Congratulations! There are few milestones more significant than your child’s first birthday and it’s only right to celebrate.
However, you are still a year or two away from elaborate parties involving magicians, clowns and gratuitous expense, so it’s best to keep it simple, for your baby’s sake and for your own! Opting to hold a birthday tea party at home offers the best odds of success.
The guest list
Your little one’s first party should be special but not overwhelming. Toddlers are notoriously clingy and sensitive, so plan your guest list sensibly so that she doesn’t crack under the pressure. Invite only close friends and family; now is not the time to introduce new faces. Invitations aren’t strictly necessary if you’re on a budget and go over the heads of invitees this young.
Time it carefully
By now your child may be used to having one or two naps during the day, and the best time for the excitement of a party is just after a sleep and a feed. Afternoon tea is an excellent idea. As one-year-olds have a limited attention span and run out of energy relatively quickly, limit the time to an hour-and-a-half. Any longer and you run the risk of a few crotchety tears (and that’s just the adults!).
Unless you especially want to, you don’t need to decorate extravagantly or adopt a special theme. Colour co-ordination is unimportant to your toddler and they and their friends may find excess balloons, streamers and hats scary, so limit your décor to a few cheerful unthreatening pieces.
Prepare your home
Before your guests arrive, thoroughly baby-proof your house, placing valuable and breakable objects out of reach and installing baby gates, fireguards, electric socket protectors etc. If you have pets, arrange for them to be elsewhere during the celebrations.
Provide breastfeeding mums with a quiet, private area to use for feeding and similarly arrange somewhere clean and well equipped for nappy changing.
During the party itself keep a watchful eye on potential hazards such as burst balloons, wrapping paper remnants or dropped cutlery, and clear them away immediately.
Less is definitely more at this age, so your best bet is to arrange a large, comfortable floor area for free play, with plenty of adult seating alongside. Provide a selection of age-appropriate toys such as chunky puzzles, ride-ons, stacking rings, board books, plastic balls and soft toys.
Formal party games aren’t necessary but a fun idea is to play suitable tots tunes for a mini disco (even guests who aren’t yet walking will enjoy bopping to familiar songs), or perhaps lead a sing-along featuring your child’s favourite action songs from playgroup, such as ‘Row, row, row your boat’, ‘If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands’, ‘The wheels on the bus’ and so on.
Keep food simple because a fair amount will end up on the floor! Don’t overestimate the amount of food toddlers will eat, as they are likely to be distracted with all the excitement.
Investigate finger foods such as chopped grapes, raisins, rice cakes, mini muffins, cheese cubes, fromage frais cartons and breadsticks. Cater for children with both zero and several teeth, avoid choking hazards like popcorn and check for food allergies prior to the party. It’s a good idea to insist on guests eating sitting down, and a picnic blanket either indoors or outside in the garden works a treat to limit mess.
No party is complete without a cake, so whether it’s homemade or shop-bought, your little one will love blowing out their first candle (with your assistance!). Take care to avoid nuts and honey, and if you’re concerned about the sugar rush, use fresh whipped cream or cream cheese as a covering. Keep portions small to avoid waste and tummy aches.
Above all, enjoy yourself!
Sadly, however amazing it is, your child won’t remember their first birthday party. But you will, so make sure you limit stress for this special day. Accept all offers of help, charge up your camera and ideally get someone else to take the photos so that you feature in the memories too!
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