Looking for 1st birthday ideas? You’ve chosen the first birthday outfit, are baking (or buying) a smash cake. So the last step throwing an event that won’t leave your baby, or you, in tears. Whether you’re planning an online-only event, a small gathering with family or a big blowout, these are baby birthday ideas you need to make it magical.
1. Respect the nap.
Happy, stress-free parties require a well-rested baby, so time the bash around your baby’s naptime. While this may mean a different start time than Grandma expected, everybody (and especially your child!) will have a better time if you work around the sleep schedule.
2. Create a quiet area.
Create a secondary party area in another room or outside area for guests to go if they need a break from the festivities. Set out non-electronic toys for babies who may feel overstimulated, and place chairs and snacks there for adults who want a spot for quiet conversation.
3. Designate photographers.
To ensure you capture the party’s big moments and sweet snuggles with important folks, ask a few attendees to be in charge of capturing specific photo moments. That way you can focus on your child and your guests—and ensure you’ll be in some photos as well! If you’re having an online event, make time for some selfies during the party’s key moments.
4. Choose a simple theme.
If planning a Pinterest-worthy party stresses you out, done! Just stick to one simple theme. Lifestyle guru and mother of two Camille Styles opted for a summer-themed party for her daughter's first birthday and used hearts and the colors pink and orange to make the party look cohesive. If you're hosting an online party, tell guests about the theme in advance, so they can plan their outfit and background to join the fun if they choose.
Need birthday party theme ideas? We've got you covered:
11 First Party Themes to Celebrate the Birthday Boy
First Birthday Party Themes That Will Wow You
Baby's First Party: 12 Girly Theme Ideas to Inspire You
10 New Party Themes to Celebrate Your Baby Girl's First Birthday
5. Or...skip the theme.
No, you don't need a party theme. Promise. Your baby, and guests, won't miss it if you skip it. Instead, spend your money on a fun activity your baby and guests will enjoy. Our favorite is the ball pit. Just buy an inexpensive kiddie pool and a lot of colorful plastic balls. Kids will love to play around in it, and you can set it up at home or in your backyard for your child to enjoy for years to come.
6. Take photos before guests arrive.
Snap some pics prior to the party, before baby gets sleepy or cake-covered and when you and your whole family are more relaxed and focused. Pro tip: To ensure you get Insta-worthy photos, make or order a small smash cake before the big day and do a low-key photo shoot without any guests around. Baby will be all smiles and no one flipping through the scrapbook will ever know that the picture was taken on a different day.
7. Weather permitting, opt for an outdoor venue.
A park or a playground can be the perfect party spot, and all you'll need to bring are the cake, balloons, favors, snacks and a table to put them on. Mess will be minimal in the great outdoors, and younger guests will have lots of space to run around. Pro tip: Arrive early to stake out a spot in the shade, and tell guests what color balloons you'll have so they know where to find you. If the weather isn't cooperating and you need to move the party to your home, make extra room indoors by moving furniture out of the party room so little legs can crawl or walk around.
8. Put older kids in charge of games.
Delegate, delegate, delegate. Older kids, like cousins or friends' children, usually love to be given responsibility at parties, and they're really good at getting the younger ones' attention. Put them in charge of party games, music-making, singing songs, and more. Chat with the older kids (and their parents) in advance to ask what they'd feel comfortable doing, and then come up with a plan with them.
9. Use a cupcake for smashing.
Smash cakes are all the rage with the one-year-old crowd and their photo-taking families, and while we say smash away, a smaller cake works just as well with much less mess. You may even be able to salvage your child's outfit for future events if you go for a less messy, smaller cake.
10. Personalize the party.
Highlight a few of your baby's favorite things over the past year (first word! favorite food! favorite stuffed animal!) and show them off for all to see on a poster you display at the party. This idea from Kara's Party Ideas lets guests learn about your baby and is worth snapping a photo of for your child to revisit in a few years. Better yet, make it a yearly tradition. If you're hosting an online party, add it to the invitation or email it around to guests.
11. Create a time capsule.
This party activity requires only pens, paper and a box. Ask your guests to write the birthday babe a short letter to be read years from now. To ward off writer's block, offer suggestions for what to write, such as helpful advice, a memory of the party or first year, or wishes for the future. Store the letters in a marked container that reads "Do not open until you turn 21" (or whatever age you like). For online parties, ask guests to email you their submissions and then print them out and file away for a future date.
12. Make your party treats self-serve.
Set up everything from drinks to dessert in advance so you can tell guests to help themselves, leaving you to focus on your child and having fun. For younger guests, prep cut-up fruit, applesauce pouches and cups of Cheerios or snack crackers. For adults, trays of cheese & crackers, crudites and antipasto are always popular nibbles.
13. Keep it short and sweet.
Little people get overstimulated quickly and can't handle too much of a good thing. Limit your party to 2 hours or less so everyone can leave on a positive note. Online parties can be even shorter.
—Aimee Della Bitta
featured photo: Rahel Daniel via Unsplash