Your child’s 1st Birthday Party is not only a celebration of their first year, but one of yours as well. It’s a birthday party to recall milestones and make memories, and while your little one will not understand what all the fuss is about at the time, you will both enjoy looking back at photographs 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, the one year old will probably not mind which option you choose, but may lose the plot sooner rather than later if surrounded by many people they are unfamiliar with!

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 first birthday party : 1st birthday invitations : 1st birthday themes : 1st birthday decorations : First birthday food : 1st birthday games and activities : Making 1st birthday memories

Planning a 1st birthday party

A 1st birthday party is quite different to all the others. Organised games and activities are obviously not necessary to entertain the birthday child and their one year old friends, but chances are there will be plenty of adults and older siblings to entertain. Just how you do that is up to you, but remember a first birthday party is about celebrating together and making memories – it’s not about entertaining for entertainments sake.

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

1st birthday invitations

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 he/she was born, and while many of them may not even be able to attend the party, it’s still nice 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 create a collage using favourite photographs from the whole year.

When sending out invitations for a 1st birthday, you need to be clear about who you are inviting. If you are welcoming Mum, Dad and all the siblings, then address the invitation to the whole family. If you plan on making it more of a ‘kid thing’, address it to the individual child you wish to invite. At this young age the child’s Mum or Dad will stay for the party as well, but you won’t have to cater for all of the siblings.

1st birthday themes

While the birthday child will not appreciate having a party theme, the older children at the party might. 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.

  • A Teddy Bears Picnic is always fun for young children, and you will be able to buy your baby a special bear to remember the day. We have some great ideas for a Teddy Bears Picnic in our Party Theme section.
  • Pick a colour and base all your invitations, decorations (and even food) around that. Colour themes are a really inexpensive way to tie your whole party together.
  • Choose a popular children’s character, and buy the party accessories that match. Specialist party shops offer all sorts of accessories including balloons, tablecloths, streamers, banners, plates, cups, loot bags and prizes. You could buy a character toy for your baby to remember the party in years to come.
  • Fairy Tales is a good 1st birthday theme, and we have some great ideas for this in our party themes section. You (or a special member of the family) could buy baby a fairy tale book as a memento of the day.

1st birthday decorations

If you are having a theme for your party, then choosing decorations will be easy. Just remember that some decorations can be choking hazards for young children, so make sure they are kept well out of reach. Focussing on bigger, solid decorations such as posters and banners will lessen any danger associated with decorations. Some safety aspects to keep in mind include:

  • Popped balloons are a very real choking hazard for young children, as the rubber sits across the wind pipe and is difficult to dislodge. If a balloon pops, make sure the rubber is collected from the floor straight away.
  • Fully inflated balloons can also be a problem for young children, especially if they are at the stage where everything stills goes in their mouth. Having a balloon pop in their face will not only give them a fright, it can potentially be quite painful as well.
  • Long streamers and ribbons need to be kept up high to avoid young children getting tangled or strangled. Make sure that there are no loose lengths hanging down the wall, and that any fallen streamers are picked up immediately.
  • Party poppers are fun to have at parties, but their contents are definite choking hazards for young children, and are difficult to clean up once popped. It might be best to save party poppers for birthdays in years to come.

1st birthday food

Party food for a 1st birthday celebration can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. Keep in mind that you are likely to have both adults and young children to cater for, so you’ll need to have a variety of snacks on hand. It’s probably best to offer a ‘grazing table’ rather than a sit down meal, as there will be children needing food, naps and attention all at different times.

Our Birthday Food section offers some great ideas including traditional party food in NZ, food ideas for big groups, and party food for children with food allergies.

1st birthday party games and activities

The birthday child and their one year old friends won’t need any specific games or activities, but you will need to make sure there is a safe place for them to play with some toys. Older siblings may enjoy some organised entertainment, but remember the party isn’t just for them so there is no need to go overboard.

Check out our Party Games section for some great Game Ideas for Pre-schoolers, or simply set up some of these fun activities, and let them enjoy some free play.

  • Bubble Blowing
  • Playdough
  • Sand Pit and Sand Toys
  • Paddling Pool and Toys (Remember to provide supervision!)
  • Bouncy balls, hoops and skipping ropes
  • A collage table where they can cut, draw and paste

If your budget allows, you may like to hire an entertainer to make the day extra special. Storytellers, face painters, clowns and magicians are all popular with younger children, or you could hire something like a bouncy castle for children of all ages to use.

Making 1st birthday party memories

When it comes to 1st birthday parties, making memories and new traditions is what really counts. Here are some great ways to capture your child’s special day, and create memories and traditions that last a life time.

  • Start a tradition of buying your child a book for every birthday. In the front of the book, write your birthday wishes, the year, and the birthday they are celebrating.
  • Buy a plain calico teddy bear and have everybody at the party sign their name using a permanent marker or fabric pen.
  • Take a photo of the birthday child with their friends in a particular spot. It may be around the birthday table, at the front of the house, or on the couch in the lounge. Every birthday take the same photo, in the same spot. As your child grows you’ll see different friends come and go, and few special ones that last a life time.
  • Have everyone at the party write a special wish or note to the birthday child, and put it in a time capsule to be opened at their 21st. You may be surprised by how many of the well-wishers are present at the 21st to hear them read out.
  • Buy a special book, and have all the guests at the party write a favourite memory or milestone they remember from your child’s first year.

If nothing else, remember to take plenty of photographs, and try to get them into an album before you forget who was who. Your child may not remember the birthday party itself, but they will make their own memories by looking through the album over time.

Happy 1st Birthday!

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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: 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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