How to Plan a Baby’s 1st Birthday Party

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It’s almost been a year—can you believe it? You (and baby!) have passed some major milestones, and now there’s a big occasion on the horizon: your little one’s first birthday party. This is your chance to celebrate your child and the year of parenthood you’ve survived. So, you’ll want to do it right, with a party that’s high on fun and low on stress. To help turn you into the ultimate party host without having the celebration overtake your life, we’ve created a how-to guide on throwing your baby’s first birthday. We’ll help you find the perfect theme, plan your guest list, and even offer thought starters for a kid-friendly menu. Plus, learn how Mylicon fits into party planning. Keep reading so you can get the party started.

How Do I Select a Theme for my Baby’s 1st Birthday Party?

There’s a lot that goes into planning a first birthday party, and it helps to know where to start. We recommend picking a theme as your first order of business, as it can help guide the rest of your decisions. Once you know your theme, decorations, food, activities, and so on all start to fall into place. Below, find nine first birthday theme ideas we love.

First Bee-Day Party

It’s your baby’s first “bee”-day; why not celebrate with a bee-themed birthday? You can ask guests to wear yellow and black and ice the cake with the message “happy bee-day!” For baby’s first birthday outfit, go all out with a bee costume or keep it simple with a bright yellow onesie.

Dinosaur First Birthday Party

If you’re on the search for baby girl or baby boy first birthday ideas, a dinosaur party is worthy of your consideration. Create a cute invitation with dino clip art and break out all the dinosaur toys you probably already own. Add deviled eggs (a.k.a. dinosaur eggs) and salad for the adults (a.k.a. stegosaurus food) to your menu to really highlight the theme.

Magical Unicorn First Birthday Party

You can also encourage your kid’s imagination with a party centered around a mythical creature, like the unicorn. Decorate with lots of bright colors and glitter, and make sure every guest wears a pointed party hat (their horn).

Berry First Birthday Party

Planning a party doesn’t require a high-concept idea. Sometimes a pun or a rhyme is all you need to get started. In this case, your kid’s “very first birthday” becomes their “berry” first. Feed your guests an array of berries and pastries with jams. Blow up plenty of red and blue balloons to represent strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. It practically plans itself!

Music Festival First Birthday Party

For a music-loving baby, throw a music festival-themed party. Print invitations inviting guests to “baby’s name”-fest and include a child-safe silicone bracelet to act as their wristband. You can go as crazy (or not) as you want with creating custom shirts, banners, and water bottle labels. The most important part is crafting a playlist with all the songs your baby would want to hear at their festival. Of course, it’s also not a bad idea to throw in some tunes that adults love, too.

Nautical First Birthday Party

A nautical party is a great idea for all the summer babies out there. Put your child in a sailor’s outfit (so cute!) and get a few captain’s hats that guests can wear. For your baby’s first birthday decorations, use plenty of blue streamers, balloons, and tablecloths.

Groovy ‘70s First Birthday Party

Your baby may not have developed a deep appreciation for the ‘70s just yet, but this is an undeniably cute baby girl first birthday theme. Send out invites that ask guests to celebrate your groovy “one’s” birthday and decorate with plenty of flowers. You can even look up how to make (or buy) flower balloons. Put on a pre-made ‘70s music playlist, and you’re pretty much set.

Woodland First Birthday Party

Build the party around something everyone can appreciate: nature. Put out toys that fit the theme (deer figures, play tents, leaf blocks). They can double as entertainment and decorations! You can also take branches and leaves you find outside and hang them up or use them for easy (and free) table decor.

Safari “Wild One” Birthday Party

For a baby with a wild spirit, you can’t go wrong with a safari-themed celebration. Create a birthday banner (and photo backdrop) that says “Wild One” and decorate with animal print pillows, tablecloths, and napkins. Get paper face masks that look like lions, tigers, and elephants for kids to wear and participate in the theme.

For more theme ideas, it’s as simple as considering what your kid loves. Their favorite food? Great party theme. The show that gets the most smiles during screen time? Equally great theme!

Where Should a 1st Birthday Party be Held?

Once you have your theme in mind, it’s time to think logistics, starting with where this party is going to happen. It’s helpful to know your venue before you get too deep into planning. The reason being, it can impact how many people you can invite, how you’ll decorate, and just about every facet of the party.

To help determine the right venue, think about what you want out of your party location. That could be someplace where kids can be safely protected, a venue that limits how much you need to decorate, a spot that can hold your huge extended family, et cetera. Here are some options to consider for your baby’s first birthday party:

  • Home: If you have space to entertain, your house (or a relative’s) can be the perfect, low-key venue. It’s a great way to save money and can help your baby feel more comfortable.
  • Parks: As long as weather permits, a park or playground is a great place for an event. There’s entertainment built right in and everyone gets to enjoy nature.
  • Campgrounds: Again, the outdoors are great for a party. This is especially true if you’ve chosen a nature-centric theme, like a woodland creature birthday party.
  • Restaurants: Parties often center around a meal, which makes a restaurant a prime venue. This way, you won’t have to worry about cooking or catering.
  • Baby gyms: Lots of kid’s event spaces are geared toward children that are a bit older, but a baby gym is sure to be age appropriate for your little one. This is a great, entertainment-filled option if your guest list is full of babies.
  • Zoos: Kids love animals, and that leads to a simple conclusion: Zoos make great birthday venues. (How perfect would it be for a safari party?) To avoid breaking the bank, consider this option if you’re planning for a small group or an immediate family-only event.
  • Dedicated event spaces: There are plenty of places with space to rent, like halls and fire departments, that can act as a relatively blank canvas for your party. Look into what’s in your area to gauge space, pricing, and availability.

Who Should Be Invited to a Baby's 1st Birthday Party?

There are no hard and fast rules about who to invite to a baby’s first birthday—or how many people you need to invite. It’s really up to you to decide who you want to be there! Think about who you’re happy to have in your (and your baby’s) life.

Typical invitees for a baby’s first birthday can include:

  • Grandparents
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Cousins
  • Parent’s friends
  • Kiddo’s friends

What Food Should be Served?

There’s no shortage of party foods that you could serve on the big day. To help narrow down your options, consider who you’ll be serving. While you can plan separate menus for the kids and adults that will be in attendance, there’s an easier option. Pick foods that are hits with both adults and kids. Filling the menu with things that are considered crowdpleasers can help ensure the party’s pickier eaters won’t leave hungry.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Birthday Party Snacks

  • Fruit and veggie trays
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Chips and dips

Birthday Party Main Courses

  • Grilled cheese
  • Pizza
  • Sliders
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Pasta salad
  • Sandwiches

You can also tailor your menu to fit your theme, like offering dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets at a dinosaur party. Another way to carry your theme over is to come up with names for each item you serve. For example, calling blue gelatin “ocean water” for a nautical party.

Baby’s First Birthday Cake

No first birthday party is complete without cake. To minimize mess, consider serving cupcakes. That way, you won’t have to break out a knife and handle serving each guest individually. You can buy them pre-made or make a couple dozen yourself to save money. With a quick decoration or two added on top, they’ll look totally pro. (How cute would it be to decorate with animal crackers for a safari party, for instance?)

For kids 2-11 with upset stomachs, try Children’s Mylicon® – All-in-One Tummy Relief for Kids.

What Are the Best Activities for a Baby's 1st Birthday Party?

At your baby’s birthday party, talking, eating, and admiring how cute and “grown up” they look is likely to take up most of the time. But it’s smart to plan at least a couple of activities or games for when chatter slows. Activities will be more important if there are going to be other kids in attendance.

For infants, you can set up a play mat with a variety of your child’s favorite toys. Bubbles are a great option for kids that are a bit older, particularly for outdoor parties (your adult guests might even want to join in). You also can’t go wrong with dancing. Adults and kids can participate; you can even create a playlist with a mix of songs that appeal to the different age groups in attendance.

If your baby has older siblings, keep them in mind when planning activities, too. Birthdays can incite jealousy, especially if older kids feel overlooked. Other entertainment options to consider include breaking open a pinata and having a ball pit. You can also organize classic backyard games without any planning or purchasing. Duck, duck, goose; hide and seek; tag; and red light, green light are all playtime staples for a reason.

How Long Should a First Birthday Party Last?

You don’t need to plan hours and hours of party activities. A first birthday party shouldn’t be extremely long because one-year-olds tend to get tired quickly and become overwhelmed. (As can adults!) Plan for the party to last between one and two hours. That’s plenty of time to celebrate and allows you to get back on your schedule before bedtime.

What Are Good Baby Birthday Party Favors?

When it does come time for guests to leave, you might want to give party favors. One good option is to send home something edible, like cookies or extra cupcakes. You can also give something on-theme or linked to one of the party activities, like a bottle of bubbles. If you decorate with balloons, letting kids take one home is another great idea. There’s no shortage of options, but you’ll want to stick with something small and baby-safe. Skip favors that will burden parents or end up in the trash.

Why Is a Baby’s First Birthday Important?

If planning starts to become stressful, it’s helpful to remember why your baby’s first birthday is important. While the baby surely won’t remember the party for years to come, you will. This occasion is really about you. It’s an opportunity to celebrate yourself and all your loved ones that made the last year what it was. You also get to create new memories you can cherish and capture all the fun on camera and video. Your little one only has one first birthday, so make the most out of it! And that doesn’t mean you need to plan the perfect party or host a major event. Spending time with people who love you and your child is enough.

If we had to give one piece of advice, it would be to remember that Pinterest isn’t always reflective of real life. Search “baby’s first birthday” and everything will look picture-perfect. The reality is, your party might get messy or there might be tears. You can only do your best and enjoy an authentic day in the life of a parent!

If you feel guilty over the prospect of not throwing the best party (big or small, your party is going to be great, mama!), read about managing mommy guilt next.


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