Your child's first birthday is a momentous one. What do you do to celebrate their very first birthday? Questions like these often come up with parents of almost one year olds. The answer to this question is something only your family can answer, but where do you start?
Why should I have a party when my son / daughter will not remember it?
A one year birthday party is not only for your child, but also a celebration of you as parents. Making it through that first year of life is a wonderful occasion, and one that should be celebrated. This should be a party that is a combination of a celebration of the end of babyhood, the beginning of toddler-hood, and the end to your first year as a parents! Sound like a hard task? It does not have to be.
When should I have the party?
This year in particular will be the hardest in terms of timing a party for your child. They are often on a 1 or 2 nap schedule, which leaves little time for the party. There are two great options for this. One is to have a party with a brunch. The other is a late afternoon get together.
If your child only has an afternoon nap, often the time they are the most cheerful is in the morning hours. Use this to your advantage. Your party planning should be focused on morning activities. Have a brunch, instead of lunch, or have an early morning at the park for your friends.
If you child still takes two naps, it might be best to have a party planned for about an hour after they typically wake up from their second nap. This gives your child a chance to get up and adjusted before so many people come over. The time you choose for your party is one main element that will determine whether your child has a good time or not. You would not like it if they had a party for you at 5:30 in the morning if you were not a morning person. Keep this in mind! Timing is everything!
Should we have a theme?
This is entirely up to you. When we had our daughters' first birthdays, we had a theme to each. Our first was an Elmo theme, because she just could not get enough of that little guy. The other was Big Bird because she enjoyed yellow and Sesame Street. Finding a theme can be as easy as looking at what your child likes. If they have a favorite character, this makes your job easy. You can make this your theme, or just take a color from the character and use that for napkins, and decorations. If there is a favorite book they like take that theme, and use it. I have used books as centerpieces before, and it made for cute decorations.
If your child does not have a favorite, you might want to go with their room theme, animal or color. The theme could be as simple as making the cake, napkins, and plates match. You do not have to go all out for decorations. This money can be used in other areas. One or two balloons is really all you need to make it look like a party.
Who should we invite?
The invitation list for a party like this can get large quickly! What you need to do is think of who the baby knows. This is their party. Will all of the people you know make them afraid and not have a good time? If your child tends to get upset and scared during large gatherings then you should limit your guest list to people with what they are the most comfortable. Even inviting just a few Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles can be a large party. If your child likes bustling activity, then you can expand your guest list.
Playgroups can often make a large guest list, after adding in parents and children. If your child has a playgroup of children around their age you can do one of two things. You can either invite them to the main party, or if you are trying to limit their actual birthday party, why not suggest that you do a birthday for all of the playgroup at one time? If the children in the playgroup are just a few months apart, plan on a time that is after all have had their birthday. Just throw a small party during a play date with cupcakes and maybe a few games. This will help cut down on your birthday party, and can still be a way the children can celebrate together.
What food should we serve at the party?
I always recommend a buffet style party. Make sure to include foods that your child likes. If their favorite thing to eat is goldfish, then they should be on the menu! For the adults, have foods out that you can pick up at your local grocery store. Why make this special time one that is going to make your head spin? If you can pick up chicken strips, salad, coleslaw, fruit salad and chips, then why not make it that easy on yourself? This way you will have more time to focus on your child and their day. If you are determined to make the food, make sure it is easy to do, and something that you will have time to make before guests arrive.
What should we do to make the party special?
There are so many unique things you can do to make your child's day special. Just taking pictures and video makes it special. My two favorite ideas for a first birthday party are a picture album and time capsules.
Taking pictures with your guests is a great idea. Once guests have arrived, and the child has gotten used to them being there, try getting a photo of the child with that person or family. Do not take the picture as soon as the guest arrives, as your child is sure to resist this idea. You will only get a bunch of pictures of a crying, newly one year old! After you take their picture, give the guests a piece of paper that they can write a message to the child. You can then take these pictures and messages, and make a great book to give your child when they are older. It will be a nice way for them to remember the special people who were in their lives at this time of their life.
Time capsules are also a great idea. All you will need is a box or container to keep these things in for a long period of time. Ask each guest to bring something for the time capsule. You can do this in lieu of gifts if you would like. You may also add things like the newspaper, or a special book. Then put all of these things in the box and have the child open it at a later date such as their sixteenth birthday, or high school graduation.
Now that you have a few ideas about your party, it is time to start planning! Above all else, remember that no matter what you end up doing, this day will be a special one for you and your child. Happy Birthday!