for her to learn that “shooting stars” would always mark her birthday.
A backyard sleepover under the stars for several friends or a family camping excursion to watch for meteor showers would be a fun way to celebrate a kid’s birthday.
Most moms are all too familiar with the kid’s birthday merry go round. Spend, spend, spend; try to top the last neighborhood party until the escalation of cost and fuss gets out of hand. Add in the cost of reciprocal gifts for the seemingly endless stream of parties your child attends, and birthdays become a significant budget factor for young families. By turning at least part of the focus to nature, parents can introduce an element of lasting value and education, instead of more commercialism.
How do you find out what might coincide with your child’s birth date? One good place to start is in the sky. The website of the University of Texas McDonald Observatory is a good resource. Here you can learn about the other meteor showers including the showy Leonids around November 17 and the Geminids on December 14.
Eclipses are another big event, and when they are visible in your part of the country, a viewing party would be fun. On August 28, 2007, there will be a total lunar eclipse partially visible in most of the US just before sunrise. If you happen to live in Alaska or Hawaii, it should be fully visible. Of course, eclipses happen on different dates every year, but if one happens to fall at the right time, a viewing party would make a great kid’s birthday theme.
Wildlife migration is another yearly cycle that can often be pinpointed to an exact date. Hummingbirds return north at a predictable time. According to one interesting hummingbird website “Banding studies suggest that individual birds may follow a set route year after year, often arriving at the same feeder on the same day.” This site shows a map detailing the date of arrival for ruby-throated hummingbirds all over the country. Think of a garden party for a little girl with a hummingbird theme, perhaps making feeders as an activity. The added value is a life long remembrance that she was born on “hummingbird day”.
Looking for more of a little guy thing? The town of Hinckley, Ohio became famous for celebrating the clockwork like return of flocks of turkey vultures every year on March 15. Cleveland Metroparks holds an event on the closest weekend, where naturalists talk about migration. There’s food and fun activities for kids.
Don’t forget the four dates beginning the seasons for good kid’s birthday tie ins, too. Google your kid’s birthday to see just what his date means in terms of natural events. Ask at your local library. Most have an “ask a librarian” service which can be a wonderful resource.