Ultimate Guide To Preparing For And Celebrating Your Child’s First Birthday

Planning your baby’s first birthday party can be a stressful challenge or a fun event (or a mixture of both!) Celebrating your child’s first birthday is definitely a milestone that you will want to cherish and remember for years to come.

Ultimate Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating Your Child's First Birthday
Mother holding her baby daughter with birthday cake.

Here, we will talk about first birthday ideas and how you can prepare for, plan, and throw the best first birthday party ever!

Reducing Stress Surrounding The Event

Ultimate Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating Your Child’s First Birthday

It’s natural to feel a bit daunted when contemplating your child’s first birthday and trying to come up with ideas for first birthday parties.

Of course, you want it to be memorable for everyone who attends. In order to reduce your stress, try to involve your entire family in planning and preparing for the big event.


Ultimate Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating Your Child's First Birthday

In this way, the stress won’t fall solely on you, the parent’s, shoulders. If you have family and even close family friends pitching in to help, chances are that you will not forget anything you’ll need for the big day.

When you think about first birthday party ideas, you might also want to consider consulting friends and family members who are parents and have been through this before.

What tips can they offer you to make the party truly memorable? Are there things that they wish they would have done for their child’s first birthday if they could do it all over again?

Should The Party Have A Theme?

Ultimate Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating Your Child’s First Birthday

Some parents swear by having a theme for their child’s first birthday party. Others don’t. First birthday themes are really a matter of personal preference.

Does your child love a certain character, color, season, song, or show? If so, and you want to plan a party based on that theme, go for it.

Parties that aren’t based on themes can also be quite fun, however. Remember, the goal of the party is for your child to have as much fun as possible celebrating his or her first birthday.

What activities will he or she like? What activities will go over well with the crowd? These should be first and foremost in your mind when considering first birthday themes.

First Birthday Themes For Boys

Ultimate Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating Your Child’s First Birthday

Some examples of first birthday themes boy-oriented are:

  • Sports (apt if your son loves a particular sport or is active in sports)
  • Music (if your child loves a particular genre of music, this can be the perfect theme)
  • Big trucks
  • Trains (Thomas the Tank Engine is still a favorite among many boys)
  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Disney (many body-oriented examples like Toy Story)
  • Summer (perfect for summer month birthdays)
  • Or choose one of the girl themes listed below – don’t limit your child by gender!

First Birthday Themes For Girls

Ultimate Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating Your Child’s First Birthday

First birthday themes girls particularly like include:

  • Princesses
  • Lollipops
  • Fruit themes (strawberries, watermelon are apt ones)
  • Hello Kitty (or your daughter’s favorite character)
  • Disney (think Frozen, Bambi)
  • Winter wonderland (great if your daughter has a winter birthday)
  • Color-based (pink, purple)
  • Or choose one of the boy themes listed above – don’t limit your child by gender!

Keep Your Budget In Mind

Ultimate Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating Your Child’s First Birthday

Another thing that you must keep in mind when planning your child’s first birthday party is your budget. Don’t go overboard if money is tight.

It’s far too easy to get lost in plans and preparations, and then suddenly realize that you won’t have enough money to do everything you’d planned.

Keep your finances in mind when deciding on a theme, too, as your budget might limit what you can do.

(Remember that you’ll still need to come up with first birthday gift ideas too, so be sure to set aside adequate money for them!)

Items You’ll Need

Ultimate Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating Your Child’s First Birthday

No matter what your party theme or first birthday party ideas are, there are certain items that you will need for your child’s first birthday party.

Keep this first birthday party checklist in mind when beginning to plan your party

  • Who do you want to invite? Unless you have lots of money and plan to throw a big blowout, keep it simple, limiting your guest list to close family members and friends.
  • Where do you want to have a party? Come up with a list of potential venues, some that are free (like your home or a family member’s home) and some that cost (rental hall, for example). Don’t pick an outdoor venue unless you have a tent and/or are certain of the weather! Above all, make sure the venue is safe for all ages.
  • What day of the week and time of day do you want to have the party? Remember more people are likely to be able to attend on a weekend, but not on a holiday weekend. Sundays are better than Saturdays for many people, but not too late as everyone will have work or school to go to the next day. Think about the time of day your child will be napping too, and try not to plan the party for a time when he or she will be cranky or asleep.
  • Don’t plan a party that drags on and on. Remember that kids, especially younger ones, get tired easily. A few hours is usually long enough for a first birthday party.
  • What type of first birthday invitations will you send? (Keep these in line with your theme, if you have one). Also, do you want to mail them or send them electronically?
  • Choose first birthday balloons (again, keeping with the theme of the party).
  • Select first birthday decorations keeping with your theme. Don’t forget to decorate the birthday child’s high chair – this will look great in photos of him or her smashing cake into their face! Some people even include colorful first birthday backdrops that go along with the theme. This can provide a nice background for photos.
  • Come up with first birthday cake ideas that go with your theme. If your party is theme-less, consider:
    • Animal-based cakes
    • Color-based cakes
    • Giant number cakes (one, of course, would be the ideal number to choose!)
  • Don’t forget the first birthday smash cake too!! (Some parents opt to go with the smashed cupcake instead- less mess, the same amount of fun for the birthday child!)
  • Think of first birthday party favors going along with your theme. These should go in the first birthday goody bags you’ll be making up to hand out to guests before they leave. Small toys, candy, and trinkets are great choices for first birthday goody bags.
  • Does music go with your first birthday party theme? If your theme is show- or character-based, selecting music should be fairly easy. If not, finding relaxing background music that adults will enjoy is always a good idea. You can have fun kids’ dance music planned as well.
  • What first birthday food ideas do you have? Catering is an option if money allows. Self-serve, buffet-style finger foods for kids and adults are always a hit. Consider:
    • Fruit and veggie trays
    • Crackers
    • Cheerios
    • Applesauce pouches
    • Cake and ice cream (of course!)
    • Healthy beverages (avoid sugary fruit juices and sodas instead, offer alternatives like water or flavored water)
    • Some people provide alcoholic beverages for adults at the party. This is a personal choice and not an expected refreshment, however.
  • What will the birthday girl or boy wear? Choose your first birthday girl outfit or first birthday boy outfit ahead of time! If the birthday boy or girl shows up in a first birthday onesie, this is often a hit among guests! Their outfit may also fit with the party’s theme.

first birthday outfit

  • Come up with some first birthday party games. There are a variety of games that can be fun for all. Make sure to offer those who win a game a small prize, like a toy or treat bags! Put older kids in charge of games, like:
    • The perennial favorite pin-the-tail-on-the-something (donkey, favorite animal)
    • Short races (sack race, two-legged races are great in outdoor venues)
    • Musical games like musical chairs are always popular among kids
  • How about some fun first birthday activities? These should appeal to kids of all ages, not just one-year-olds. Ideas include:
    • A bouncy castle or house
    • Drawing outside with sidewalk chalk (weather-conducive)
    • Face painting
    • Dancing competition
  • Choose photographers. Select some family members or friends who are good with the camera to be responsible for taking candid photos throughout the party and selecting first birthday photo ideas. This way, they can capture the first birthday pictures, big and small moments that are memorable for your scrapbook!
  • Select first birthday thank you cards to send to guests afterward to thank them for attending and for their cards and gifts!

What to do Before the First Birthday Party

Ultimate Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating Your Child’s First Birthday

  • Plan the date, time, and venue of the party
  • Compile guest list
  • Figure out budget, theme
  • Send out first birthday invitations
  • Prepare food
  • Prepare games and activities
  • Decorate the area in which you are having the party

What To Do During The Party?

Ultimate Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating Your Child’s First Birthday

  • Have fun!
  • Don’t try to stick to a strict schedule, but make sure things flow. If it’s game time, gather kids for that. If it’s food time, make sure everyone knows where the food is and to help themselves. When it’s cake time, make sure everyone is around to sing. Same for gift time – if you can, open gifts at the party so guests can see and be thanked.
  • Have someone compile a list of who gave what making it easier to write thank you letters for first birthday cards and presents later

What To Do After The Party?

Ultimate Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating Your Child’s First Birthday

  • Appoint people beforehand to help you clean up after the party (if you are doing own cleanup at a venue).
  • Pack up gifts in your vehicle if you are at a venue other than your home.
  • If away from home, get your first birthday child situated in his or her car seat, with their favorite blankie and stuffed animal, ready to nap on the way home.
  • Pat yourself on the back and enjoy a good rest yourself when you get home, feeling like you’ve pulled off the best first birthday party ever!
  • Send out thank you letters for the first birthday presents within two weeks if possible, no longer than a month. Make sure to word them politely (not, “Thank you for the money,” but instead, “Thank you for the beautiful first birthday card and generous gift!”).

Check out Necessary Activities for Baby Development. Learn the different things you need to do to support your child’s overall development.

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Ultimate Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating Your Child's First Birthday