First birthday parties are like baby showers. People are shocked if you don’t have one but you’re given hell if you go all out. Somehow among all the ‘parenting’ and raising a small human being you have to find a happy middle ground in the party department. To make it all just that little bit more simple here are my 9 Steps for Throwing a First Birthday Party!
So if you’ve been following me for a while now you’ll know how much I was looking forward to planning Mister L’s First Birthday! I know a lot of people these days don’t put a lot of stall in first birthday parties, I mean what does the baby know anyway, but I felt like it was the beginning of only a handful of years where my baby boy would let me throw him a cute party with all the trimmings. Plus I’ve heard the story so many times I’ve lost count, of how my friends’ children grew up and no longer wanted to do stuff with mum and dad anymore because it’s not cool. Well be damned if I was going to miss an opportunity to throw him a cute party before he outgrows it!
The topic of what to do for L’s birthday was something I started thinking about and discussing all the way back in December…. you know when he was only 8 months old. But even then I felt the sting of competition and the stupid need to throw some crazy extravaganza. Now I’m not a complete cuckoo, I know he doesn’t really know what’s going on or even need that many damn toys. But there was a primal need in me to show him some kind of recognition for the day.
Naturally I started haunting Pinterest every chance I got and I now have a collection of themes for every birthday until he’s 10! But actually deciding about what to do or more importantly what not to do for his First was driving me bonkers.
I eventually used a process to narrow my thoughts down and actually got to the planning stage but it did take a while, and let’s not talk about how many times I changed my mind. So I thought it might be a grand idea to share with you my process, just in case you need a helping hand here too.
9 Steps for Throwing a First Birthday Party
Step 1: Ignore the BS
Ignore the hype and the need to compete with everyone else’s child’s birthday party. Yes I mean ignore the beautifully styled extravaganza’s on Instagram! Yeah I know how hard this step is to actually do. But try.
Step 2: Activity
Decide on what you actually WANT to do and what you can AFFORD to do. After tossing around every idea on the planet I eventually cut the festivities into a list and started eliminating them with the practical senses of my Banker Manager husband. Here’s what my list looked like:
– A trip to the Zoo or AQWA with family and some friends – Scratch! Kid is too young to appreciate either of those things. Save it for when he’s older.
– A BBQ at the Park – Again he’s a bit young to fully appreciate the park and I’d have to spend the whole time on the play equipment with him. Again save it for when he’s older and I can just supervise from the side.
– A BBQ at Home – After writing and re-writing the guest list a thousand times I decided this was going to be a costly affair no matter how I organized it. So scratch!
– Full on Kids Party at Home complete with Dinosaur or Superhero theme – Nope. No need for that either. He’s 1. He barely understands that another child is a human being let alone how to play with them. Save this for when he’s older too.
– Afternoon Tea at Home in the backyard – Ding! Ding! Ding! This is what I ended up deciding to go with for a few reasons. Firstly it wasn’t going to cost the world as I was only putting on afternoon tea, not a full lunch. I could invite a handful of kids to play and they could run around the backyard with the dog (didn’t end up happening of course) and if Mister L chose to join in he could. It also gave me space for people without wondering about how many people would fit in my house. Lastly it could be cut down to only an hour or two so Mister L didn’t end up too over stimulated.
Step 3: Guest List
Now that I knew what I was doing I could write and tailor the guest list accordingly. I found this to be a far easier way to proceed rather than the other way round, deciding on people first then the activity. But if that works for you, then go ahead and switch them around.
My problem was drawing a line as to which friends to invite, but once I started looking at it as a chance to catch up with a few friends and have some fun with my boy (let them see how big he’s gotten too) I found it easier to pick. I’ll save the ‘everyone from playgroup or kindy’ invited parties for when he’s older. If he doesn’t mind who’s there then I can enjoy myself instead!
Step 4: Pick a time (and date)
Something that plagued me for a little while, I will admit, was deciding on what time of the day to have it. Anyone with a bub around this age will be with me here. The following scenarios ran through my mind;
“Will it be a good nap day and he’ll go down beautifully and wake up happy?” or
“Will the crazy bugger decide to drop his morning nap and turn into a psychopathic monster?”
“Will he be happier in the morning or afternoon?” or should I not worry at all?
Trust me on this. You above anyone else know your baby and his/her mood swings. L for example is happiest first thing in the morning between 5am and 9am. But alas no one is going to come to a party then… well except maybe Daddy. The next best time of day for him varies to how well he naps or whether he fights me on them…. which of course he decided to attempt to drop his morning nap in the week leading up to his birthday! In the end I decided to plan it for straight after his second nap and just pray that he would go down well.
Luckily it all turned out OK in the end. Mister L did fight me on both his naps that day but eventually gave in and still napped well. We had a few tears when he first woke up and people had started to arrive but he settled in after a few games with daddy and he had a chance to acclimatize to his surroundings. After that he was a happy go lucky boy laughing and playing with everyone and enjoying his cake.
Just remember to plan your day around your bub and be prepared to kick people out after a couple of hours if they’re getting too overstimulated.
Step 5: Pick a Theme
So this ended up being the hardest part! I mean have you seen what comes up when you type ‘First Birthday Party’ into Pinterest? But again I decided I wanted to save some of the really cool themes for when he’s older.
I swear though if he doesn’t want a dinosaur theme with homemade, tie on dinosaur tails when he’s older I may just plan it for myself!
In the end I went pretty simple. Rainbow colours, inspired by the awesome cake I had selected months ago (which you can find the recipe here). It was easy to decorate for, I could get all the bits and pieces I needed in some nice coordinating colours and it was cute and not based around a TV character (I wanted to avoid those till Mister L is at least old enough to tell me his favourites!).
The great thing about themes these days is there are so many to choose from. Just do a quick google search or Pinterest search, or why not visit some of my favourite party shop websites for inspiration? Check out One Magic Day or Ruby Rabbit, both Australian owned party supplies stores with heaps of inspirational ideas and plenty of goods.
Step 6: Shop Small, Buy Local
I’m a big believer in supporting small and local businesses, it probably has a lot to do with my parents owning a couple of retail businesses when I was a teenager. However in the last few years I’ve become an even bigger believer in supporting small stores where ever and whenever I can.
A complaint I hear often is that small businesses (especially those based online only) take a while to make/deliver things. My answer to that? Be prepared. Do your research early and plan ahead, small businesses don’t always have the buying power the big box retailers have and some even make the goods themselves, this all takes time.
So where ever I can I buy local (to support the families in my own town) and shop small (like these awesome Aussie women with their party stores above). So get prepared and start shopping! Instagram is a great base for Aussie Mamma made items if you’re wondering where to look.
Step 7: Decide on what food/drink
This step all comes down to the accumulation of the above info. Will there be kids at your party? Then you may need to think small sandwiches and fruit platters. Will there be a full meal or just afternoon tea? The key is to think practically and outsource whatever you can. Having a bbq at the park? Ask everyone to bring a platter. Don’t laden yourself down with huge amounts of cooking or else you’ll miss all the fun!
Don’t forget those pesky food allergies as well. Having simple fresh fruits and veggies with some homemade dips is a great way to cater for most people. Also, why not look at grabbing a gluten/dairy free cracker like SaKaTa or similar. This way non-glutards can still enjoy the food whilst the glutards among us don’t have to worry about cross contamination.
If you do have food intolerancies to work with, do your research early. Why not check out my post on how to cater for glutards like me here.
Step 8: To Present or not to Present
It’s pretty common these days to see ‘No presents please’ on an invite and I can understand why. Most children have enough toys and clothes that another 20 items is just going to make your house burst! Have a think though as to whether or not you want gifts at your party. I didn’t bother with the no presents please spiel but did ask people not to go overboard.
I have to say we got some great gifts and Mister L is thoroughly enjoying them (as I type he is sitting in his pop-up castle reading a book with his pet Stegosaurus) but we also got some really thoughtful gifts too, including a voucher for Caversham Wildlife Park to take Mister L to a little later. It really is a personal decision whichever way you go. Just be prepared for people to ignore your requests too!
Step 9: Goodie Bags
The last thing to consider is Loot or Goodie bags. Since our party was pretty low key in the kids department I bought a few simple toys from a dollar store and a few basic chocolates and popped them into little bags that I set aside. That way I was prepared whether the kids who were invited came or not. The thing to remember is age. Always choose age appropriate items for the bags and always hand the goodie bag to the parents, that way they can remove anything they like before the kids get their hands into it.
Whatever you choose to do remember, it may mainly be about celebrating your child turning 1 but it’s also about you surviving this first stressful year of parenting! Hence the reason there was champagne and beautiful cheeses at my son’s party! Hey, he won’t know any different will he?!
Was there anything else I missed? What are your key steps to Throwing a First Birthday Party?! Don’t forget to share the love by commenting and sharing below.