Looking for something fun to do for your kiddo’s birthday outside of the typical daytime party? Organize a day of yes! with them instead.

Credit: Meg Asby

Yes Day is exactly what it sounds like: a day when the answer to your child’s every request is an enthusiastic, unequivocal, guilt-free YES. 

Sounds terrifying, right?   

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Against my better judgment, I read the picture book, Yes Day by Amy Krouse Rosenthal to my (then) preschool-aged children. As I should have predicted, they immediately begged for a Yes Day of their very own. I was hesitant. With three November birthdays in four days — both kids, now ages 9 and 12, plus my husband’s — I felt that it was unfair of the universe to also throw in annual Yes Days, so I gave them a choice. They could have a traditional birthday party or a Yes Day. 

Their decision was immediate. Yes Day was on. 

And, unexpectedly, I felt a burden lifted. I love a good birthday party, especially with a strong theme (we threw a Wacky Wednesday party that will live in memory forever), but suddenly I was free from the duties of party planning, with its requisite scheduling, etiquette and expense. There was almost nothing to do to prepare.

Our first Yes Day was a huge success, full of impromptu whims, following the birthday boy’s bliss from breakfast to bedtime. Now in the middle school years, Yes Day is still going strong. And, believe it or not, the requests are always surprisingly ordinary. May we play video games and eat Halloween candy before breakfast without even a side-eye of disapproval from mom? Roast marshmallows in the fireplace? Eat at Boxer Ramen? Go to the arcade with a friend? Hike to the Witch’s Castle? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. “Will you play Minecraft with me?” is about as painful as it ever gets. 

Ground Rules

Now, lest you think you will have to hand over the car keys to your 10-year-old on Yes Day, here are a few ground rules we’ve adopted along the way to make Yes Day a foolproof success:

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  • Requests must be reasonable. I can’t make the rain stop, especially in Portland.
  • Do no harm. A request that sister eat the vomit-flavored Bertie Botts jelly bean would be promptly vetoed.
  • You can’t ask your sibling to do anything. Caregivers are the yes-sayers. 
  • Requests are limited to what can happen during Yes Day. Asking for a sleepover next month or an increase in weekly allowance is not part of the Yes Day magic.
  • Set a Yes Day budget. Honestly, we’ve never had to do this because most of the things my kids ask for don’t cost nearly as much as a birthday party. But if you’re worried that your kids will ask for everything in stock at Mud Puddles Toys & Books, give them a budget and let them spend it however they like (even if it’s all on arcade games). 
  • Yes Day ends at your regularly scheduled bedtime. If you have early risers in the house, you may want to set a start time, too. 

That’s it. And to make it even easier, we’ve created a Yes Day Checklist. Just hand it over to the birthday kid and get ready for the happiest birthday your child has ever had. No thank you cards to write, no obligations of any kind, just spontaneity and celebration all day long.

Yes Day Checklist

Have your child choose one or two activities in each section of this checklist to craft their perfect day. If you’d like a physical checklist, pick up a free copy of our September issue around town; the checklist is on page 20. Feel free to take a black Sharpie to any options you’d rather avoid, or write in some of your family favorites in the blanks below. Our popular online Kids Calendar is a great place to find fun write-in events happening on your child’s special day, such as kindie concerts or festivals. Have the happiest Yes Day!   

Start the Day off Right

Midday Fuel Up

  • Picnic in the park
  • Make DIY Pancakes at Slappy Cakes 
  • Lunch at the birthday kid’s favorite restaurant
  • Have your favorite lunch at home
  • Eat at Ikea and watch the planes take off and land
  • _____________________________________ (choose your own adventure)

Treat Time

Afternoon Adventure

Evening Eats

Wind Down

  • Movie night with popcorn
  • Video games
  • Roast s’mores
  • Flashlight tag (more of a wind-up, but worth it!)
  • Reading marathon
  • ______________________________ (choose your own adventure!)

Yes Day Road Trip Style

Yes Days aren’t just for kids! This year I chose to spend my own Yes Day at Alsea Falls Campground, and as my kids get older, they also enjoy the option of traveling farther afield. Try out one of these fun locales for a Yes Day adventure within driving distance of Portland.

Credit: Meg Asby

Bonus

Want to push your child’s Yes Day over the top? We always begin the day with a themed scavenger hunt to find the birthday presents. This is easier than it sounds; just search something like, “Harry Potter Scavenger Hunt Clues,” gather some scrap paper, write them down, and you’re officially parent-of-the-year.

Credit: Meg Asby

Did you try a Yes Day this year? We’d love to hear about it! Tag us in your posts on Instagram.

Prefer a traditional party? We’ve got a great list of local venues in our directory.

Meg Asby

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