Your babies First Birthday is such a special celebration. I’ve shared with you my three children’s first birthdays and 10 tips to help you celebrate yours. One of my best pieces of advice for you is to get lots of photos. Ask someone to be in charge of taking the snaps for you and arm them with the camera.

We celebrated ‘Big Brother’s’ First Birthday with a red themed party inspired by this photo. I used this photo for the invite. A colour scheme is a great first birthday theme. We had a few guests and held the party at home. We timed it around the birthday boy’s nap. I hired some toys from our local toy library and set up welcoming play areas for the little party guests with a selection of hired and our own toys. It was a crazy 39 degree February day so some water play and a sprinkler also provided entertainment.

Two years later we celebrated our little ‘Rosebud’s’ First Birthday. You can read about it in detail here. We hired a balloon artist to create balloon animals etc for the kids.

Two and a bit years later and it was time for our Little Fella’s First Birthday and in true ‘third child style’ my Little Fella never got a ‘birthday party’. We instead opted for a ‘family day.’ I don’t regret this one bit! And why was it such a great option for the party loving mum? We had a relaxing weekend together as a family with no party prep causing any work or stress. I spent lots of time playing with the kids and importantly the birthday boy. The big kids made and decorated the cake, I didn’t need to worry about how it looked or turned out and the kids LOVED doing this. (The image on the cake is just a photo printed on normal paper. It actually worked great.) We asked the kids what they would like to do as a family to celebrate our Little Fella’s birthday and they chose to go to Chipmunks. The kids had such a great time playing together and the smiles prove you don’t need a fancy party to have happy kids and special memories.

We also gained a quirky family moment that I love. We turned up to Chipmunks with some random party hats I had at home and our fabulous cake only to find out we couldn’t take our cake in. I popped it back out in the car and when we were ready to leave decided we needed to have our little cake celebration. So we sat on a grass verge in the carpark of Chipmunks. We sat in a little circle singing Happy Birthday to our gorgeous Little Fella with our mismatched party hats and fabulous homemade cake. Ian and I looking at each other and our three beautiful children smiling to each other at the random moment we were having. A delightful family memory that is so unclassy that I love it even more!

So that’s how I’ve celebrated my children’s first birthdays. What tips do I have for you?

1.Keep it simple, the little birthday person will probably prefer a more intimate group and simple affair at home. Familiar surroundings and familiar people. If you don’t have space at home Plunket rooms would provide a nice hire venue or if in the summer months a park or the gardens.

2.  Plan timing around your little one’s sleep. Plan ahead and ask for help from family, friends and guests. Your birthday bub will probably want to cling on to you and you cant heat the savouries holding the party guest of honour.

3.  First birthdays are so special and different to subsequent years. Your little one will have their first Happy Birthday singing and get to practise their present opening skills. It is a chance to make some special memories and begin some traditions. Have a think of what you might like to start as a family birthday tradition.

4.  Some traditions you might like – giving a book each birthday with the year and message written inside, – take a family photo with the cake each birthday (seems simple and obvious but this doesn’t always happen unless you make a point of it.) – take a photo in the same spot each year with all the party guests and watch how the guests grow and change (a tree in the garden is nice as it will grow with the kids – we do this with an apple tree).

5.  Have guests write a message to your one year old to go in a time capsule to be opened at their 21st birthday party. The guests may even be present at the 21st to read their own message out! Or have guests write a special memory from the birthday boy/girls first year in a little book. Image from mummy blog – morgans2day.

6.  Think about safety. Balloons are great at parties but popped balloons are a choking hazard. Create a soft, safe play area for the babies to play together preferably in the middle of the room and place the adults seats around the outside. Provide lots of appropriate toys in the middle. Think about the food you offer the babies for choking and allergies. Check garden gates are shut and no hazards in the garden etc.

7.  Think about your guests. You will probably have breastfeeding/bottlefeeding mums/dads. Provide a comfortable place for them to feed. Think about an area for nappy changing or for leaving sleeping babies.

8. Activities:

My years as a  Playcentre mum have helped create this list! You don’t need to hire an entertainer or plan organised games for a one year old’s party. You will have years ahead to do that!

Music – One year old’s love music! Put on some ‘You Tube’ nursery rhymes or a CD. Gather some instruments or pots. Get some floaty scarves out. Have your own little music session. You could make shakers from plastic bottles and rice. Have the babies decorate them with stickers. These could be take home party gifts.

Dancing – Baby loves disco! Put on some fun tunes and have a boogie together.

Bubbles – One year old’s love bubbles! Hand out some mixture to adults to blow some bubbles. Set up a ‘bubble station’ for adults to refill the bottles. Image below from ‘hint mama’. Make sure the bottles are kept out of reach of the babies. You could combine this with some music and dancing too.

Present Opening – Make this one of your ‘activities’. Don’t rush this special moment. Take time to allow the birthday boy/girl to ‘rip into’ their presents and allow the babies to play with all the wrapping paper and explore the new toys.

Paint – You might need to let your guests know their babies may get a little messy and come prepared with a change of clothes. You could set up a table with finger paints for the little ones to create their own masterpiece to take home. You could masking tape each guests initial on a piece of paper and allow them to paint all over it. Once dry peel the tape off and they will have created their initial letter art piece to take home. Similar to this idea from ‘Wherethesmileshavebeen.’

Sand and Water play: One year old’s love water and sand! If the weather is warm enough set up a safe water tray or sand trough. A water table could even be a great first birthday present!

Stories: Maybe you have a ‘Nana’ or another guest who would love to read some books to the babies. They may not sit still and listen but for a little while they may be engaged and it would be so lovely especially if a special ‘Nana’ was reading. You might have a puppet or prop to add some interest.

Photo booth: Set up an area for the babies and other guests to have their photos taken. Pop some props out and a fun background. Dressing up the little party guests in hats etc would be extra cute. Image from ‘morgans2day.

Toy hire: Search for your local toy library or business who hire toys. Some lovely large soft play mats, ball pit etc would be well used by the crawling/toddling babies. Check out Let’s Celebrate in Auckland. They have fabulous soft play hire packages for parties like this one pictured. Perfect for a first birthday party!

9. Organised games wont work and aren’t necessary for one year olds. Although you may have a range of ages with older sibling, don’t feel as if you have to provide entertainment for them. Older children will be happy to play with the little ones. Although a fun idea for adult guests and even older siblings is to have them bring a photo of themselves at one year old. Display them for guests to guess who is who.

10. Don’t feel like you have to send home favor bags! Lollies and little toys are no good for one year olds anyway! If you want to send a party favour home choose something like a pottle of homemade playdough, little mini board book (which could be purchased cheaply in a set and split) or a decorated sippy cup. This photo is my gorgeous one year old ‘Rosebud’ handing out her ‘thank you’ party favors to her guests.

After all that I want to come back to my first tip. Take lots of photos! Also remember a small simple party will probably be more enjoyable for you and the birthday boy/girl. Choose just a couple of ideas from those I’ve mentioned. Some more ideas can be found on my Pinterest Board. The NZ Huggies site has lots of great resources for planning a first birthday party. Have fun celebrating your amazing one year old. xg