How To Plan a First Birthday Party

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How To Plan a First Birthday Party

The first birthday is such an exciting time.  It means that your adorable, snuggly little baby is now a toddler, and it means you have successfully been a parent for an entire year.  This means it’s time for a celebration!

Now the question, “How Do You Plan a First Birthday Party”?

First, let’s address who this party is for.  Yes, the party is a first birthday party for your child.  However, your child isn’t going to remember the party and doesn’t care one way or another if you throw a big party.  The first birthday is really for the parents, and that’s perfectly okay. 

I had no shame planning an elaborate first birthday party for my son.  It’s one of the few times I will get to throw him a birthday without him caring what the theme is and what we eat.  Keep reading for my tips on how to make the first birthday party a success.


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1. Decide on a Theme

You can go with anything because your baby is too little to care.  Pick something age-appropriate that you enjoy.  Some theme ideas include the number one, books, movies, Disney, trains, unicorns, and many others. We went with a storybook theme.

Dr. Seuss birthday party invite.

2. Choose an Ideal Time

Think about what time of day your baby is happiest.  Is it in the morning?  If so, a breakfast party might be best.  Is it after the midday nap?  Then go for a late afternoon party.  You want the time of day where your baby is most likely to be well-rested, well-fed and happy.


3. Pick a Date

If your baby’s actual birthday is mid-week, consider having the party on a weekend to allow more people to attend.


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4. Determine What You Will Do With Cards and Gifts

When people come to a birthday party, they plan to bring a card and a gift.  This will result in a stack of toys and clothes and cards.  If you need those things for your baby, then that’s great.  If not, consider alternative options, and make your wishes clear on the invites.  For example, I really didn’t want a stack of cards, so I requested that in lieu of cards people bring a book with a note to my son written inside.  This built his library substantially and won’t just get tossed or thrown in a box like cards would. 

If you don’t have space for a lot of gifts, suggest that people make a donation to your baby’s college fund instead of bringing a gift.  These donations are tax deductible and won’t add to the huge number of baby items you already have.

6 science based baby board books

5. Choose Food That Works for Adults and Your Baby

The party will likely consist of a lot of adults, but you want food that your baby can eat as well.  You could even add some foods that fit your theme. We tied all the food into different picture books and had a mix of fun snacky foods and sandwiches.


6. Keep the Smash Cake Basic

The pictures of a baby covered in cake are absolutely adorable, so it stands to reason that you want to provide a cute smash cake that fits with the theme of your party.  This is fine but know that traditional frosting is a lot better for smashing than fondant.  My son had an adorable, themed smash cake with a fondant design.  The only problem was when he went to smash it, it just bounced because the fondant didn’t smash.  He grabbed a piece of fondant and chewed on the sugar and no interest in the rest of the cake.  At his second first birthday party, his cake had basic frosting and he had a lot for fun smashing it and making a mess.


7. Keep Your Expectations In Line

Baby is likely not going to get all that excited about opening presents.  Toys may result in some excitement, but if you open a toy for baby to play with right away, he likely won’t want to pay attention to any other presents.

Baby sitting with present.

8. Keep the Party Short

A lot of people, food, decorations and gifts can be overly stimulating.  Even if well-rested, your baby will likely only be in the mood for a big party for an hour or two.

Baby crying while sitting next to a cake.

There you have my tips for planning a first birthday party.  These are all things I learned from experience, so I wanted to share them with you to help you avoid the same issues.

Your turn – have you planned a first birthday party?  If so, what tips do you have?

How To Plan a First Birthday Party
How To Plan a First Birthday Party

48 thoughts on “How To Plan a First Birthday Party

  • February 5, 2019 at 3:16 pm
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    I love the Dr. Seuss theme for your son’s first birthday party!! These are all great tips for planning a first birthday party and the suggestion of asking for books in lieu of cards and monetary donations to a college savings account are great. At one, they don’t need a lot of toys anyway, and books will be used more than cards. Plus, it will be fun for your son to read the messages in the book as he gets older.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:38 pm
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      The books are definitely easier to organize/store than a bunch of random toys would have been!

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  • February 5, 2019 at 4:10 pm
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    I’m definitely keeping these in mind for when my baby turns one!! You did such an amazing job with your theme!

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:38 pm
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      Thanks! Your baby will be one before you know it!

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  • February 5, 2019 at 7:50 pm
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    This so sweet man I remember these days. I have teens now and birthdays are at the mall or having people over but not the fun of the parties. AWWWW…with the all the cupcakes and balloons. so sweet. enjoy!

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:38 pm
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      The time goes by so fast! I’m definitely soaking up all the baby/little kid years.

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  • February 5, 2019 at 8:13 pm
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    These are cute ideas. We had an epic first birthday for my oldest son. I went all out with the Where The Wild Things Theme. We also did the bring a book instead of a card thing. It’s so much more useful and when we read them now (he’s three) we read who gave him the book. It makes him feel special all over again!

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  • February 5, 2019 at 8:35 pm
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    My daughters first birthday party was so funny. We hired a clown that scared the crap out of her and then he changed into the most low budget Tigger costume known to man. She cried most of the day. We still laugh about it to this day. Keeping expectations in line is key as is keeping it short. I’ve been to some really long first birthday parties in my day.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:36 pm
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      HAHA that sounds like a somewhat comical birthday looking back, but I’m sure it wasn’t so funny in the middle of it!

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  • February 5, 2019 at 8:41 pm
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    Love! I had my son’s first birthday at his daycare. I’m definitely thinking about going all out for his second birthday.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:36 pm
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      That’s fun that you had the party where he could play with his friends even at such a young age!

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  • February 5, 2019 at 9:21 pm
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    I did the exact same thing in regards to books rather than birthday cards for both of my kids in their younger years! It is such a better option as you don’t get stuck with a stack of cards you feel guilty about throwing out. Great post!

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:35 pm
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      The book idea is one that I wish I would have employed a long time ago. It seems like it would work for anything where you would normally give a card.

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  • February 6, 2019 at 12:49 am
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    Still remember the excitement and thrill of organising huge Birthday parties for my kids when they were young..thanks for sharing so much great info to the new moms !!

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:34 pm
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      Throwing kids birthday parties is a lot of fun and you can get really creative with them!

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  • February 6, 2019 at 2:57 am
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    Great tips especially the time of day and keeping it short. I also love the book idea instead of cards! I may suggest this for my older kids too.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:32 pm
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      The books instead of cards could work for almost any party/holiday I would think! I’ve seen it done for baby showers too.

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  • February 6, 2019 at 8:50 am
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    I have to admit, I read the title and my first thought was, the kid won’t remember it. Lol. I love that you addressed that too! It really is a reason for the parent(s) to celebrate though. Great tips, especially about keeping the party short. I think that is something many parents forget when trying to plan a super elaborate and big party.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:32 pm
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      I decided it was important to make it clear from the start that the party is more for the parents, so keep that in mind.

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  • February 6, 2019 at 2:42 pm
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    We just did a baseball theme for my little nephew. Definitely keeping the smash cake simple. We had cute cupcakes and then a basic cake for a smash cake.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:31 pm
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      Cupcakes seem to work really well for the adults to eat.

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  • February 6, 2019 at 2:57 pm
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    These are great tips! Since we don’t have kids yet, I often forget about the fun of planning a baby’s first birthday, but this sorta makes me wish I had a child so I could do it. The cake smashing is always fun (I sorta wanna do that as a 36 year old adult, honestly). And keeping the party short so as not to make the baby irritable is a smart idea as well, never thought about that. Loved this post!

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:30 pm
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      Planning kids parties is a lot of fun! It’s definitely one of many fun parts of parenting.

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  • February 6, 2019 at 4:15 pm
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    Oh, I miss those days! I used to put so much effort into kids parties and now my teens are off making their own memories! Savor it!

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:30 pm
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      It’s amazing how fast the time flies with kids!

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  • February 6, 2019 at 5:09 pm
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    My favorite line…”You can go with anything because your baby is too little to care.” True, but also, a first birthday is a great time to celebrate your little guy with the others in his life that love him dearly and will continue to watch him grow. I love the book idea instead of cards; practical and personal.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:29 pm
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      We ended up with a ton of books, but they are out and get used, versus the cards that would have been tossed into a box for storage.

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  • February 6, 2019 at 6:13 pm
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    These are wonderful tips especially the timing part. Their attention span at this age is max 2 hours, and anything afterwards is hellish with tons of attitudes.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:28 pm
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      You definitely have to find the sweet spot during the day where the baby will be happy!

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  • February 6, 2019 at 6:38 pm
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    We don’t have kids, but I grew up in a family that threw parties for EVERYTHING. These are really useful tips!

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:27 pm
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      That’s so fun that your family throws parties for everything!

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  • February 6, 2019 at 7:02 pm
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    A great post for all mothers who are planning the celebrations of their new born on their first birthday. A first birthday is perhaps the most special.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:26 pm
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      It’s such a fun time to celebrate keeping a tiny human alive and happy for 365 days.

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  • February 6, 2019 at 8:51 pm
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    Our grandson’s first birthday party was two weeks ago. They had a farm theme. Don’t be afraid to ask family members if they want to bring food—some will offer, but others are more than willing to help out if asked.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:26 pm
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      Asking family members to help is a great idea! My mom and aunt both helped with the party.

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  • February 6, 2019 at 10:55 pm
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    Understanding that the first party is for the parents is so key. So many times parents plan for the child only and then are disappointed because the baby doesn’t understand or care. You were spot on with your tips. Great post.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:25 pm
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      Thanks! It definitely is important to be clear on expectations from the beginning so everyone is still happy after the party.

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  • February 7, 2019 at 5:41 am
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    What a cute party! We just kept it simple…us and the baby because we knew he wouldn’t remember anyway!

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:24 pm
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      Normally keeping it simple would have been my go-to. I’m not sure what possessed me that I decided to go all out.

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  • February 8, 2019 at 12:30 am
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    I’m a professional over-compensator. I try to throw ridiculous parties for my kids each year. I’ll have to remember to plan more!

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:23 pm
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      Haha! Planning definitely helps make throwing crazy parties easier.

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  • February 10, 2019 at 2:40 am
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    Great tips Lauren! Planning a party is one of my most favorite things!

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:11 pm
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      Thanks! It was one of the first parties I’ve planned, but I actually had a lot of fun with the planning.

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  • February 10, 2019 at 1:32 pm
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    These are great tips! Especially in regard to the smash cake and keeping your expectations in line. If you end up getting a fancy birthday cake (fondant, etc.) a lot of places will give you a smash cake for “free” so you get a pretty cake and one they can actually smash.

    In terms of expectations – our little one didn’t smile at all, or want to interact with anyone. Our entire family showed up from out of state and she barely wanted to see them. Keep it simple and know that the party is for you the first year. If you LO isn’t into it, don’t force anything 🙂

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:10 pm
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      We had a family friend make the cake for my son and she made the top layer as his smash cake and the bottom layer as the adult cake. In theory I knew it would all be covered in fondant, but I did anticipate how difficult that would be to smash.

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  • February 11, 2019 at 7:50 pm
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    The first birthday is one to remember. Each part of the party planning process can be as easy or complicated as you choose to make it. This guide is helpful for anyone who hasn’t planned a birthday party before and provides simple tips to make it special.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 11:07 pm
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      The first birthday can definitely span a wide range of tastes from a simple get together to an elaborate party.

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  • February 11, 2019 at 11:37 pm
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    That’s great to hear that he likes reading the messages in the books now that he’s older!

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