Planning baby’s first birthday party: 7 tips to prevent complete disaster

Congratulations! Your baby is one—and you’ve all survived the first year of parenthood. It’s time to celebrate.

Photo @ashmarmac via Instagram

Don’t stress over planning a Pinterest-perfect, elaborate first birthday party. Since your little tyke isn’t old enough to demand a princess theme or Paw Patrol bash, you get to choose how to mark the occasion. (This won’t be the case in a few years, so take advantage while you still can.) Check out our ideas for easy birthday themes here, and follow these tips for making sure the day doesn’t end in tears.

1. Limit the guest list
Although a huge party sounds great in theory, you may want to keep it small and simple for a first birthday party. Consider a family-only party, especially if you have a small space or a sensitive baby who doesn’t do well in big, noisy social settings. If you decided you want to invite your entire mom’s group (and all their babies), this will take some planning. (And vigilant baby-proofing.)

2. Plan around your baby’s naptime
This may sound kind of obvious, but the most convenient times for adults to socialize are not always the best times for babies. If you’re inviting guests with infants or toddlers, it’s impossible to plan around everyone’s differing nap schedules. But generally, earlier in the day is better for most kids. Consider a brunch party or afternoon shindig instead of something in the evening, and make sure the party is only an hour or two long. You don’t want to run into the witching hours, and so much sensory stimulation and social time means the birthday girl or boy will get tired out pretty quickly.

3. Don’t pick the weekend right after her 12-month shots
Some babies can be extra cranky, under the weather or out of sorts for a few days after their well-baby appointment and one-year inoculations. Wait a week, or throw your first birthday party before the doctor’s visit, to make sure the guest of honour is at his or her best.

4. Don’t overload yourself
Similarly, if you’re returning to work around the same time, and your one-year-old is experiencing big changes to her daily routine (a new caregiver, different nap times, etc), you might want to give yourself a few weeks to settle in before plunging into party-planning mode. It can be an emotional transition for everyone.

5. Accommodate all ages
If you’re inviting lots of little ones, set out some baby-approved favourites like individually wrapped Mum-Mum cracker packets or a basket of fruit-and-veggie squeeze pouches (they’re easy to clean up and toddlers go crazy over them). Consider setting up more than one makeshift diaper-change station in your house, too. If you haven’t needed to fully baby-proof yet, at least put up safety gates at the top and bottom of the staircase. (Some of your guests may be obsessed with climbing up and down the stairs.)

6. Take pictures ahead of time
After everything is set up and the decorations are out—but before the chaos begins—take a keepsake photo with the birthday boy or girl. Once guests arrive, you’ll be busy hosting, and your baby may be overwhelmed by all the activity and commotion.

7. Set realistic expectations
On social media you’ve probably seen plenty of beautiful tablescapes and homemade cakes that look like they took days to bake. You’ve seen your mom friends upload adorable photos of their one-year-olds doing those trendy cake-smash photoshoots. But don’t obsess or overspend—it’s not a contest. You probably won’t cherish the handmade pennant or bunting you slaved over late at night, and no one will really care if your cupcakes are store-bought or not. But you will want to remember the look on your baby’s face as she “opened” her first present. Your only goals for the first birthday party that truly matter are to have fun with your family and friends, and to pat yourself on the back for raising an increasingly cute small human.

Fruit party

Read more: 
How to throw a winter-white first birthday
20 clever loot-bag ideas under $5
13 fun indoor birthday party ideas for kids

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