We have a tradition in our house. When one of the kids has a birthday, they paint a small canvas, and we prominently label it with their new "age number." I wish I could remember how I came up with idea, because it might have been my best idea ever. This birthday tradition is so special to me, if we could only have one birthday event, this would be it. I would even choose this over birthday cake. Shocking, I know.
It's amazing to see how the kids progress from year to year. I always hang the paintings grouped together, in order, in the artist's room. In this photo, we can see that my daughter played with all the colors and used her fingers to paint when she turned one. At age two, she discovered mixing colors. Her third birthday was the first time she used a paint brush for her birthday painting. And when she turned four, she made her first real "picture"--a cake with a candle.
Right now, the canvases are hanging in rows, but as the kids grow older and paint more canvases, I'll hang them in a grid. (I'm quite excited about that, actually. It will make quite a focal point in their rooms.)
The kids love this tradition, too. They jump at the chance to paint on canvas instead of everyday paper. They compare current paintings with past paintings. They notice changes in their work, as we do.
I know that we will continue this tradition for as long as the kids are living with us. (And, I suppose, as long as they are willing to participate.) My hope is that they'll do this with their own kids some day. Or even better--come up with their own birthday traditions for their kids.
One note about the numbers: I usually write them with Sharpie or paint them myself with black paint. But occasionally we'll find a fun substitute, like this acrylic "4," stuck on while the paint was still wet. And sometimes the kids choose to paint their own, as in the "5" above. I liked the consistency of the black numbers, but seeing as this project is all about creativity, I couldn't deny her when my daughter wanted to do it her way.