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75 Brilliant 1st Birthday Party Ideas: Big & Small

Updated
Your child won’t remember it, but you will, so make it special.

Your child’s first birthday is an emotional milestone. Not only are you celebrating an entire year of them being earthside, but you’re also celebrating your own victory. You survived the first year of parenthood!

Creating a special first birthday is important to many parents. Your little one might not remember it, but you will.

We have put together a list of 75 1st birthday ideas. With all of these options, you’ll find something that reflects your family, your little one, and the wild year that you have just had.


1st Birthday Ideas

Whether you’re looking for a party theme, decoration ideas, gift inspiration, or a food plan, we have 75 special ways to make this birthday one for the photo albums! You can choose just one idea or combine a few for an absolutely epic day.

1. Teddy Bear Picnic

Invite everybody to your favorite park and ask them to bring a picnic blanket, their own packed lunch, and a teddy bear. This adorable first birthday idea is super easy to plan, there’s no food prep involved from you, and it gets all your favorite people together in one place.

2. Family Day Trip

Keep the first birthday simple and low-key. Go somewhere they love and let them enjoy the transition from babyhood to toddlerhood. This is an excellent idea for mini-introverts as it won’t overwhelm them with tons of party guests.

3. Beach Party (At Sea or at Home)

Whether your baby was born in the height of summer or in the depths of winter, you can still have a beach party. If it’s summer, have your favorite folk meet at the beach for a picnic and a paddle in the sea.

If it’s winter, have a DIY beach party at the house. Set up a water table and a sandpit, and ask everyone to arrive in funky beach gear!

4. Cake Smash

A cake smash is a favorite milestone for many parents, especially if you’ve limited sugar for the first year of their life! The idea is you set them up with a beautiful cake and let them smash it, eat it, and smear it all over the place. You can do this at home or in a studio, where a professional will take photos.

5. Family Photoshoot

Speaking of photos, why not hire a professional photographer to capture what your family looks like now? You’ve come a long way in 12 months, and the fact is: your family will have changed in so many ways. Ask a photographer to meet you at a park and shoot photos as you enjoy playing in the grass or on the swings.

6. Frame the Milestones

Print out all your favorite milestones from the last year: their first cute outfit, their first day trip, their first bite of food, the first time crawling. Frame the photos and place them around the house or the party venue. Guests will love it!

7. Buzzing Bee-Day

Looking for aesthetic party themes? We love the idea of a buzzing bee theme. It is their b-day after all!

You can buy bright yellow decor, a lemon and honey cake, and place bee and hive toys all around the party.

8. Wild One Party Theme

Parents love this one: it’s a silly play on words (wild one) and incorporates animals, which many toddlers love. Why not buy a ‘wild one’ balloon arch, decorate it with greens, blues, and neutrals, and have a jungle-themed birthday cake?

9. Get Underwater

If your one-year-old loves splashing around, try an underwater theme. No need to bring everybody to the pool. Simply get blue decorations, shark-decorated cupcakes, seaside snacks, and lots of bubbles. If you live near an aquarium, you could visit there with your family before heading home for the grand party!

10. Unicorn Madness

Unicorns are magic, just like your one-year-old! This party theme gives you an excuse to dress in pastel colors, add sparkle to your makeup, and create a glamorous buffet. If you want to go the extra mile with decorations, this might be just the theme for you.

11. Into the Woods

Here’s another outdoorsy recommendation: get into the woods. We love the outdoor ideas because it means less prep for you. Meet at your favorite forest and ask people to bring their own picnic.

If the weather doesn’t suit, you can set up a woodland birthday theme at your house or a venue. Hire an indoor teepee, use orange and brown balloons, and get lots of woodland creatures or stuffed animals to join in. You could even create a DIY woodland path for guests to walk through when they arrive.

12. Go Crazy With Balloons

Whether you’re keeping it low-key or going all out, balloons are always a good idea. They can tie a theme together, and they really scream birthday! Whether you want to do a balloon arch, a balloon garland, or a balloon backdrop, guests will love it — and so will your baby.

13. Pretty in Pink — and White

A pink and white-themed birthday party is always going to be gorgeous. Set up pink and white balloons, make a strawberry and white chocolate cake, and dress your little one in the prettiest outfit.

14. 12 Photo Board

Print out your favorite photo of your child from each month of their life so far. Glue them onto a plain wooden board and prop the board up at your house or the party venue. Guests will love looking back on how much they’ve changed.

15. Handprints From Then vs. Now

When your little one was born, they likely had their hand and footprints taken. Take them again now and put them side by side with the original prints to see how much they’ve grown! You can frame this and prop it up at home or your party venue.

16. Baby Bear Birthday Theme

If you like the idea of the teddy bear picnic but want to be more intentional with the theme, you’ll love the baby bear idea. Get bear-decorated cupcakes, paw print cookies, and bear plates for your guests to eat from. You can also give little bear gift bags filled with sweets and treats.

17. Mermaids and Mermen

Kids will rave about this birthday party for weeks! While your little one might be too young to grasp what’s happening, they will love the bright colors, sparkly textures, and the paddling pool you can fill if the weather is warm enough.

If you have the means to do so, why not hire Ariel to sing at the party?

18. Rainbow Theme

This theme is very special, especially if you’re celebrating a rainbow baby. You can do this for a large party or if you’re just having a small get-together. All you need are some rainbow-decorated baked goods (cookies, donuts, cupcakes), a rainbow-colored balloon arch, and some colorful M&Ms placed around the venue.

19. Indoor Play Area

If you don’t have the time to put together your own theme, you can host the party elsewhere. Indoor play areas with slides, ball pits, and obstacle courses are great for one-year-olds. Plus, the venue usually provides a separate room for guests to enjoy lunch and cake.

20. Bird Watching

When your baby is around the year mark, they’ll start noticing the world around them much more. This includes animals, especially birds! Take your little one bird-watching for their first birthday. You can keep it intimate: just your family, or invite your friends, too!

21. Visit the Farm

Take your little one to a nearby farm where they can see and pet some animals. This is a lovely idea for your family unit, but guests will love it, too. Find a nearby cafe to visit afterward to fill those hungry tummies.

22. Let’s Go to the Zoo

Trust us — your guests will love this. Meet at the zoo and wander around at your own pace. If your one-year-old is toddling, let them explore (plus, it might tire them out for bedtime). Point out the animals and encourage them to repeat the noises.

23. A Walk in the Park

You can’t beat a visit to the park. If your one-year-old is toddling or even a bit more mobile, they will love this. Swing on the swings, go down the slide and explore the features of the playground. Ask guests to bring a picnic, too, so you don’t have to cook.

24. Feed the Ducks

If you go to the park, bring some duck food and go to the pond. Your birthday boy or girl will love sprinkling the food around and watching the ducks approach them.

25. Wrap EVERYTHING!

If your little one likes unwrapping things, wrap up everything around the house (as well as their actual birthday presents). We’re talking books, spoons, coasters, their own clothes… anything. They will just love the experience of ripping through the paper and throwing it around.

26. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Buffet

Most kids love The Very Hungry Caterpillar book. Why not put a buffet together of everything the caterpillar eats in the story? To refresh your memory, this includes apples, pears, strawberries, cake, ice cream, cheese, watermelon, and many more tasty treats!

27. Toddler Snack Buffet

If other children attend the party, it’s important to ensure they’re well-fed. Make a toddler snack buffet with yummy treats like goldfish, puff sticks, Cheerios, wafers, and fruit. The kids will love it, and parents will be happy they don’t have to pack 500 snacks!

28. Parent Snack Buffett

Of course, if toddlers are coming, that means you’ll have parents there, too. Make the party unforgettable by providing tasty snacks for them, too. They won’t want to eat goldfish and dry Cheerios, so why not make a cheese board or have a chocolate fondue?

29. Dance Party!

Whether you’re having many guests around or having a quiet family day to commemorate the occasion, a dance party can never go wrong. Put on your little one’s favorite songs and dance around the house.

30. Ball Pit Fun

I’ve never met a toddler who didn’t love a ball pit. Whether you’re buying them one for their birthday or can visit a play area with a ball pit, this is a fantastic way to have a ball for your child’s very first birthday!

31. Bubbles, Bubbles, and More Bubbles

This is a super affordable way to have fun. Whether you need ideas for the party or are looking for a gift to get your one-year-old, bubbles will always work a treat. You could even get a bubble machine — it saves you from huffing and puffing for hours!

32. Get Fingerpainting

Lay out a white canvas or large sheet of paper (preferably outside) and let your one-year-old go crazy with the painting. This is a creative way to celebrate, but it also leaves you with a memorable and special art piece. Put it in a gorgeous frame and hang it up in your home — guests will ask where you got this unique art piece!

33. First Trip Around the Sun

Your little one has made one full trip around the sun, and hey, mama, you survived it, too. Why not throw a special sun-themed birthday party? Ask everyone to dress in yellow, and buy bright balloons and a sun-themed birthday cake to enjoy this special day.

34. Storybook Party

Do you have a little reader on your hands? Make the day special by surprising them with a reading nook. If you’re having a party, ask everyone to dress as their favorite book character.

If guests insist on bringing presents, ask them to bring their favorite childhood book. You’ll be surprised by the eclectic mix of stories your little one will receive!

35. Winter ONE-derland

If your little one was born during the colder months, you will love this idea. Make a sparkling winter wonderland-themed birthday party using silver and white decor (like balloons, cake toppers, and tablecloths) and provide a yummy cake, hot chocolate, and fake snow for kids to play with.

36. ONE Happy Camper

Another play on words, you can take this prompt literally or figuratively. If going literally, why not take your little one camping for their first birthday?

If you want to use this as a theme, pitch a large tent in the backyard, make a trail mix buffet, provide your guests with s’mores, and sing songs around the campfire.

37. “One I Am”

Kids love Dr. Suess and all his silly stories. The “One I Am” theme is a play on “Sam I Am” from Green Eggs and Ham. You can get your toddler a cat-in-the-hat hat, make Dr. Suess-themed food, and read some Dr. Suess to your little one and the guests.

A Great Idea

If you have twins, you can have Thing 1 and Thing 2-themed items.

38. Baby Diner

If you’re looking for some fantastic first birthday party food ideas, we love this one. Since you’re celebrating your small fry, why not make a diner experience? Get burgers, hot dogs, fries, cakes, donuts, and pies. Guests will love it — order up!

39. Pajama Party

Ask your guests to come in their pajamas, set up a breakfast buffet, and put a movie on. It’s unlikely your little one will sit still for a film, but it will keep guests entertained while you mingle with other guests, read to your little one, and enjoy the company.

40. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

This is our one-year-old’s favorite song, and he would be super excited if he had a party based around it. For this, make a star balloon arch, star-shaped foods, and treats, and after singing happy birthday, the guests can sing Twinkle Twinkle. Your one-year-old will be thrilled!

41. A Cookie Bar

It’s a first birthday party, so a regular bar is probably off the cards. But a cookie bar is second best! Either ask your guests to make a batch of cookies or hire a baker. Set up a bar with various flavors of milk, and have friends and family over for a few hours.

42. Sophie the Giraffe

Every child that has ever had a Sophie giraffe has loved it. It’s a great soother and a life-saver during those long teething nights. So why not celebrate Sophie and your child by having a themed party?

You can make Sophie the Giraffe cookies, cake toppers, and a banner. Your little one will love seeing their favorite toy multiply before their eyes!

43. Photo Booth

Once you’ve picked your party theme, you can use activities to keep your guests occupied rather than providing entertainment. You can’t go wrong with a photo booth! You can set one up yourself or hire a photo booth. Ask guests to hang the pictures on a board nearby so you can keep them — your little one will love reminiscing on these years down the line.

44. Set Up Tunnels

Wondering how to keep the other kids at the party entertained? Make an obstacle course with tunnels, a ball pit, and pop-up tents. Parents will also get a chance to sit back and enjoy the buffet while their children play.

45. Make a Time Capsule

Get everybody to write a note to your little one: something they love about them or a funny memory. Everybody puts the note in the time capsule alongside a special item: maybe it’s a toy, a piece of confetti from the party, or something they want them to have when they’re older. They can open the time capsule when they turn 18.

46. Play Musical Chairs

Games are an excellent idea for a first birthday. You can’t go wrong with musical chairs. Your one-year-old probably can’t get in on all the action yet, but they’ll love watching the chaos.

47. Bake a Cake

Okay, parents. This is your time to shine. There is something so special about making your child’s first birthday cake.

For our son’s first birthday, we made him a lemon and blueberry cake, and he loved it. But the experience of making it while he was asleep, listening to our favorite songs, and showing it to him the next day was something else. Singing happy birthday for the first time was surreal — I had tears in my eyes!

48. Cupcake Garland

If you need to make quick party decorations, you can’t get much speedier than this cupcake garland. All you need is a needle, string, and tons of cupcake holders. String the cupcake holders together (make sure they alternate directions so they don’t all gather together) and hang it up.

49. A Bouncy Castle

If you want your little one to sleep well on their first birthday, a bouncy castle will do the trick! Hire one, set it up in the garden, and let your guests bounce until their heart’s content.

50. Streamers and Balloons

Hang streamers and balloons from your entryway to welcome guests. If you don’t have helium, this is a super smart hack — the balloons can just dangle there. Toddlers and kids will love entering the party through the colorful fun!

51. Number One Photo Wall

Put together a bunch of photos from your child’s first year in the shape of the number “1”. Guests will enjoy looking at all the cute photos, and you can leave it up for a few days to reminisce about the last 12 months.

52. Confetti Wall

Your little one will likely still be sitting in a high chair on their first birthday. It’s a lovely idea to decorate the wall behind them — it works well for photos, too.

Why not make a confetti wall? Tape large bits of confetti to the wall in a cute pattern. This is a simple but effective decor idea!

53. Paper Chain Decor

If you have older kids, get them involved by asking them to make a paper chain. This is very easy and cheap but will keep them busy for a few hours while you clean the house and bake a cake. They can turn this into a wall hanging or garland — the choice is theirs!

54. Sequined Letter Banner

Letter banners are always cute, but add sequins, and they will stand out at the party. You can have it say “happy birthday” or “one” or your child’s name — whatever you’d like.

55. Brunch Party

Your little one might be on a one-nap day by now. In that case, it’s important that they keep to their schedule, even on their birthday. Why not invite guests around for brunch at 9:30? Feed guests croissants, pancakes, and coffee, and your little one can still go down for their midday nap.

56. Make a Slideshow

When guests arrive, have a slideshow on the TV to showcase your child’s first year. This is a super special way to include guests in moments they might have missed. Plus, you can relive the last 12 months and how beautiful they were.

57. Pizza Party

Keep it simple. Invite your close family and friends, order pizza, and hang out. Your little one can try some pizza, too. Add in a cake smash, and this is a very low-key but memorable way to mark the occasion.

58. Stacking Cups

Product Image of the KIDSTHRILL Rainbow Colors Baby Stacking Cups for Toddlers, Tall Baby Stacking...

Let’s get into some toy ideas. Whether you’re shopping for your little one or guests insist on buying them a toy, we want to share some great ideas that are developmentally appropriate for one-year-olds.

A foolproof idea is stacking cups, like the ones from KidsThrill. The idea is that the kids can stack them either by building them up or putting them inside each other. This helps with precise motor skills.

59. Stacking Rings

Product Image of the Fisher-Price Toddler Toy Giant Rock-A-Stack, 6 Stacking Rings with Roly-Poly...

Around 12 to 18 months, toddlers will learn to stack rings. They can take these off and return them to the stick, providing lots of fun!

60. Pop-Up Toys

Product Image of the Battat – Cause-And-Effect Toy – Developmental Toy With Buttons & Colors –...

Pop-up toys are a fantastic gift idea for one-year-olds. This lets them use their pointer finger to push the button and press the pop-up back down.

61. Shape Sorters

Product Image of the Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube - Classic Wooden Toy With 12 Shapes - Kids...

Shape sorters are a great gift for a one-year-old. Our little one received one for his birthday; even seven months later, he still loves it. This allows your child to slot different shapes into the appropriate holes, which is amazing for their problem-solving skills.

62. Walker Wagon

Product Image of the Grey Elephant-2-in-1 Baby Learning Walker Wooden Strollers - Toddler Baby Push...

A walker wagon is an invaluable toy in many ways. Not only does this help with your child’s walking skills, but kids can transport items from one area of the room to another.

63. Balls

Toddlers love balls. A thoughtful gift idea is to create a ball basket of various kinds. Maybe ask your guests to bring a ball as a present, and you’ll be surprised by how many different kinds of balls you can get.

You can find knobby balls, outside balls, sensory balls, popper balls, and more.

64. Lift-the-Flap Books

Toddlers love lifting flaps and revealing photos underneath. This is a wonderful way to get children interested in reading. It gives them something to do while you read the story. Plus, it helps with their fine-motor skills.

65. Cars, Broom Broom!

Whether you have a little girl or boy, your one-year-old will love toy cars. They provide endless fun. The Melissa & Doug pull-back cars are a popular choice, as are the Alasou Animal Car Toys (our toddler loves these!).

66. Making Music

Product Image of the fisca 3 in 1 Musical Instruments Toys, Electronic Piano Keyboard Xylophone Drum...

For our son’s first birthday, we bought him a toy piano. He loves making music, and this gave him the opportunity to play the piano all day if he wanted to! We chose the Fisca 3-in-1 instrument, and he has used it every day since.

67. Play Kitchen

Product Image of the Teamson Kids Little Chef Florence Classic Interactive Wooden Play Kitchen with...

If you have space in your home for a toy kitchen, it’s a wonderful first birthday idea. They will use it for years to come! It’s a great way to encourage role play, fine motor skills, and even learn about kitchen safety.

68. Fridge Magnets

When our little one first discovered magnets, he was amazed! Fridge magnets are a superb first birthday idea. Your little one will spend ages at the fridge, playing with the magnets, giving you a chance to actually make a meal!

69. Cozy Pajamas

Product Image of the GUNAMUNA Unisex Baby, Toddler Ultra-Soft Convertible Pajama, Footie Romper...

You can’t go wrong with some lovely pajamas for a first birthday present. While your little one won’t be too excited, they’re too young to really mind what they get for their birthday. If guests ask what to buy, a nice pair of bamboo pajamas will do nicely.

70. Magnet Tiles

Product Image of the PicassoTiles Magnetic Tiles 60pcs Kids Toys Classroom Sensory Toy for Toddlers...

Magnet tiles are all the rage right now. They are exciting for one-year-olds, but your kid will also love them as they grow older. With these tiles, they can make two-dimensional or three-dimensional towers, caves, and buildings.

71. Mega Bloks

Product Image of the MEGA BLOKS First Builders Toddler Blocks Toys Set, Big Building Bag with 80...

We asked guests not to bring our son presents for his first birthday. We already had enough stuff. But people brought gifts anyway — and one thing that our son has loved are the Mega Bloks. They are large, easy-to-build blocks that are stackable, toddler safe, and super colorful.

72. Ride Along Toy

Product Image of the Radio Flyer Busy Buggy, Sit to Stand Toddler Ride On Toy, Ages 1-3, Red Kids...

As your little one gets older and more mobile, they will want to be on anything that moves. Getting a ride-along toy for their first birthday puts you ahead of the game. They will love this, whether it’s right now or in a few months!

73. Learning Puzzles

Product Image of the Aile Toddler Wooden Preschool Learning Shape Peg Puzzle Board Toys

Your one-year-old probably won’t be able to do this puzzle yet (unless they’re a baby genius), but they will enjoy taking the shapes out of the puzzle. In time, you can help teach them how to put the pieces back in. This is an excellent tool for learning shapes and puzzles.

74. Mess-Free Water Drawing Mat

Product Image of the Jasonwell Aqua Water Doodle Mat 31 X 31 Inches Extra Large Magic Drawing...

This has been a hit in our household! It’s so fun for toddlers and older kids, so it can grow with your child. The idea is the pen holds just water (that’s right, parents, no mess), and it only works on the doodle mat.

75. Board Books

Product Image of the That's not my bunny...

Last but not least, board books are a fantastic first birthday present. Your child is still a bit too young to enjoy a regular children’s book, but a board book allows them to turn the pages, chew on the book if their teeth are bothering them, and enjoy the bright colors.

We love the That’s Not My series or the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? story.

Tips For Planning a 1st Birthday Party

Now that you have plenty of one-year-old birthday themes to consider, it’s time to get planning. This has been a stressful year for you parents. You’ve been through the thick of it between very little sleep, figuring out how to feed your baby, and possibly returning to work.

We want to make sure the first birthday party is as enjoyable as possible. So follow our top tips to help you be organized and chilled.

  • Choose an accessible venue: Make sure you choose somewhere for your guests to relax. If your house is a bit cramped, maybe hire a village hall or ask a friend to host. If the weather will be nice, ensure there’s a good outdoor space for kids to run around.
  • Choose your guest list wisely: You don’t need to invite every single mom you’ve ever met to the first birthday party. Choose your guest list wisely, keeping it small if that’s what you prefer.
  • Have backup outfits: You might have chosen the most gorgeous outfit for your little one’s first birthday party. But remember — they will make a mess. So have a backup outfit that you love just as much.
  • Ask someone to take photos: Ask someone else to take photos, whether that’s an auntie or a professional photographer. This way, you’ll get lovely photos, but you can be in the moment during the party.
  • Get disposable plates, cups, and silverware: The last thing you want to do when everyone leaves is spend your evening washing dishes. Get disposable tableware so you can toss it in the trash when everyone leaves. Then order takeout and watch a movie with your partner to celebrate one year since birth!
  • Create a playlist: Make a playlist in advance so you’re not second-guessing your music choices in the moment. We recommend choosing songs that your one-year-old loves. They might be overwhelmed by the party — hearing familiar songs that calm them down.
  • Don’t skip the nap: Whatever you do, don’t skip your child’s nap. Time the party around their sleep, so they’re in a good mood. If your child has a 10 a.m. nap, start the party at noon. If they tend to sleep from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., a morning party is better.
  • Babyproof the party venue: With lots of guests, there might be a moment when little ones are left unattended, so make sure the venue is babyproofed. Remove all small objects, cover sockets, and make sure they can’t access doors or stairs.
  • Get food for kids and adults: If you’re providing food, make sure there’s something for everyone to eat. Kids aren’t going to want blue cheese and chutney, and adults aren’t going to want banana puffs and goldfish.
  • Hire a babysitter: If there are lots of kids coming to the party, consider hiring a babysitter to look after them. This gives you a chance to relax with your friends — after all, this is a celebration for you, too!

FAQs

Do Babies Remember Their First Birthday?

It is improbable that your baby will remember their first birthday. This is because of the phenomenon called infantile amnesia (1). In general, we don’t start forming memories until the ages of three to seven.

So even if you put all the effort in the world into this first birthday party, your child probably won’t remember it. But you will — so make sure that it is as much a celebration for you as it is for them.

What Kind of Food Do You Have at a 1st Birthday Party?

It’s a good idea to have food for babies, toddlers, kids, and adults — if that’s who will be attending. Of course, food choices depend on the theme.

For babies, things like soft pancakes, smashed fruit, and vegetable puffs are a great idea. Remember that babies under 12 months shouldn’t have honey (2).

Toddlers love crackers, dry cereal, and sandwiches.

Kids love fruit, crackers with hummus, cupcakes, and yogurt.

And adults will love something a little more substantial, like barbecue foods, potato chips, pasta salad, or pizza.

Don’t forget cake!

What Can I Do Instead of a 1st Birthday Party?

If you don’t want to throw a first birthday party, that’s completely understandable. It’s been a stressful year, a party can be a hassle, and your little one won’t remember it anyway.

Instead, take a family day to one of your favorite places. This could be the zoo, park, aquarium, library, or even a long walk around your neighborhood. Do whatever will make you and your child happy.

What Time Should a First Birthday Start?

It depends on your child’s nap schedule.

If they still take two naps a day, try to time the party between them. This would roughly be around noon.

If they are taking one nap, time the party before or after their nap. Guests might not like the sound of a party starting at 9 a.m., so 2 p.m. may suit them better.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a Scottish freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. She is a mum to a young boy, and believes that it truly takes a village. When she’s not parenting, writing about parenting, or working, she can be found reading, working on her novel, taking photos, playing board games or wandering through the countryside with her family.