The Birthday Queen
Buzz Baby is a column about life with little ones. Writer Annie McQueen is a mother of four children under the age of 9.
Meet mom-of-four and photographer, Erin Beckwith. Her kids are Miller, 8, Bennett, 6, Briar, 3, and Bowe, 2. Erin has designed an intricately detailed themed birthday for each of her kids’ birthdays, starting from their first birthday. “I want them to be meaningful, and capture their age,” she says.
September seems to be a month full of birthdays, so we wanted to hear from Erin and how she plans her kids’ parties.
Every little detail, from water bottle labels to handmade décor that fills the tables, is a labor of love from Erin to her children. She leaves no tiny detail overlooked and personalizes the entire party. “It is an artistic release for me,” says Erin.
These parties are special, but they might not be the type of party about which you are thinking. They don’t include over-the-top huge guest lists. They are not held at the biggest kid venue in town. They are typically in her front yard, casual with close friends and family with one table that she sets up for cake, party décor, and treats. “That is my secret trick,” says Erin. “People think you need this big setup, but you just need to do one table that you focus on,” says Erin.
Erin says her love language (from The Five Love Languages book) is “gifts” – so party planning and pouring her time and creativity into each detail feels like gift-giving, she says. It’s her way of saying, “I love you” to her children. “Every time I am working on them, I am thinking about their personalities and their favorite colors. I am thinking about them the entire time, and I feel like I am loving them the whole time,” says Erin.
Her love and talent for birthday planning and celebrating stemmed from childhood when her mom, Carrie Atmar, would make her feel special each birthday. “My mom always made a big deal out of our birthdays,” Erin said. As she got older, Erin started to return the gesture and gifting in return.
For instance, Carrie is a big cat lover. After Carrie’s beloved cat passed away, Erin (with her dad’s approval) got a kitten for her mom’s 50th birthday, as a surprise. She kept it at her house and took newborn cat photos. She had the entire family sign the pictures.
The birthday parties Erin has planned range from an ice cream theme (Briar’s first, with Breyers Ice Cream set up), a first trip around the sun space theme for Bowe’s first (where he wore a tiny space suit), a circus theme, a “two fast” racecar theme, and more.
Briar, her third child, turns 4 this month on Sept. 7. He wants a fishing party, so Erin is busy with the planning. Her other three have birthdays in January and February, so she says September is all about Briar.
Erin is organized with the process and starts months in advance. She puts everything together step by step. She lets her kids pick the theme based on something they are into – like space, animals, fishing, really anything.
She gets specialized decorated cookies from her favorite cookie baker, Dough by Mo. Erin says the cookies help her set the tone for the colors, aesthetics of the party, and the theme’s direction. “I start planning really early,” she says.
Another tip Erin shares for other parents planning a baby or toddler birthday party is to try out the do-it-yourself tactic. Rather than hiring a balloon artist to make one of those amazing balloon garlands, she blows them up and assembles them herself.
The cakes are also a fantastic way to set the tone. A "smash cake" is a popular trend. It is a small, separate cake that is all for the baby to explore, smash, and dig into. Erin has gotten her smash cakes, just a small undecorated cake, at H-E-B. She then buys cute cake toppers and designs the cake to fit the theme.
She also captures photos of her kids with the setup, the cake, and the décor before the party. “That way, during the party I can just enjoy it,” says Erin.
Erin’s birthday planning is a great reminder that you can have fun planning a kids’ party. Birthdays mark growth and new phases, and they bring loved ones together. Although the little one might not have a clear understanding of the festivities, celebrating these early birthdays creates lasting memories for the whole family.
The most important part of it all is to remember why you are doing it – to enjoy and celebrate the past year and the year ahead.
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