Fun 1st birthday party ideas

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Written By Brie

When our oldest was turning 1 I was so excited to throw him a party that I had 1st birthday party ideas coming out my ying yang. It was fun, it was exciting and I wanted to make it extra special.

I searched Pinterest I talked to people who had recently planned one and I hashed through plan after plan after plan trying to make it special and unique to our little man.

But I kept asking a few questions like…

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Should i celebrate a first birthday party?

The truth is that Baby isn’t likely to remember this party, so not really a necessary milestone to make a big deal of for them. However, having been there before twice now I have found it a great way to bring friends and family together.

Really the party is more for the parents.

And if you are in the middle of lockdown like we are it might also seem impossible to even throw a party. If it sounds like too much work or like it’s not really something you want to do I can totally understand. And it’s completely ok to skip it.

I know some parents like to go all out, and planning and hosting a party can be a bit anxiety-inducing. And it can feel like there is soooooo much pressure to do a “Pinterest perfect party” (whatever that is). That’s why I’m actually glad we are in lockdown right now.

My party can be epic, without having to clean the whole house! yup, we’re going virtual for kiddos party.

So I need to clean one spot where the camera will focus…

decorate (if I choose to) one spot where the camera will focus…

snacks are only for my family so no stressing over getting something someone has an allergy to…

Virtual parties are simpler, and I can invite absolutely everyone I know no matter where they are in the world. We have family on another continent and they can make it to this kind of party!

So while I’m not throwing a big bash in our home we are still going to celebrate his first year.

Tips for planning a first birthday party

Before you jump right in there are a few things to think about that will help for a smoother party and planning experience.


No one enjoys a cranky baby, and planning a party during a time when the baby is used to napping can make for a really cranky baby.

It’s also likely best to look at a weekend or evening, many people work during the day and might not be able to get away for a party. Even a virtual party requires some time/space with relative privacy.

You’ll also want to keep the party short and sweet, it’s easy for the baby to get cranky or into a tantrum if things go too long. Under 2 hours is best, but for this first one, I usually try to keep it under an hour.


No one is made of money, And kiddos can be expensive when it comes to things like diapers. So going “all-out” with 1st birthday party ideas around themes and party favors isn’t likely the best idea.

Set an amount that makes sense for your budget before looking at things to buy. And consider making stuff yourself if you can. The dollar store has some amazing things that can be used if you have the time to DIY your 1st birthday party ideas.

Keep it simple

Parties (even for older children) don’t need to be complicated. Especially with Baby’s First Birthday Party, there is no need to make it a big huge bash with all sorts of games or decore that needs setting up.

So choose a simple theme, design a simple cake (and/or smash cake), and be done with it. For my oldest’s First Birthday Party we did “Curious George” as the theme, so everything was yellow (plates, cutlery, table cloth, icing on the smash cake). That’s it.

Have a play space

Making sure there is enough space and safe toys for the young ones to play is always a good 1st birthday party idea. Something like a pack-n-play that has some baby-safe toys in it is good enough.

While having some games available to play with older kids or even for the adults (if the party is in person) can be helpful creating a safe familiar space for baby to play in will help with a smoother experience.

Photo fun

Photos can make a big difference in how you remember the day, snap some fun ones of your guests, decorations, and baby throughout the party. Or designate a “photographer” who will take photos during the event.

If you are doing an online party you can also usually record the video. Zoom for instance has a built-in record option and things like Facebook Live will automatically record as you go. This will give you a long-lasting memory you can watch whenever you want.

babies 1st birthday party, ideas for making it special

There are loads of ways to add that personal touch you will remember for years to come. Many of them are amazing whether you pick a theme or not and often can be done with virtual parties too!

The key here is to personalize it in a way that makes sense for you and that you will enjoy

Banners & decore

You can order personalized banners, some even have space for gluing your fav photos of the baby. Something like this one would be fun to set up there are loads of options to fit any theme.

Or this one here has space for a photo from each month of the baby’s life so far. Chose silly photos or ones you’ve taken to commemorate each month for a one of a kind party decoration.

It can also be fun to decorate baby’s high chair, something with simple streamers and a few balloons is usually enough and can set the backdrop for a fun smash cake.

Birthday Video

A 1st birthday party idea that I totally love doing is a video celebrating baby’s first year. I’ve done one for each of my kids so far and it’s an amazing way to go back through the thousands of photos we took and enjoy them all over again.

Then you can put it up on the TV or computer when guests are over OR link it in the Facebook group for those joining you digitally.

Baby’s first birthday party outfit

Is there anything more adorable than a cute onesie on a baby?

I’ve ordered one for my little guy that says “Wild 1” and comes with an adorable party hat. I fully intend to let baby smash his cake in it for an easy clean up too!

There are some cute t-shirts that have a big 1 on them, or even themed shirts or onesies too! Use them as a smash cake attire or as the outfit of the day. Either way, they are a great way to personalize it.

Special treats/goodie bags

Goodie bags are one of the reasons I’m glad to be doing a virtual party because you just can’t hand those out through a computer.

However, for in person first birthday parties, they seem to be popular. So you could put something together with a small toy or special treat in keeping with your theme. Or even just the theme on the bag.

Personally, I think goodie bags are a bit much especially at this age but to each their own.

Cake & Cupcake toppers…

I’m not that great at decorating a cake, I’d say it’s embarrassing but really I don’t mind and I enjoy the practice.

So things like cake toppers and cupcake toppers are a great way to keep the theme without a bunch of stress.

If you are icing your own cake try searching for a coloring book page with the image you want then cut it out and use the icing to trace it on.

At least that’s what I did when our oldest wanted a dinosaur and I didn’t have time to go buy a cake topper…

Or use some of their favorite toys as the topper, just make sure they are cleaned enough before adding them to the cake 😉


If you are going virtual snacks are likely not on your mind. But for an in-person party, grabbing a cookie cutter or two in a shape that matches your theme can give you some cute added personalization.

Can you picture watermelon sharks or monsters? How about pineapple sunflowers?

You can also include things like Goldfish snacks (cut up small enough for the small ones).

1st Birthday party ideas for Activities

It might seem like a challenge to find activities or games suitable for a 1st birthday party and that are fun for a one-year-old and the toddler guests that go along with that. But really there are some fun setups and things you can do like

Photo Booth – have a backdrop or set up some characters little ones can play in and around for some adorable photos. You can make your own from old boxes with paint or order something online like this.

Create some artwork – if you can find some washable paint and a canvas to work on having baby create a one of a kind artwork during the party can be fun. But this is best kept for smaller gatherings or even virtual ones unless guests are invited to join in. Otherwise, other little fingers are likely to jump in and paint too! (which can also be fun but gets messy quickly even if closely supervised.)

Hand Print Canvas – One cool idea I wish I had thought of when my oldest was celebrating his first birthday is to create a handprint canvas. Basically, pick a canvas, put some paint on kiddos’ hands, and press to the canvas. Depending on the style you want to do it can be a canvas per kid that gets added to each year OR do a family one for the year with Mom & Dad too. These can become a great birthday tradition.

Play Music – likely the easiest activity and a lot of fun for all is simply playing music and enjoying the kid-friendly atmosphere. Bonus points for starting a dance party and getting those cute arms waving around in the air or your first dance in with your little one if you haven’t already.

Pin the Tail on the… – this is more of a game for the bigger kids/adults but depending on your theme you can have this popular game set up and easily ready to go for in-person parties. Some ideas I’ve seen are:

  • Pin the tail on the dinosaur,
  • Pin the tail on the monster,
  • Pin the trailer on the truck,
  • Pin the flower on the stem (and a stem on the flower),
  • Pin the cloud on the rainbow.

Really almost any theme you have likely has some form of this that could be done. And it is a simple as printing out some coloring pages and cutting them apart, then using some magnets on the fridge to “pin”.

Guess My Age – we all seem to collect adorable photos of our babies, and THIS is a great way to showcase them and it works well both virtually and in person. Just pick a photo from each month of baby’s life (I’d say favorite but let’s be honest they all are right 😉 ) collect them in a mixed-up order and get your guests to guess how old baby is in each photo. For a virtual party, you can do this leading up to the event by posting a photo a day into the Facebook group or emailing it out.

Smash the Cake – a fun and messy event is watching baby mess around in icing and cake. Of course, other little fingers might get in there too so keep an eye out for that. One tip I’ve found helpful now that I’ve done this twice is to put a table cloth under the baby’s high chair. We have one of those high chairs that straps on top of a regular chair, so I took it off and spread the table cloth out on the floor then put the baby in the middle. This works best if the table cloth is washable so when you are done you can just stuff it in the washing machine.

You’ll likely think of more activities as you brainstorm 1st Birthday Party Ideas but the key here is to keep it simple and where possible include other people. Especially if you have older kids coming (like cousins or older siblings) put them in charge of the activities so you can relax and enjoy the moment more. Bonus older kids tend to be good at getting younger kids’ attention and getting them involved in activities too.

Organizing 1st birthday party ideas

What ever ideas you have for baby’s first birthday party it’s a great idea to write them down somewhere. I say this because the first year can be so overwhelming with all the changes and fun, and snuggles, and baby giggles (oh so cute). It’s an amazing time with loads of adjustments.

And in all the excitement it can be easy to forget things, or misplace something purchased in advance. I’ve done this twice now and both times I’ve completely missed something. Heck the first time I forgot I meant to make the cake the day before so was scrambling to finish it as the guests were walking in.

From one Mamma to another, it’s worth celebrating this time you’ve spent. The healing your body has done, and most importantly the joy and love your little one is bringing to your life. They may not remember it but you will, so if nothing else celebrate Motherhood 😉 and the fun times.