1st Birthday Themes for Babies

1st birthday party

Babies have a lot going on around the time of their first birthdays. Many speak their first words and take their first steps near their birthdays. They are busy!

A birthday party will be a new experience. Frankly, first birthday parties are more ABOUT the baby than for the baby. To have the best chance that your baby will actually enjoy the party, keep it short and simple.

When you want to create eco-friendly parties, you may not want to buy character branded throwaway cups, plates, and decorations. Party-in-a-box may not be your way. With a little extra creativity, you can throw an eco-friendly first birthday party that is sensitive to your baby’s development and needs.

1st Birthday Theme Ideas

If you are looking for a theme for your baby’s birthday party, try a simple idea around their favorite things: shapes, animals, or colors.

Bubbles & Balls Party Theme

Reusable kids birthday party hat

Decorations. Rather than balloons, decorate with toys. The balls on the walls can be added to your baby’s toy box after the party. Our reusable party hats have a bubble theme and our reusable party banners have pom-poms to carry the theme through.

Games & Activities. If your party guests will just be babies and their parents, blowing soap bubbles may be enough of a game by itself. If you have older children at the party, have one or more people blow bubbles while the job of the children is to pop all of the bubbles before they reach the ground.

Food. Cake molds are available in all sorts of shapes, including balls. You may not want to serve a meal if you are trying to keep the party short, but snack foods can also follow the bubbles and balls theme with blueberries or melon balls.

Favors. If the guests are babies, share the ball decorations at the end of the party or give each older guest a bottle of soap bubbles. If you are looking for a keepsake toy to give as a favor, the HABA Trioli clutch toy follows the bubbles & balls theme.

HABA wooden toy with balls

Animal Party Theme

Children with animal facepaint

Decorations. Use stuffed animals as decorations. Set up animal scenes using toys, play cloths, and other items you already have on hand. If you like hats, you can print images of animals and attach them to a headband for each guest.

Games & Activities. For babies, print the images of a dozen different animals on cards. Give each baby a card and ask them to make the noise the animal makes. Have everyone else guess the animal. For older children, you could play the same game without sounds making it animal charades. Of course, you could always play Stick the Tail on any animal. (Don’t use pins with babies.) You could even make the game a gift with the Endangered Species Memory Game, though this is a game that the baby would probably need to grow into. Face painting is always a favorite, so each child could choose a favorite animal to be for the party.

Food. Use small animal-shaped cookie cutters to make cookies. You can do the same with slices of melon or toast.

Favors. I like to make kids’ party favors a nice gift that children will use. Organic cotton soft animal toys have enough personality to keep the attention of a one year old baby, and they have balls on the hands and feet for chewing and teething. Animal bookmarks also make a nice party favor for the guests ages 3+, especially if they are tucked into a small animal book.

Reusable bookmarks animals

Favorite Color Party Theme

Natural rubber duck

Start your preparations for the party by letting your baby choose an outfit in her favorite color. My daughter chose everything yellow by the time she was one year old.

Decorations. You can make the theme color dominant without making absolutely everything the same color.

Games & Activities. Have everyone name things that are yellow, calling out as soon as they can think of something. If the children are very young, go slowly. If all of the guests are babies and not yet talking, ask them to point, choosing yellow things from groups. For older children, let each choose their own favorite color and draw on the windows with window and glass crayons. This can be a helpful activity to keep older children occupied if the babies need a break for a while.

Food. Orange juice popsicles are yellow, and cheese and crackers will also keep to a yellow theme. Even if your theme color is blue, it isn’t very hard to find food that will fit. Pretzels dipped in blueberry yoghurt are blue and so are blueberries.

Favors. A bright yellow rubber duck really screams yellow. Playsilks also make nice but inexpensive party favor for a baby. Be sure that whatever you choose is safe for babies. Stay away from the small parts on wooden cars, for example. If you like ducks for a yellow party, HABA also makes a yellow duck clutch toy.

HABA wooden clutch toy duck

A Few Ideas to Keep in Mind

  • Schedule the party after nap time. You want your guest of honor to be at his or her best.
  • Keep the party time short. Don’t let the party linger on long enough that the smallest guests start to miss their routines.
  • Keep the guest list short. If your baby tends to cling to you and avoid crowds, you don’t want to create an uncomfortable situation. There are plenty of years for bigger parties ahead.
  • Vary the activities. Not all of the guests will necessarily be babies, so plan activities and favors for older siblings as well.
  • Sing the baby’s favorite song. In addition to a birthday song, sing a song that the birthday baby loves to keep spirits high.
  • Have two cakes. The first time a baby meets a cake, expect a mess. It works well to have a cupcake or small cake for the baby and another to serve to the rest of the guests.
  • No small parts. Watch out for games or favors with small parts. A one-year old baby will still put almost anything in his mouth.

Games & Activities Especially for 1st Birthday Parties

Baby Photo Guessing. Ask each adult and older child to bring a copy of a baby photo then have everyone guess whose photo is whose.

Keepsake Album. With the baby photos, ask each guest to create a page for a keepsake album for the baby. Take photos at the party to add to these pages. Have guests list their own first words and add best wishes for the baby.

Image © Niderlander | Dreamstime.com

8 Fun and Free Places to Hold a Birthday Party

Children's party looking at horses

Cut down on children’s birthday party expenses by finding a place to hold that party that doesn’t charge an entrance or event fee. New places may suggest fun themes and activities beyond the usual party games. Even if you do the usual games and cake, going to a new and exciting place can be an adventure that makes the party memorable.

1. Fire station

I arranged a party with a local fire company. The kids all got Jr Firefighter hats and safety lessons, though I’m sure all they really remember is crawling around the fire truck. The drawback is: if there is a fire, the party is over.

2. Local history visitors’ center

Depending on your local history, a birthday part at a local history site could include hearing from volunteers, seeing demonstrations, drawing maps, treasure hunts, or re-enactments.

3. Farmer’s market

If your farmer’s market has picnic tables and your party is small, you can join in the fun. Send the kids on a treasure hunt to find honey or fruit. If the market isn’t too busy, ask a farmer to talk to the children about what they do on their farm.

4. Farm

If you are considering talking to a farmer, how about going all of the way to the farm. Children are curious where their food comes from and they like meeting animals. They may not even realize it’s an educational trip.

5. You-pick farm

If your child has a mid- to late-summer birthday, you can look into pick-your-own farms. Raspberries are ripe around my daughter’s birthday, so we spent her first several years with friends having a picnic at a raspberry patch.

6. Park or playground

Though you could always go to a local park, it mixes things up to go to a park or playground that you don’t usually go to. The year we went to a park with a rock climbing wall, the climbing wall-shaped cake was the hit of the party.

7. Day camping

Take the kids for an outdoor adventure at a nearby campground or state park. Melissa celebrated at the lake and gave all of the kids a pail and a shovel. Be sure you have enough adults present to keep track of wanderers.

8. Your own backyard

You can’t get any cheaper than your own backyard. Your birthday party venue doesn’t have to be new to be exciting. Dress up your backyard. Draping play cloths across wash lines can create a whole new landscape to explore.

Image © Karin Hildebrand Lau | Dreamstime.com

6 Tips to Help Your Baby through Holiday Time

Mother comforting baby

Holidays are a stimulating, even over-stimulating, time for a baby. Especially if this is your baby’s first holiday season, there is likely to be a lot more going on than usual. Between parties and family, shopping and looking at lights, and other situations full of crowds of strangers, your baby may need a break. Here are a few tips to avoid an over-stimulated baby.

1. Keep Up the Routine
As much as you can, keep the same general structure that your baby is accustomed to. Don’t skip feeding and sleeping times.

2. Carry Familiar Items
If your child has a toy animal or doll that seems to spread calm, bring it. The more unfamiliar the surroundings, the more comforting familiar items and faces will be.

3. Explain What Is Happening
If your child is beginning to talk, the content of what you say might actually be helpful. For a baby who doesn’t yet understand your words, just the periodic sound of your voice will be reassuring.

4. Take Breaks
Before your baby gets anxious, take a break. Sing, talk, sway, or do whatever your baby finds soothing. If you will be in a noisy environment—a New Year’s Eve celebration, for example—build a relatively quiet break time into your plans.

5. Follow Your Baby’s Cues
Follow your baby’s lead. When your child starts pushing and getting restless, it’s time for a break. If you wait, you risk a meltdown, which could be far more uncomfortable for all involved. Just excuse yourself briefly for some rest time, to breastfeed, or just to go into a quiet place and talk face to face.

6. Wear Your Baby
When you wear your baby facing you, it is easy for you to face out talking while the baby turns in when she wants to. She isn’t stuck facing the unfamiliar with no way to make it stop. If she can nuzzle in your neck, she has a positive choice to make when facing out it too much.

Friends meeting your baby for the first time will want to hold and talk, but that during that phase at about 4 to 24 months old, most babies will not want to be passed around. Let this first introduction be at a distance if that is what your baby needs.

Give your child the best chance to be at his best when he meets friends and family for the first time. He won’t care about making an impression, but a lot of eager people really do have a genuine desire to get to know him. Help them both by bridging their expectations and being your baby’s refuge when holiday parties get to be just too much.

Image © Vanessa Van Rensburg | Dreamstime.com

Alternatives to the Cheese Ball

Cheese ball and crackers

Cheese balls. I dread them. If there is a cheese ball at a party, that is where I will find my children.

It’s not that I hate cheese balls. I don’t. I love them, but it’s a solid wad of cheese, and that is just not the way to keep me healthy and happy.

So, if you are looking for quick, easy party foods that do not include the requisite holiday cheese ball, here are just a few of my ideas for crowd pleasing appetizers that are relatively low calorie and high nutrition.


We have access to so much great, fresh Mexican food at local markets, that homemade guacamole is a staple in our house. If you are looking for foods that play on green and red themes, think avocado. Any kind of avocado dip is easy to make and fairly easy to eat while standing up and chatting. Plus, kids love it. Ours usually includes lime juice, pico de gallo or drained salsa, and a little salt and cayenne pepper. We mash by hand rather than in a food processor so the dip is chunky.

Baba Ganoush

You could go with bean dip or hummus, but those are fairly high calorie. When you might be dip dip dipping for a while, a dip made out of vegetables will give you fewer calories per dip. We like to make our own baba ganoush. It’s easy to roast eggplant, peel, then buzz it in the food processor with garlic, lemon juice, tahini, olive, and a little salt and pepper. I like it warm, but it still tastes great cool, so it works at the beginning of the party as well as toward the end—though, in my house, there is no way baba ganoush would last until the end of a party.

Smoked Salmon

Things on Crackers are easy party food for adults and for children. If I let myself indulge in cheese, I really like smoked gouda. To avoid the cheese and keep the smoke, how about smoked salmon as a tasty, non-cheese alternative. Especially if the fish is local to you and you have a fish market that offers sustainably harvested and processed salmon, this can be a special treat for a special party.

I love cheese balls. I admit I had some yesterday, but this is just not a food I can eat a lot of before I’m very sorry. If you are careful with the food you choose to serve or eat at holiday parties, you can avoid that eater’s remorse that so often follows the cheese ball.

Image © Stephaniefrey | Dreamstime.com

Babywearing at Holiday Parties

You’re rushed. You forgot to prepare for a holiday party. You aren’t sure how your new baby will react to a social situation. You just haven’t thought it through.

Do you:

A) Throw on last year’s dress even though it’s a bit tight post-baby, put the baby in a stroller, and hike your baby blue diaper bag over your shoulder.

B) Freak out and stay home.

C) Say “who cares,” put on your denim jumper and your print baby carrier, walk into the party and ROAR.

D) Throw on last year’s little black dress, call it curve-hugging, and cover it up with a black Hotslings baby sling.

While I probably would do B, I hope I would quickly progress to D. I see a lot of women in open-toed shoes glaring at me if I choose A. And, I also see merit in C, especially in roaring, but I think you can fit into the party crowd with your baby if you want to.

If you want to take your baby to holiday parties, you can do so in style and in a way that gives your baby options to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

I addressed a lot of the practicalities earlier this year in Baby Carriers for Special Occasions. Main takeaways: match your baby carrier to the occasion and give your baby a view of or protection from the crowd. Just in case your baby gets overwhelmed, I think a sling is a great choice here. Especially a very young baby can tuck right into a sling, away from lights, and nap.

  • If you have a shiny glam occasion, I think the gorgeous Upmama Baby Slings are an excellent choice. They come in colors that are likely to match many dresses, and the sheen of the cotton sateen would match the feel of a festive, dressy party.
  • If you really do want to blend in completely, how about a solid-colored Hotslings baby sling? I love this as a blend-in choice because it has no tail like a ring sling does and the simple shape of the pouch means not extra buckles or ties or mechanics to deal with.
  • If you want to scream, “Come meet my baby!” and you think your baby is up to it, a print Hotslings baby sling gives you the same space-saving benefits along with a glam, eye-catching print.

Listen to Your Baby

Whichever style direction you go, be sure to listen closely to your baby so you don’t end up overstimulating and upsetting her. If she is done with lights and noise, you are probably done as well—unless someone else kindly offers to take her to a quiet room to calm down.

If your baby is social and loving the party, a baby carrier will help you transition from your pre-baby party life to your with-baby party life by giving you freedom of movement and your baby a high position from which to participate.

For more ideas on holiday parenting with ease, see our post Tips for Breastfeeding in Public.

Happy Holidays!