Ah, the first birthday. It’s an exciting milestone, all right. Mama, you’ve made it a whole year! You kept a tiny human alive and (mostly) happy for 365 days.
While you’re putting together your little one’s big celebration, keep this in mind: You are planning a toddler birthday party, not the next Big Fat Greek Wedding. You have the rest of your kid’s life to pour all of your time, money and resources into throwing them a birthday-palooza. Also consider that you are recovering from what was likely the most exhausting year of your life (especially if you’re celebrating your first baby’s first birthday).
Here are some ideas to help with brainstorming and planning that will help make the party easier for you but still very original and memorable.
- The location. If your living space can accommodate it, have the party at home. Your 1-year-old isn’t clamoring for a birthday party at Worlds of Fun or the dreaded Chuck E. Cheese (yet!). However, what you save in rental fees, you might make up for in having to cleaning your house. Or if the weather will be decent, have it at a park, near a playground.
- The invitation. With all the curated online card stores in existence these days, printing invitations and announcements is now easier and cheaper than ever. These shops are a dime a dozen: Tiny Prints, Shutterfly, mpix, Vistaprint, etc.
- Pick a color as your theme. It’s unlikely that your youngster’s taste is refined enough to have strong opinions about their party’s theme. Enjoy this, as it’s possibly the last year for a while that you won’t be purchasing Barbie or superhero plates, napkins and party hats, etc. If you need some direction with selecting a color palette, check out Adobe Color; you can search for everything from the colors in “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to “Sesame Street” or even “Bob the Builder.” If you can imagine it, Adobe Color can show you five coordinating colors. Select your decorations, paper products, etc., around these colors and people will think you’re channeling Martha Stewart. Bonus points for use of different patterns with your colors (polka dots, chevrons, etc.).
- Food: This is a baby birthday celebration, not a seven-course dinner party. Stick with snacks or heavy hors d’oeuvres and follow the savory-sweet-drinks rule (i.e., provide a few of each category). Also take into account your guests’ age range: are you feeding mostly adults or kids or both? If you’ll have a lot of youngsters, pick kid-friendly foods like goldfish crackers, sliced fruit/veggies, animal crackers, etc. The children will see it as a delicacy and their parents will appreciate the gesture.
- The cake. You do not have to purchase a fancy cake for your toddler to demolish. Anyone can Frankenstein together a smash cake. Take two large-size cupcakes, cut the tops offs, add frosting between the two halves and then frost the entire cupcake lump. And there you have it: a cake worth smashing.
- A guest book. Select one of your kiddo’s favorite books, or one of your favorite children’s books, and have all of your guests write a special message in the book. (Personally, we chose Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”) My daughter is now 2 and we love reading back through all the messages our friends and family wrote. A couple local resources to tap into are The Learning Tree and Rainy Day Books.
Planning the first birthday has the potential to be very stressful. But keep your expectations realistic. And if things don’t go as planned, remember: You have at least another dozen or so birthdays to plan after this one!