How to Throw Your Baby's First Birthday Party

Ideas for themes, cakes, activities and other party details

Baby eating cake
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After months of sleep deprivation, countless diaper changes and about a million smiles and giggles, it’s finally time to plan your baby’s first birthday party.

No, your child won’t remember the big day, but you will. And the photos with baby in a "1st Birthday" hat will be priceless down the road.

Of course, these bashes are as much a party for the parents as they are for the child. It’s been a year of wonder, growth and change—for everyone -- so celebrate.

Choose a Theme for Your First Birthday Party

You don’t have to follow a theme, but sometimes picking one makes it easier to focus on the colors, decorations and other party details. Consider these ideas:

  • Old MacDonald Had a Farm. Set up hay bales as seating, dress your child in overalls, serve a farm-themed cake, give party favors in metal buckets (to resemble milking pails) and play Duck Duck Goose with the older kids.
  • Circus Party. Delight your baby and all of your guests with the big, bold colors and entertaining ideas for this circus-themed party.
  • Over the Rainbow. Young children are drawn to colors, so celebrate them all with a rainbow-themed party. Set out red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple party supplies and decorations. Make a cake with a different layer for each color and send everyone home with a CD mix of children’s music, starting with your favorite rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
  • Seasonal. Choose a theme that ties to the time of year, such as a Snowflake Party for winter babies, Sprinkles and Sunshine for a spring baby, Flower Power for a summer baby and Fall for Fall for an autumn baby. Hang handmade paper snowflakes for the winter party and serve snowman mashed potatoes and snowman treats. Suspend decorative umbrellas from your ceiling at the spring party and cover cupcakes with blue sprinkles to mimic rain. For the summer party, give Hawaiian leis as favors and set out a flower-shaped birthday cake. Serve owl cupcakes and foods made from pumpkin at the fall party.
  • Cupcakes and Cocktails. Yes, real cocktails. The baby will never know! Throw the party in the evening, serve swanky hors d’oeuvres and offer grownups a cocktail that matches the party’s color scheme. The kids get mocktails. Set up a cupcake-shaped piñata (compare prices) or make a pin-the-candle-on-the-cupcake game. Serve cupcakes that are more classy than cutesy.
  • Hap-bee First Birthday. Decorate in yellow and black for this "Fun to Bee One: party theme. 

Almost any kid-friendly theme will work for a baby's first birthday. Consider how you could adapt these birthday themes for younger guests.

 

Invitations and Gifts

  • Send out invitations at least three weeks before the party.
  • The wording could read “one is fun” or “one little baby, one little cake, one whole year to celebrate.”
  • Some parents might feel as though friends and family have given them a lot of presents over the prior year, especially if baby showers were held or if gifts were given after the child’s birth. If you want guests to know you don’t expect any more presents, you could write something on the invitations to indicate that, such as “your presence is gift enough.”
  • The invitations also could be a place where you set a theme for the gifts. For instance, you could say that you’re working on building your child’s library and you’re hoping guests can give a used book that their own children no longer read as the present.
  • When it comes time to open presents, you will probably be quite busy helping your child. Ask someone to write down the gifts and who gave them so you can write personal thank you cards after the party is over.

 

Games and Activities

Entertain the birthday girl and all of her guests with a variety of first birthday games that friends of all ages can play, 

The Cake

Some parents can’t wait to see the look of delight when their child takes their first bite of birthday cake--their first taste of sugar!--at their first birthday party.

Others worry what too much sugar will do to a tiny tummy that was only introduced to carrots and peas a few months before.

If you’re in the latter camp, consider serving carrot cake made with less sugar than normal and topped with a low-sugar cream cheese frosting. Or, choose from other healthy cake recipes.

Another fun tradition is to watch a child blow out her first birthday candle. Be careful, though. One-year-olds tend to flail their arms about, especially when they’re excited like, say, when a room full of people are singing at them. Keep the candle far enough away during the Happy Birthday song that they can’t reach it, then pull it in close when it’s time to blow.

Relax and enjoy the party. You've worked hard this year and deserve to have fun, too.

 


Updated by Christine Gauvreau