Looking for 1st birthday ideas? Now it’s time to chose that first birthday outfit, bake (or buy) a smash cake, and throw an event that won’t leave your baby, or you, in tears. Make it memorable—and stress free!—by following these 12 first birthday ideas for a fun party.
photo: Jen Moore Photography
1. Respect the nap.
One of the first things you learn as a parent is that happy, stress-free occasions require a well-rested baby. Birthday parties are no exception, so time the bash around your baby’s naptime. While this may mean a different start time than Grandma expected, everybody (and especially baby!) 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 leave out snacks for adults who want a spot for quiet conversation.
photo: TheVirtualDenise via Pixabay
3. Designate photographers.
Family and friends will love to take photos of your little sweetheart’s big day, but to ensure you capture the party’s big moments and sweet snuggles with important folks, ask a few attendees if they’ll 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!
4. Choose a simple theme.
If planning a Pinterest-worthy party stresses you out, 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. 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. Your baby, and guests, won’t miss it if you skip it. Instead, spend your money on a fun activity that babies and older kids 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.
photo: freestocks-photos via Pixabay
6. 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. The mess will be minimal, and younger guests will have lots of space to move 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 go. If Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, make extra room indoors by moving furniture out of the party room so little legs have a chance to move.
7. 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.
photo (and adorable hat): Mosey Handmade via Etsy
8. Take photos before guests arrive.
Snap some pics before baby gets sleepy or starts shrieking from all the commotion. Pro tip: To ensure you get an Insta-worthy photo, make or order a small cake before the big day and do a low-key photo shoot without guests around. Baby will be all smiles and no one flipping through the scrapbook will ever know that picture was taken on a different day.
9. 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 it 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 baby to see in a few years. Better yet, make it a yearly tradition.
photo: timkraaijvanger via Pixabay
10. 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 small cake works just as well with much less mess.
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 advice (always be good to your mother!), 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).
photo: Chris Benson via Unsplash
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, lay out cut-up fruit, applesauce pouches and cups of Cheerios or snack crackers.
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.
—Aimee Della Bitta
featured photo: Rahel Daniel via Unsplash