So there it is. Circled in big red marker on the calendar (as if you could ever forget.) Exciting but daunting, all the same. It’s your child’s first birthday and it very well could be the standard by which you judge all future parties.
However, I recommend that you don’t put that much pressure on yourself. Keep in mind the long-running joke about how similar your first and last birthdays really are. You don’t know what all the big fuss is about, but you end up wearing an uncomfortable party hat, surrounded by people you didn’t invite—and you may end up needing a diaper change in the middle of the festivities!
So, although you have taken it upon yourself to throw the BEST BIRTHDAY PARTY YOUR CHILD HAS EVER HAD, just relax…it will be! And, if you use any of the following tips, it also could be one of the easiest!
Tip #1 - Timing is everything.
Schedule the party to last less than two hours and aim for right after naptime so that your baby is well-rested and happy. If you are lucky, maybe you can even squeeze in a nap, too!
Tip #2 - Location, Location, Location.
It’s best for everyone if you hold the party at your home or in an environment familiar to you and your baby. The last thing you want to worry about is whether it’s baby-proofed and cake-smearing safe. Some other suggestions if your home isn’t suitable: a close relative’s home, a local restaurant that is child/baby friendly or an indoor activity center/playground.
Tip #3 - Be selective.
A birthday can be a great way to get everyone together, but a room with too many unfamiliar faces may end up overwhelming your little one (not to mention everyone else). Try to keep the guest list limited to family members and close friends.
Tip #4 - Make sure your theme adds to the party, rather than detracts.
If you are choosing a theme, make it a simple one that’s easily recognizable. Also, try to choose something your child has shown interest in. You can start with anything from favorite toys, animals, storybooks or cartoons. Then, incorporate the theme into the invitations, decorations, food and maybe even the gifts--just avoid the temptation to take it too far. The last thing you want your theme to do is distract or overwhelm your child. Furthermore, you needn’t get carried away with a lot of elaborate, expensive decorations or grab bags. These items will become more important and costly as your child gets older, but need not be a priority right now.
Tip #5 - Try to find activities that benefit all
Come up with activities for the kids, so the adults can relax and enjoy themselves a bit. However, try to avoid anything that might turn out to be too scary or loud. Setting out some large pieces of construction paper so the kids can make their own birthday cards for your child is an easy and effective way to give them an opportunity to feel a part of the celebration. If you aren’t worried about the mess, give them each a container of bubbles or start a game where an older child blows the bubbles and the rest try to pop them all before they hit the floor.
Tip #6 - It’s better to give, than to receive.
Although the party is ultimately for your little one, it is nice to be able to provide the other young children who attend the party with a gift. The concept of birthdays remains a bit foreign to many young children, and there is often at least one child at the party who may not grasp why he or she is not receiving gifts as well. Grab bags can be a great way to shift the focus and can include stickers, a small toy or a box of crayons, for instance. Just a thoughtful little something can keep kids distracted while your little one rips the paper and puts one of the recently opened boxes on his head.
Tip #7 - Cater to the kids, literally.
Try to make or order healthy and easy-to-eat foods, so that young ones will be able to eat more independently. Some ideas are small sandwiches, mini-hamburgers, individual pizzas, chicken tenders, bite-size veggies and/or fruit pieces. Try to steer clear of soups, spaghetti or anything that requires utensils and a new rug. Also, avoid item that are choking hazards, such as popcorn, peanuts, hotdogs, grapes, etc.
Tip #8 - Times are tough, but present buying doesn’t have to be.
In times of economic turmoil, the last thing you want is for the people closest to you to feel burdened by having to buy your 1-year-old an expensive gift that he or she will use for only a few months. A couple of ways to defuse this situation are to inform your guests that you’d like to build your baby a time capsule with stuff from the year she was born. Baby can open the items and place them in the box, and you can make an activity of it, allowing everyone to help decorate the box. Or, let your theme guide your guests. For instance, if you are doing a zoo theme, you can include select animals on the invitations and ask the guests to bring one small item that corresponds with that animal. Parameters can help take some of the stress off the shopping experience.
Tip #9 - Let your baby have her cake and eat it too.
Having a smaller, individual cake for your little one is something that is becoming an increasingly popular idea for everyone involved. Your child can dig into her own cake without filling party guests with dismay by fingering and spitting all over their cake. Another benefit is controlling baby’s portion size and type of cake. A very easy way to do this is by having cupcakes instead of sheet cake. Perhaps most importantly, remember the camera. The photos of your little one with a cake-covered face are the shots that every mother will treasure.
Tip #10 - Remember to relax and enjoy
The day, like your baby’s first year, will go by too quickly. And even though you may be recording every step along the way, just make sure you and your child are enjoying it as much as possible. Don’t get too caught up in the minor details. Look at the big picture and let you and your baby just be yourselves. After all, you can always restage the photos if you absolutely have to.
Sara Wright writes from her home in Kansas City, where she will soon be planning her daughter’s first birthday!