Animal themes, cupcakes, pinatas – your baby’s first birthday is a day that you want to remember.
You’ve got the theme sorted, ordered the food, but there’s just one teeny tiny (ok, major) detail left:
What are you actually going to do to entertain these little tots so that everyone has a good time and your house doesn’t get destroyed in the process?
Well, fret no more because you’re in the right place. I’m going to take your hand and guide you through it, so that at least one thing is a bit less overwhelming!
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What do one year olds need?
Now, one can be a tricky age because all babies develop at different rates so there will be babies that aren’t walking yet, others that are really nifty on their feet – bear this in mind as you’re planning.
Most of the activities mentioned will be suitable for all developmental stages – some may just need a bit more supervision.
Also, word to the wise: I know it’s tempting to want the perfect day, with the perfect Instagrammable photos and everything to run smoothly, but don’t go so hard on yourself!
Babies will LOVE whatever you prepare just because YOU are involved mama, you are enough.
Okay that said, here are my top games and activities for baby’s first birthday party:
1) First Birthday Party Activities & Water games
I gotta admit, this is the first game that sprung to mind as my daughter (now 2) is obsessed with all things water – whether that’s bath time, or knocking over and spilling things all day long.
Don’t be like me, get yourself a good water station like this one below that will last way beyond their 1st birthday!
It really guarantees hours of fun, way into toddlerhood, so rest assured it won’t be unused. Just assemble in your garden/backyard and watch them play.
Or why not try a splash mat like this one?
If you don’t feel like making the investment (seriously though you’ll save yourself hours of stress in the future), then here are some other options you can consider:
Ideally you want the ones that don’t have holes in the bottom if you have a toddler like mine, because it’s important that they can pour water from one to another.
I find this set perfect :
You could also put bubble bath in a pool and let them go to town with the bubbles!
If it’s good weather outside then it’s definitely a pool opportunity. Do make sure you slap some sunscreen on and put hats on those tiny sensitive heads
Just blow up an inflatable pool like this one and away you go:
Bonus: it will double up as a homemade ball play set.
And in case you were wondering, yes organic paraben-free bath bubbles do exist, find them here:
Last but not least, you could just get a basic washing up bowl (or two) and make a set up so they can play freely.
Can you tell I’m a bit of a water fan?!
2) Musical games
Don’t worry, I’m not talking elaborated karaoke or garage band – the kids you’ll have to entertain are more of the shakers and symbols type.
Which leads me onto my next suggestion: grab a box of musical toys for babies like this one and everyone can have a go:
It even comes with a bag – thank goodness – for easy storage.
Take it from me, babies and toddlers love music and they will spend a while getting busy with all the different little instruments.
If you don’t have time to get a set like this, don’t worry – you can easily make some instruments with things you’ve already got at home!
Another favourite for babies and young kids are piano floor mats – great for tots who are discovering the world on their feet!
This one comes with the scale of musical notes, animal sounds and melodies to explore.
Of course you can always play the classic musical cushions too – don’t expect for them to get it ‘right’ but you’ll all have fun trying!
All you need are some cushions or pillows and a danger-free space to put them down. I recommend cushions rather than chairs at this age to avoid any accidents.
3) dance party
It may seem overly simple but babies love music and are natural dancers! They will be thrilled to dance with you.
If you want to take it one step further, you can teach them simple choreography like:
- If you’re happy and you know it
- Heads shoulders, knees and toes
Make a playlist of some popular kiddies songs but make sure you pop some of your favorite ones in there too – sometimes they actually prefer ‘adult’ music!
(link to playlist)
You can even make your own songs up and roll with it! As long as the music’s playing everyone will be entertained.
What kid doesn’t like bubbles? I’ve yet to find one – and guess what, babies are no different.
However, if you don’t want to be attached to a little bottle of bubbles the entire afternoon I get that. That’s exactly why I’ve got some options for you!
Hire a bubble artist
Pre-lockdown times, I bet you’ve seen street artists as you walked down the high street on the weekend. Perhaps you’ve seen jugglers, musicians – but have you ever seen bubble blowers?
If you haven’t, you’re missing out.
Though they may not seem very technical to make, good bubbles require expertise! Not only that, the artist you hire will keep the kids occupied for at least an hour.
Bonus if said artist is also an actor/juggler/performer!
Where can you find a bubble artist?
Gig salad is a great site that gives you plenty of options to choose from so that you can find someone suitable near you.
If you don’t have the time or the resources to hire an artist (though if you can, I highly recomend!) then a bubble machine may be the better option for you.
(link to bubble machine)
Just pour your soap in, turn it on and watch the magic happen!
5) Soft play
Don’t ever underestimate the power of just putting some mats down and freestyling!
If, after all this planning, you’re getting stressed out because the activities aren’t going as you thought or the babies are overstimulated, just let them be.
Babies play naturally, and giving them a soft surface to explore on is fun in itself.
This one is great for little climbers:
Remember these are activities you can use again and again, so well worth the investment in the long-term. Of course, you can always sell them on when your kids have grown out of them.
Soft play gives your babe the courage to start using their body to climb/roll/jump on things without the worry of an incident because they have a soft landing (and you by their side, obviously).
6) Sock puppet show
Trust me this is tried and tested in our house and takes very little prep to make!
What you’ll need to make a spectacular show:
- A very simple plot
- A shoebox you can use as a theatre
- Old socks/cheap pair you can find
- Googly eyes/felt for hair
- Glue gun for sticking
Remember the show is for babies/toddlers – do make it interesting but don’t go into fancy details obviously.
This is a great way for you to communicate through non-verbal language, which is an important life skill, so it counts as teaching too.
Pro tip: make sure the google eyes are securely stuck on in case a little one grabs it and decides it would be fun to taste.
7) Balls/ball pit
Not sure if you want to include a ball pit? Let me convince you: they are literally toddler heaven.
You will make every little kid’s face light up if you set one of these bad boys up.
Not only that, a ball pit is an amazing sensory activity for babies – it helps them distinguish between colours, try and catch, hold and feel the shape and texture of the balls.
There’s only one thing: seems like a lot of harmful plastic right?
Worry not, I’ve found the perfect BPA free alternative:
Now if a ballpit seems like to much hassle for you, you could always just try some basic ball games together.
Sensory balls are another alternative and babies love the feel of these:
Some basic games you can play with the little ones:
- Roll the ball from one to another
- Drop the ball – bonus points if it bounces
- Throw it up high
- Go get the ball – take turns
- Kick it gently
- Squeeze it
Ball play teaches your babe a wide range of skills including object permanence, hand-eye co-ordination and problem solving. What’s not to love?