Your child’s 1st birthday party is not just a celebration of their first year, but one of yours as well. It’s a birthday party to recall milestones and make memories. While your little one won’t understand the fuss at the time, you will enjoy looking back at photos or videos, and remembering where their birthday traditions began.

Celebrating the completion of your child’s first year of life can be as simple or complicated as you want. You could opt for an intimate gathering with just close family and a small cake for afternoon tea, or it can be a great excuse to have a bunch of friends and their children over.

Of course, your one-year-old will probably not mind which option you choose, but may lose the plot sooner rather than later if surrounded by many unfamiliar people!

And don’t forget, a 1st birthday is also unique as it introduces your child to that world-famous birthday song… and the concept of opening gifts – a skill they learn to perfect as the years go by :-).

Planning a 1st Birthday Party

First birthday party-Planning

You know that the celebration of the 1st birthday party differs from all the others. Organising games and activities are optional to entertain the birthday child and their one-year-old friends. Still, chances are there will be plenty of adults and older siblings to entertain.

As parents, we should plan our baby’s first birthday party in two parts. First is getting ready, and second is having the party. With so many options for a first birthday party, it’s easy to get distracted, so planning the birthday is essential. As you start to get ready, here are some things to think about:

  • 1st Birthday Invitations
  • 1st Birthday themes
  • 1st Birthday Decorations
  • 1st Birthday Food
  • 1st Birthday Party Games and Activities
  • Making 1st Birthday Party Memories

Special memories and traditions are easy to make and don’t have to break the bank. Here are some great 1st birthday party ideas to get you started.

1st Birthday Invitations

First birthday party-Invites

1st birthdays are a bit like 21st’s and weddings. There may be family and friends you want to invite who haven’t seen your baby since they were born, and while many of them may not be able to attend the party, it’s still lovely to extend the invitation.

Including a current photograph of your baby with the invitation is a great way to share the milestone with them, or you can create a collage using favourite pictures from the year.

Who should you invite to a party for a child’s first birthday?

  • Invite essential people in your child’s life, both adults and children, to make the day really special.
  • Limit the number of guests to what your home can easily hold.
  • If other kids are at the party, ensure their parents can accompany them.
  • If other babies will be there, ensure the party area is safe and have extra toys to keep them busy.

Personalised Invites Online

Websites like Moonpig and Zazzle allow you to make your invitations quickly and easily – you can use pictures of your baby if you like and go for something funny, cute, or quirky.

Homemade Invites

If you have lots of time and good design skills, why not make your own on Photoshop or Canva?

Alternatively, you could buy some coloured card and make your cards by hand. Look around a craft shop for extra decorations for your invitations, such as glitter pens and stickers. Or, you can buy crafting materials in many places, such as Spotlight and Hobbycraft.

Facebook Invites

If you need more time, a Facebook event is an effective way to get the details of your baby’s party out to your friends.

It’s a good idea to send a message reminding all your guests of the elements a week before. Remember to text anyone who doesn’t have Facebook too (they do exist!) or doesn’t check their accounts regularly.

1st Birthday Party Themes

First birthday party-Themes

While the birthday child will not appreciate having a party theme, the older children and adults at the party might. And it can create a real sense of atmosphere, especially for those  perfect baby photos.

When deciding on a theme, keep in mind the age of the guests, and try to keep it simple. These party theme ideas are a great place to start.

The Melon Theme

Melons not only make for a funny pun, but they also give you a bright palette to work with.

You could go all out with a watermelon theme and match it with bright pink accents. It’s fresh, fun, and easy to shop for. If your little “one in a melon” needs more colors, a mix of melon tones (and snacks and games!) would burst with fun.

A Perfect Score!

Parents who like golf will love this theme and will enjoy the plan. Large, soft “golf”-looking balls are a must for the area where the babies play.

There must be golf ball balloons and party gifts, and a soft color scheme of white and blue is the perfect background for any pops of green.

One in the Sun

Your only bright spot is turning one. It’s time to enjoy friends outside and have some fun.

Bright yellow, white, and pastel or bright colors that go with them make a grand color scheme. Get the kids out to play, and serve lemonade and beach snacks. Yard games and a sprinkler would also fit in with the idea.

Sweet First Birthday Theme

Many kids try cake for the first time on their first birthday. Why not turn that idea into an all-out sweets theme that will make your guests happy and impressed?

Some easy ideas are candy or cookies the size of a poster board, lots of bright colours, and puffy white balloon bunches that look like “whipped cream.” This is a good theme for not offering lunch as well. Or, invite everyone from 3 to 5 for a dessert party, and remember the candy display table and baggies as party favours.

Berry Theme

Strawberries are always a cute birthday theme, but for your baby’s first birthday, they’re “berry” sweet (sorry, I just couldn’t help myself!).

This birthday party theme is expected, so you should be fine finding paper goods with strawberries on them. Think about giving the kids a red velvet cake with strawberry icing to make them happy.

1st Birthday Party Decorations

If you have a party theme, choosing decorations will be easy.

Remember that some decorations can be choking hazards for young children, so keep them out of reach. Safety first! Focusing on bigger, solid decorations such as posters and banners will lessen any danger associated with decorations. Some safety aspects to remember include:


Balloons are wonderful, and children love them. Just be aware at this age they can be both frightening and dangerous. Just something to think about.

Balloons are considered a choking hazard for young children, as the rubber sits across the windpipe and is difficult to dislodge. If a balloon pops, immediately collect the rubber from the floor. Also, young children try chewing on blown up balloons, having a balloon pop in their face will not only frighten them, but it can also be quite painful.

Long Streamers and Ribbons

Again streamers, bunting and the like could be a really good option for decorating. But these must be kept high to avoid young children getting tangled or even strangled. Ensure no loose lengths are hanging down the wall and any fallen streamers are picked up immediately.

Party Poppers

Party poppers can be a lot of fun at parties, but their contents are choking hazards for young children and are difficult to clean up once popped. They can also be loud and frightening for some kids. It might be best to save party poppers for birthdays in years to come.

1st Birthday Party Food

First birthday party-Food

Party food for a 1st birthday celebration can be as straightforward, or as elaborate as you like.

Remember that you are likely to have adults and young children to cater to, so you’ll need to have a variety of snacks on hand. It’s probably easiest to offer a ‘grazing table’ rather than a sit-down meal, as children will need food, naps, and attention at different times. Plus you won’t be stuck in the kitchen prepping while your guests arrive.

Lots of Finger Foods

Since children are just learning about different tastes and textures, finger foods are a great choice. Fruit slices, cheese cubes, veggie sticks, and mini sandwiches that are small enough to eat in one bite are easy for little hands to hold, and offer a variety of tastes and nutrients.

Good-Tasting Smash Cakes

In the ‘smash cake’ custom, the birthday child gets their cake to smash and eat, making a fun mess. A healthy smash cake made with natural ingredients like mashed bananas, applesauce, and whole wheat flour can introduce your little one to the joys of cake, while keeping it healthy.

Miniature Quiches and Pizzas

Quiches and pizzas made in small sizes are a hit with people of all kinds. Using whole grain or gluten-free crusts and adding colorful vegetables and mild cheeses will make these treats tasty and healthy. Mini models are accessible for little hands to hold and look nice on a table.

Yogurt Parfaits

Yogurt parfaits are healthy and delicious, served in small, clear cups or bowls. When you layer yogurt with pureed fruits and sprinkle granola or crushed cereal, the tastes and textures come together in a way that kids will love. Or, try making your own frozen yoghurt bark, kids love them!

Rainbow Fruit Skewers

Fruit skewers are a great party food because they are bright, colourful, and naturally sweet. Using a range of fruits in season, like watermelon, berries, grapes, and pineapple, to make a display looks nice. Cut the fruits into small, easy-to-handle pieces for safety.

Chicken or veggie Nuggets

Sneak in some healthy goodness with homemade veggie nuggets. Finely grated veggies, chickpea flour, and spices can be used to make these bite-sized treats. Or try out our really healthy cauliflower and chicken nuggets recipe.

Smoothie Shots for Kids

Mini juice shots will cool down the kids at the party. Blend yogurt or milk with kids’ favourite foods, like bananas, berries, and mangoes. Serve with bright straws in small plastic cups for a fun and refreshing treat.

1st Birthday Party Games and Activities

First birthday party-Games

The birthday child and their one-year-old friends won’t need any specific games or activities, but you must ensure a safe place for them to play with some toys.

Older siblings may enjoy some organised entertainment, but remember that the party isn’t just for them, so going overboard is unnecessary.

Check out our Party Games section for some great game ideas for preschoolers, or simply set up fun activities and let them enjoy free play.

Pop a Bubble

Toddlers just never get bored of running behind bubbles. And one year olds love to watch them, they get mesmerised! So this is a great game when you have mixed ages. You’ll need a machine that pumps bubbles, plastic cups, and bubble juice.

The rules:

  • Give every child a plastic cup. For crawlers and sitters, maybe Mum or Dad can hold their cup for them.
  • Show how to chase a bubble and catch it.
  • When you turn on the bubble machine, kids will run after the bubbles before you can even say ‘go’.
  • If you don’t have a bubble machine, engage some of the older kids to blow bubbles by hand, or with a bubble wand.

Adult-Free Zone

This game keeps the little ones busy, so their parents can play too. You’ll need a baby-safe corner, soft rubber sheets, and blankets, baby gates that click together, soft toys, and toys that bounce.

What to do

  • Choose a place in the house that is safe for young children.
  • Baby gates will keep it safe, and the rubber sheets and blankets will cover it.
  • Put everything soft that your babies love to cuddle, squash, and play within the play area.
  • This is where they can run (or roll) around and play without every adult needing to watch them. Make sure that at least one adult is there to watch over them of course.

Fashion Show for Babies

Dress up your kids, and let their cuteness set the ‘ramp’ on fire. You will need costumes for the kids, some great house music, and a runway set up (go all out with fairy lights and a red carpet if you like).

The rules:

  • Tell your guests ahead of time what the theme of the fashion show will be. But tell them the crazier the costumes the better.
  • Set up a place at the party that looks like a runway.
  • Dress the kids in costumes that follow the music and have them run, crawl, or walk down the runway.
  • You could even set up a panel of ‘judges’ to score the kids as they come down the runway. Of course everyone is a winner at this event!
  • Remember to bring gifts for every kid who enters.

Mini-Train Wagon Rides

This game is excellent if you have a bit of space to play. You’ll need: kid’s wagons, streamers, flowers, and stickers

The rules:

  • Put flowers, streamers, and funny stickers on the wagons to make them look more fun.
  • Have the adults put the baby in the wagon and pull it around the garden.
  • Applaud and clap as the baby gets towed around the play area. Just watch the little ones’ faces light up!
  • Give each baby a 1-2 minute turn-around, so everyone gets a go.

Obstacle Race

Babies who can crawl can play this game. Ropes, soft toys, balls, soft blocks, and bouncy balls are needed.

The rules:

  • Use lines to make a race track.
  • Place soft things like toys, balls, and blocks at different points.
  • Make the babies sit at the starting bar and the parents at the finishing line.
  • Ask the parents to call their kids to them when you blow the whistle.

If your budget allows, you may like to hire an entertainer to make the day extra special. Storytellers, face painters, clowns, and magicians are popular with younger children, or you could hire a mini bouncy-castle and ballpit.

1st Birthday Party Memories and Keepsakes

First birthday party-Memories and Keepsakes

When it comes to 1st birthday parties, making memories and creating new traditions is what counts. Your child’s first birthday only ever happens once, so don’t miss the opportunity to create a keepsake that will last a lifetime.

Here are some great ways to capture your child’s special day and create memories and traditions that last a lifetime.

Plant a tree

Each year your tree will grow, putting down roots, and sending out branches into the world, just like your baby. You can even schedule a photoshoot with your child every year in front of ‘their’ tree. If you think you might move from your current house, you could grow your child’s tree in a pot.

Make a Quilt for the First Year

This is a cute way to keep a piece of that adorable baby onesie you can’t throw away. Collect the clothes, blankets, booties and bonnets you want to keep, cut them up, and combine them to make a quilt. This could make an awesome wall hanging for your child’s crib.

Write Down the Story of Your Baby

Choose your best pictures from the last year and put them in an album. You could even write a short story of the things happening in that year, for your family, and the wider world. This is a great way to ‘capture’ the essence of their first year on Earth.

Leave a Mark

Make a mould of your child’s foot or hand with a casting kit. You can now buy casting kits online that make this really easy. Paint the mould with polyurethane so it lasts for a very long time.

Create a Time Capsule

Gather things that remind you of your baby’s first year. You could include things like a picture of your house, or your baby’s crib, a piece of their favourite blanket, or cute piece of clothing, the rattle they loved, and so on. Then take clippings from newspapers, or print off articles online, that really remind you of what was happening this year.

Give your child their ‘time capsule’ on their 18th or their 21st birthday. What an amazing keepsake!

Last Thoughts

Your baby’s first birthday is a really important and special milestone, so make sure you plan for it, and include some elements that will last their lifetime. But, remember to look out for yourself too. You can easily overdo the event, and find that you’re mostly burnt out by the time the big day arrives. Sometimes friends and family will just want to show up and enjoy some good food, good conversation, and just ohh and ahh over your little one. Keep it simple!

For hundreds more birthday party ideas, check out our Preschoolers birthday section.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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Louie Liu

Where to order all those food for kids if we don’t know how to make it ourselves?

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Louie – you can often get food from your local supermarket but there are also some ideas here for making things:http://www.kiwifamilies.co.nz/topic/preschoolers/birthdays-preschoolers/birthday-food/ Good luck!


Some great ideas here – I was beginning to stress about my baby’s upcoming 1st birthday, trying to think of activities for every child of all ages…this article has been extremely helpful!

Rochelle Gribble

Oh great! Hope you have a wonderful party!

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