Is your baby about to turn 1 year old? Happy first birthday to your sweet little one! Now the fun begins searching for first birthday party ideas to make the celebration truly memorable. We’ve compiled our best ideas to help inspire you, plus some tips to ensure your baby’s first birthday party goes off without a hitch—we’ve even included a handy checklist to make it even easier.

Preparing Your Baby’s First Birthday Party

You may want to think about the planning process for your baby’s first birthday party in two stages: preparing and hosting. With so many ideas to choose from for a first birthday party, it’s easy to lose focus, so preparation is key. A few things to think about as you start preparing include

  • what theme you want

  • when to throw the party

  • where to host the event

  • who to invite to your little one’s celebration.

First, solidifying these important decisions will help you plan all the little details that follow. And answering the questions above in the listed order will also keep things running smoothly.

Baby’s First Birthday: Theme and Decoration Ideas

Many parents like to start planning their 1-year-old’s birthday party by sifting through ideas for a theme. Choosing the theme early on might make some of the other decisions a little easier. So, how to plan a first birthday party theme and decorations when there are so many ideas out there? The trick is to choose something manageable yet memorable for you and your family. Before brainstorming, don’t forget that budget is an important consideration. Some first birthday party theme ideas are more extravagant than others, increasing the overall cost. However, you can still host a memorable party with even a modest budget. Check out the strategies below for a little inspiration for deciding on your baby’s first birthday party theme.

  • Nursery décor. Look around your little one’s nursery. Does it have a theme? Some parents want their baby’s first birthday party theme to match or complement their birth announcement or nursery design. So, if you’ve had an animal-themed year, why not keep it going?

  • Baby’s favourite things. What your child loves can provide ideas for a 1-year-old’s birthday party theme and decorations! Does your baby love to read and have a favourite book? Or maybe they have a plush toy they’re always carrying? Are there any outdoor games or indoor activities they seem to enjoy more than others?

  • Pop culture. Think back on your baby’s first year. Did a big movie or TV series stand out to you? Maybe your favourite singer released a new album, and you listened to it constantly while bonding with your little one. Some of these current events and pop culture memories could inspire first birthday party ideas that also evoke some additional nostalgia.

  • The classics. If you’re still struggling to pick a theme, let the classics do the work! When in doubt, you can always rely on popular first birthday party ideas like

    • animals, safari, or the zoo

    • whimsical stories like Alice in Wonderland, The Cat in the Hat, or Winnie-the-Pooh

    • pajama party

    • under the sea or sea creatures

    • princes and princesses or fairy tales

    • superheroes

    • outer space

    • flowers

    • tea party

    • holiday (if your baby’s birthday falls on or near a holiday)

    • seasons or nature themes, like a garden party or camping theme

    • sports, like football.

Although picking a theme can be part of the fun, we’re going to let you in on a little secret: You don’t have to choose a theme! Listen to ideas and plan your 1-year-old’s birthday around a theme only if you want to. There’s nothing wrong with simply throwing a fun party with classic decorations, like balloons or a banner or cake topper reading “Happy First Birthday.” Keep in mind that one of the goals of the party is to make memories. Babies are still developing, and your little one won’t remember their first birthday party when they’re older. However, they’ll love to see photos and learn what they looked like as a baby!

1-Year-Old Birthday Party Ideas: Where and When

Determining a theme (or deciding to go without) can help you solidify where to have a first birthday party. For example, if you have a smaller budget, you can just host from your home or backyard. Or, if you’re going for a specific theme, some locations could enhance the ambiance (like a park for an outdoor theme or a villa rental for a royal theme). Other ideas regarding where to host your baby’s first birthday party include

  • restaurants

  • playgrounds

  • campgrounds

  • kids’ gyms or activity centres.

Additionally, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on a place to host.

  • Age. Turning 1 year old is a big milestone, but your baby is still a baby. It may be tempting to plan a full-out bash at a fun kids’ centre but remember that 1-year-olds may not be walking yet and can’t participate in organized party activities. Keeping it low-key and baby-friendly might be best.

  • Naps. Most likely, your baby and their young friends are still napping during the day, so it helps to plan the party around naptime or host it at a place where you and other parents can put your little ones down if needed.

  • Guests. Your adult friends will need some form of entertainment too, but that can simply be letting their kids have fun while you all watch, eat, and chat. Parents know how precious free time to just connect with others can be! Still, it helps to be mindful of everyone at the party, regardless of age. Therefore, you might want to choose a venue that caters to all guests, including your baby's older siblings and peers.

In terms of when to host your baby’s first birthday party, it’s completely up to you, but weekends tend to be best for many families. You, your friends, and your family may have more free time over a weekend, so if you want to ensure that as many people can attend as possible, you may want to host a party on a Saturday or Sunday. Of course, you can still have a smaller or more intimate celebration on the day of your baby’s actual birthday.

First Birthday Party Ideas: Who to Invite

Now that you have a theme and know when and where you’ll be hosting this very exciting first birthday party, it’s time to decide who to invite. Some parents opt to have a smaller party with just close family and friends, whereas others prefer to include extended family, coworkers, or other friends with kids. Your budget and venue might dictate the invite list more than your personal desires, so take any restrictions into account. Some people to consider inviting are

  • parents

  • grandparents

  • siblings

  • aunts

  • uncles

  • cousins

  • close friends or family friends

  • friends from baby or parent groups

  • coworkers

  • other acquaintances with kids.

Get excited about upcoming milestones in your little one’s life as they near toddlerhood with our baby growth chart tool below.

Baby Growth Chart Calculator

Hosting Your Baby’s First Birthday Party

With the initial prep out of the way, it’s time to think about the actual hosting part of your baby’s first birthday party. In the end, the most important elements of any party, including a one-year birthday celebration, typically come down to good company, tasty food, some entertainment, and lots of pictures for memories.

Creating a Schedule for Your Baby’s First Birthday Party

Remember that 1-year-olds are still little, so they’re probably still sleep training and may need a nap. Consider when your baby usually naps and either plan the party around this time or provide a place for naptime for any tiny humans while the adults continue to mingle. When a 1-year-old is the guest of honour, it’s a good idea to host a short birthday party. (This goes for older children and even some adults, too!) Here are some additional tips to help you create a timeline for the party:

  • Arrival. What time should guests arrive, and what should they do when they first get there? Usually, it helps to have a play area set up so guests can entertain themselves while you continue to welcome others. For example, if you’re hosting at your home, put out some play mats and an assortment of toys in the living room or backyard.

  • Food. When people attend a party, they expect to eat something, so there’s no need to delay! Start serving food once you give everyone enough time to arrive (about 30 minutes of wiggle room). You could even have some snacks ready when people arrive. Plan for at least an hour so guests can get seconds and not feel pressured to eat quickly.

  • Activities. To start, you don’t have to plan any activities! One-year-old birthday parties can be as simple as letting the kiddos play while adults mingle. But if you want to keep everyone entertained, you can prepare a few simple group games or activities ahead of time.

  • Cake. Giving your baby their first birthday cake is an exciting moment and one that your guests probably don’t want to miss. Make sure to add plenty of time for taking pictures of your baby’s first birthday cake, especially as they “smash” it!

  • Photos. Don’t forget pictures! Some parents like to designate a friend or two to snap pics throughout the party. You can also rent or create a photo booth or hire a professional photographer. Another idea is to ask your photographer to come a little early to get those more intimate family portraits done first.

  • Gifts. If you’re excepting birthday gifts for your 1-year-old, plan a time to open them with your guests. It’s always fun for the gift-giver to watch your open their birthday gift and maybe even see your 1-year-old enjoy it, too (if they’re awake!).

  • Departure. Always set a specific end time. Consider giving a small memento or party favour to your friends and family as they leave. Of course, you can keep the party going, but this allows your guests to plan ahead and depart without feeling like they’re leaving too early.

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First Birthday Party Food Ideas

When brainstorming 1-year-old birthday party ideas, food is an important topic. You’ll need to provide baby- and child-friendly foods, plus those appetizing to older guests. If you know who’s coming to the party, this will help you plan, but consider the following:

  • Babies and toddlers

  • Older children

  • Adults

  • Anyone with food sensitivities or allergies

  • Anyone with other dietary preferences or restrictions.

Some parents like having the food tied to the theme, location, or decorations of their baby’s first birthday party. For example, if you’re having a camping or sports theme or hosting in your backyard or park, consider grilling hamburgers and veggie burgers for adults and older children. Depending on the age of the kids in attendance, a s’mores bar could be a hit! Regardless of what you serve adults, it’s good to have some baby- and kid-appropriate snacks for the little ones. Some ideas include bite-sized and small versions of

  • fruits and veggies

  • cheese and crackers

  • grilled cheese sandwiches

  • chicken fingers

  • gelatin

  • frozen fruit pops.

And don’t forget the cake! Because babies won’t eat much cake on their first birthday and will probably get messy in the process, it’s become popular to prepare or purchase a “smash cake.” This mini cake is made specifically for your little one to smash while eating, and this adorable action results in some of the cutest photos at a baby’s first birthday party!

Games, Activities, and Party Favours

When planning your 1-year-old’s birthday, the final decisions include which games and activities to arrange for a baby’s party. Since 1-year-olds can’t play traditional birthday games just yet, you may be wondering how to entertain these little ones, along with older kids and adults, at a first birthday party! We’ve assembled some tips for suitable games, activities, and party favours to help you out.

Games and Activities

One-year-old birthday parties tend to be short, and you and your guests may simply enjoy eating and mingling. But if you’re interested in having a few games or activities, here are some ideas for your 1-year-old baby’s first birthday party.

  • Free play. Set up an area of your venue for free play. This can include soft balls, building blocks, plush toys, rattles, stacking toys, wooden instruments, etc. Older kids and adults can help watch over the small children and facilitate the play.

  • Bubbles. Kids love bubbles, and they always have fun trying to catch them! This is great fun for older kids, too.

  • Wagon rides. Enlist the help of older siblings and adults to pull wagons in the park or backyard. Babies always seem to get a kick out of riding in a wagon!

  • Birthday parade. Hand out some instruments and have everyone walk around to create your very own parade celebrating your little one.

  • Baby photo guessing game. Ask your guests to bring a photo of themselves when they were a baby and try to match who is who!

  • Water table. If hosting outside, you could set up a water table with toys for babies and children to enjoy, as adults stay close by to supervise.

  • Art. Though 1-year-olds won’t be ready for crayons or paint just yet, toddlers and older siblings may enjoy drawing and colouring, finger painting, or painting with a brush. Toddlers can also enjoy crafts and activities that include cutting with safety scissors and gluing.

  • Dancing. Everyone enjoys music, and babies are just so cute when they’re clapping, swaying, and bopping to tunes. In fact, party guests of all ages can get into dancing, singing, and listening to music. You can even ask one of the guests to be the DJ.

Party Favours

Party favours are optional, but one popular tradition at first birthday parties is providing a keepsake for your guests. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. You could opt for a party bag that keeps the celebration going (this is great for older kids), filled with small treats. Or choose a sentimental gift as your party favour, which your guests can use to remember your little one’s first birthday. Some ideas are

  • swag bags filled with treats related to your theme

  • a framed photo of your baby

  • an ornament or trinket like a mug or magnet with your baby’s photo on it

  • something with a happy birthday message on it, like rubber bracelets or temporary tattoos

  • homemade cookies or soaps

  • something practical for other kids, like teething rings or blocks

  • candy or cake pops.

If you’d like to provide your guests with personal mementos, be sure to order these ahead of time. There are many websites that offer personalized mugs, magnets, calendars, ornaments, and more. Just remember to order in plenty of time before the big celebration! If you want to add some tunes to your baby’s first birthday party, watch the video below to learn more about the power of music!

Baby’s First Birthday Party Checklist

Planning and preparing for your baby’s first birthday requires some effort, especially since there are so many ideas and details to consider, including themes, decorations, food, cake, activities, gifts, and more. Below, we’ve created a first birthday party checklist, so you won’t forget anything! You can also download it for safekeeping.

[INSERT DOWNLOADABLE LINK]

Baby’s First Birthday Party Checklist

FAQs AT A GLANCE

What you do for your baby’s first birthday is totally up to you, so have fun researching ideas and planning a party if you choose to host one! Typically, though, you have two choices: Enjoy a quiet celebration at home or throw a party with family, friends, and/or colleagues.

The Bottom Line

As your little baby is turning 1 year old, you probably have lots of ideas, themes, and decorations to consider for their first birthday bash! Planning and preparing your baby’s first birthday party is a memorable task for you as a parent, and the event is a moment in your little one’s life that you’ll want to treasure forever. Make the celebration a success by planning a party that’s near and dear to you and your family! Whatever you decide to do, have fun with good company, tasty food, and games or activities. Don’t forget to take lots of photos of the party, especially when your baby gets ready to smash their first birthday cake!

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