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First Birthday Party Planning

You made it! Those first precious twelve months with your baby are almost at an end, so it must be time to plan a first birthday party! Let’s face it, your baby won’t remember a thing about this day. The party is actually a fun event for mom and dad to celebrate making it through baby’s first year!

Read our 1st birthday party guide featuring first birthday invitations, first birthday decorations, baby birthday party favor suggestions and first birthday party supplies for a baby’s first birthday theme party.

Choose a party theme that fits your family’s style. This could be based on your baby’s favorite character, like Elmo or Pooh, or a favorite toy like a teddy bear. Once you decide on the pattern, it will be much easier to choose decorations and activities that coordinate. There are many patterns available, such as the adorable First Birthday Party patterns shown farther down this page.

Start planning the first birthday party by reading through these tips. They will help you make sure the party is a success for your baby, for you and all the guests!

How Big and How Many Guests?

There seems to be two different planning styles for a first birthday party. One approach is the “big family celebration” party, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and lots of cousins. This party usually lasts three hours or more and includes a full meal. If you have lots of relatives nearby, this is probably for you.

The other approach is the “close friends and a few family members” party. The guest list is limited to only a few other families so that your own baby will not become overwhelmed by all the attention and noise of a party, which usually lead to tears and a meltdown. The guests include only children that your baby sees on a regular basis. This type of party usually lasts about one and a half hours, and does not involve a meal. Snacks and cake are all that’s needed as refreshments.

What Time of Day to Hold the Party?

After naptime! Let me repeat, hold the party immediately after your baby’s naptime ends. This is when your baby is rested and ready for play. So that means either late morning after naptime or mid-afternoon after naptime will be the best time to hold the party.

Keep the party to about one and a half hours so that your child and other tiny guests will have fun and avoid meltdowns. And give your baby a good snack before the party begins. Once guests start to arrive, your child may become too excited to eat…and we all know how cranky kids can become when they haven’t eaten.

And speaking of other little tykes, be prepared for some of them to spend the entire party sitting in their mommy’s lap. The excitement of a party, with balloons and games and different sounds, may mean some toddlers need to retreat to the safety of their mom.

Where Should I Have the Party?

Hold the party at a location that is familiar to your baby. This is not the time to book Chuck E. Cheese or some other new and possibly-scary-for-your-baby party place. It could be that your own home is the best choice or maybe a grandparent’s house if your child goes there often.

Line Up Helpers

Your child’s first birthday party will be more fun for you if other adults are there to help run the activities. Ask a relative or neighbor (or hire a teenager) to be your assistant on party day. That way you will have more time free to spend with your baby. Give your helpers specific tasks, such as answering the door, serving the cake and leading one or more of the games, etc. Be sure to ask one adult to take photos! Your friends will appreciate knowing exactly what they can do to help you, and you won’t have to handle every detail yourself.


First Birthday Party Invitations

Here’s a cute idea to make your own invitations: trace your baby’s hand onto paper and print the invitation wording above and below it. Then make multiple copies on colored paper and mail. You could scan the handprint into your computer, and add the invitation wording around it in a cute font. Then you could print as many invitations as you need right at home. This would be a great time to splurge a little and order personalized first birthday party invitations!


First Birthday Decorations

  • There is no doubt that the number one most popular decoration you need is helium balloons. Lots and lots of balloons floating around the party room will provide all the entertainment you really need for toddlers! Be sure to tie a long piece of ribbon to each balloon so that it dangles low enough for the little ones to reach and pull on them. Just remember to immediately pick up any pieces of balloons that pop, because small children can choke on broken bits of balloons.
  • Decorate your baby’s high chair with an adorable Highchair Kit. These are one of the cutest items I’ve seen in years!
  • Set a clean blanket off to the side in the party room with a variety of small toys and books so the other children will have something to play with anytime they need a break from the party activities.
  • Bring out the baby book where guests can look through it.
  • Order a personalized banner and hang it on the wall directly behind your baby’s high chair. It will look great as a background in the photos when your baby eats the first bite of cake.
  • Hang a pull-string piñata as a decoration, and later it will become an activity when the children pull it open. Just be sure to choose your piñata filler items very carefully, so that no small toys or candy are included that could be a choking hazard.
  • Link to the meanings of baby names


First Birthday Party Games

  • Simple Games – The number one rule of thumb for toddler party games is to keep them simple and make sure every child succeeds. That means bending traditional “rules” to let each guest feel like a winner. If you hand out prizes, have a prize for every guest. You won’t need more than one or two games for a party that lasts one and a half hours. If your party will last longer than that, or if older children like cousins will be attending, you’ll need to plan a few more activities. Start with tried and true toddler favorites and change the name to match your party theme. For example, if your party supplies feature Elmo, change Pin the Tail on the Donkey to Pin the Nose on Elmo. Substitute a poster of Elmo and cut out lots of orange noses from construction paper.
  • Toy Toss – The most popular game at my son’s party was a simple block toss. We had a set of soft blocks at the time and used them instead of bean bags. Each guest had a turn tossing the blocks into a toy grocery cart, which is something we already owned. You could easily use a large bowl or a laundry basket instead. We let each guest stand as close to the grocery cart as they wanted, to be sure at least one block would make it into the cart. We cheered for every player, and they all received a small prize, no matter how many blocks made it into the target.
  • Bubbles – A bubble machine can provide loads of fun for the younger guests. Just turn on the machine and let the children catch as many bubbles as they can reach.
  • Music Parade – A favorite game in our house was something we made up using kiddy musical instruments. We let the kids take turns being the leader of a music parade through one or two rooms while a favorite music CD played in the background. Each child picked an instrument to play as they all marched together. For the first round, let your birthday child lead the parade (with your help, if necessary).
  • Clothespin Search – Another great classic search game for toddlers is to attach clothespins to items in the room. Then instruct the guests to go get as many as they can find.
  • Wagon Rides – We also tied a few balloons to a red wagon and pulled groups of kids around the room. This would make a great outdoor activity, too, if the weather is nice.
  • For more ideas to keep older kids entertained, see our complete list of childrens party games, craft projects and more.
  • Link to free baby games
  • Link to printable party games


First Birthday Party Food Ideas

  • Plan to have snacks available for the duration of the party. The smallest guests may need to graze now and then to avoid an empty tummy, which we all know can lead to cranky kids. Stick with familiar food items like teddy grahams and goldfish crackers.
  • For the adults, go with a vegetable tray with dip, chicken salad, meatball appetizers, and similar party food.
  • Use a tablecloth from your first birthday party pattern along with a matching centerpiece.
  • Toddlers love party hats, so have one at each place setting where the children will sit.
  • Grab a carton of wet wipes and place it nearby to clean off sticky faces and hands.
  • For a beautiful home-made birthday cake, use a shaped cake pan. This will give you nearly professional results, and they are available in many cute shapes that would work well for a first birthday party, such as a teddy bear, princess castle, duck, Elmo face and Winnie the Pooh.
  • To cut down on your stress, order the birthday cake from a local bakery/grocery store.
  • A lot of moms haven’t given their baby any sugar yet, and these moms may want to make a carrot muffin with cream cheese frosting as the baby’s personal “cake”.


First Birthday Party Favors

The one thing to remember when choosing party favors is to avoid small toys or candy that could be a choking hazard. Toddlers love bubble sets, soft toys like mini-stuffed animals, and balls of any size. If children of different ages will be at the party, like cousins or friends, go ahead and order separate party favor sets that appeal to each age group. Make the party favors easier for yourself by ordering complete First Birthday Favor Sets online. It beats driving from store to store trying to collect just the right items, and the favors are sent direct to your home. Personalized 1st Birthday party favors

Dress Up

First Birthday Party Dress Up

Gift Ideas