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Happy birthday to you!

To celebrate birthdays as milestones marking the development and achievements that each year brings.

by The Revd Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To celebrate birthdays as milestones marking the development and achievements that each year brings.

Preparation and materials

  • A birthday cake with ten candles.

  • An assortment of birthday items: birthday cards, gift-wrapped present, balloons, badge, bear, hat.


  1. Introduce the theme by asking: ‘Is anyone celebrating a birthday this week?’ Invite any ‘birthday children’ to share their news. Sing, ‘Happy birthday to you’.
  2. Show the birthday items and discuss ways in which birthdays are celebrated: sending cards and presents; parties; treats with friends; family gatherings and outings; birthday balloons, banners, badges and soft toys; and birthday cakes with candles.

    Refer to birthday greetings such as ‘Happy birthday’ and ‘Many happy returns of the day’ – the latter meaning, ‘We hope that you have a long and happy life.’ Has anyone in the school community recently celebrated the birthday of an older family member?
  3. Explain that a birthday celebrates another year of growth and achievement. Refer to the birthday cake and ten candles. Invite the children to consider how they have grown and changed since they were born. In our earliest years, we learn to crawl, walk, talk, feed and dress ourselves. Making friends, starting school, learning to write our names, to read, to tell the time, to swim, to ride a bike, and joining a uniformed or sporting organization are other milestones. As we grow older we develop wider interests, and become more independent.

    Light a candle to mark each achievement, beginning with the earliest years.
  4. Say: Now think of your future birthdays. What would you like to have achieved in your life by the time there are 20 candles to blow out?

    Invite one of the birthday children to blow out the candles and to make a birthday wish.
  5. Conclude with the thought that each of us is special, however old we may be and whatever the number of candles on our cake.

Time for reflection

Read a celebratory poem, such as ‘This is the day’ by June Crebbin from The Oxford Treasury of Time Poems (can be found on

Think when your next birthday will be.
What are you looking forward to?
What can you do now that you couldn’t do a year ago?

Let’s be thankful for birthday fun,
for new achievements
and for our future hopes and dreams.


‘Thank you, Lord, for this new day’ (Come and Praise, 32)

You could have fun adapting the words of this song, for example:

‘Thank you, Lord, for birthday fun . . . Now we are 5’ (invite all the five-year-old children to sing this line and the chorus), and then continue with the six-, seven-, eight-year-olds and so on, as appropriate.

Following verses could be:
Thank you, Lord, for cakes and candles
Thank you, Lord, for cards and presents
Thank you, Lord, for birthday parties

Publication date: August 2011   (Vol.13 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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