1st birthday party ideas

It's your little one's 1st birthday but what do you do? We give you advice on who to invite, where to go, what to bake and how you can enjoy your baby's big day

1st birthday pary ideas
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A baby's 1st birthday is as much for you and your family as it is for your little one, so we're here to help you organise a day that everyone will enjoy in our guide to first birthday parties.

When your baby turns one, you've both reached an important milestone, and we've got all the 1st birthday party ideas you need to give you and your baby a really special day.  From easy party food ideas (opens in new tab) and decorations to games, party bags (opens in new tab) and costumes that little ones will love. And, if you’re wondering what to buy for a one-year-old for their birthday, take a look at these gifts for one-year-olds. 

And remember, most babies won't be able to handle the birthday extravaganza for too long, so keep the celebrations short. A couple of hours is plenty of time to celebrate and have fun without risking a baby burn-out. So sit back, relax and soak up our 1st birthday party ideas for a stress-free first birthday bash.

1st birthday party ideas

First birthday party invites
First birthday party food
First birthday party decorations
First birthday party games and crafts
First birthday party costumes
First birthday party venues
First birthday party bags

1st birthday party ideas: Invites 

Before you consider anything else, you need to think about who you want to invite to your child’s birthday party. This will influence everything else, including what food and drink to buy and prepare, and what kind of entertainment or games you’ll want to organise. In this section, we take a look at how to write a guest list, invite ideas, and how to deal with any awkwardness if you need to limit the number of people coming to your child’s birthday.

When it comes to a 1st birthday celebration, it’s best to limit the number of people you invite. Your baby might get overwhelmed with the sheer number of strange faces and there'll be even more for you to do on the big day. You might want to limit the party to close friends and family only, so the baby is familiar with everyone in the room and there’s not too much going on. *Guests could obviously include grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and a few baby friends from any playgroups and NCT classes. 

1st birthday party

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Limiting numbers does come with the risk of upsetting people, and whilst it’s hard to avoid, a party planner recommends getting around this by inviting people face-to-face instead of online to keep things more low-key. Michael Rossini from Froggle Parties (opens in new tab) says, “You can never fully avoid upsetting someone, but you do much more damage control by inviting people face to face.”

Or if this is too difficult, you could do a private WhatsApp group with a select few people. Once your guest list is confirmed, you'll want to make a start on your invites. These will need to include your child's name, the name of the child you're inviting, the date, start and end time, and location of the party.  

Invites are also a great way of ensuring everyone has any extra information they might need ahead of time - do you need to warn people about parking for example, or give them any important info about allergies etc?  In the digital age, there are all sorts of ways to invite someone to your party. Whether it’s personalised invitations, homemade ones, or a simple Facebook event, there are lots you can choose from.

Personalised invites online: Websites like Moonpig (opens in new tab) and Zazzle (opens in new tab) allow you to make your own invites quickly and easily - you can use pictures of your baby if you like and go for something funny, cute or quirky.

Homemade invites: If you've got lots of time and some good design skills, why not make your own on Photoshop? Alternatively, you could buy some coloured card and make your cards by hand. Have a look around a craft shop for some extra decorations for your invites, such as glitter pens and stickers. There are lots of places you can buy crafting materials, such as Wilko (opens in new tab) and Hobbycraft (opens in new tab).

Facebook invites: If you're short of time, a Facebook event is an effective way to get the details of your baby's party to your friends. It's a good idea to send a message reminding all your guests of the details a week before. Make sure you don't forget to text anyone who doesn't have Facebook (they do exist!) or doesn't check their accounts regularly. 

As mentioned above, you could also set up a WhatsApp group to let people know about the party - especially if you’re keen to keep things low key, you don’t mind group chats and other people have access to the app.

1st birthday party ideas: food and drink

It’s not a party without party food (opens in new tab), and there’s a great opportunity to impress guests with some tasty treats. When it comes to catering for little ones, it’s best to opt for finger foods and soft foods that are easier for them to eat. A good approach to party food is a buffet-style, so guests can help themselves and choose what they want to eat. This way, you can ensure you’re catering for both children and grown-ups,

Go ahead and have some fun with the party food at your baby's first birthday party. Kids love fun-shaped food, so use cookie cutters on anything from sandwiches to biscuits or even pizzas. Some one-year-olds won't have a full set of teeth, so softer foods like cucumber sticks, banana or other things they can chew on are ideal.

For sweet treats, why not try coloured fruit smoothies and fun jelly and ice cream combos that are sure to go down well. They’re nice and soft too, so easy to eat for little ones. You can also serve fresh fruit cut up into baby-friendly pieces, as it's nice and easy for little ones to eat.

If you need advice on food for your little one, check out our toddler portion sizes and baby portion sizes guide (opens in new tab). It provides clear information about finger foods, solid foods and what your baby should be eating.

Do you make or buy a cake?

An important part of the party is, of course, the cake. While your baby will probably get more on the floor than in their mouth, you will remember your baby's first cake forever. It’s likely that older guests will get more out of the cake than your little one, but it’s always nice to get a showstopper that’s impossible to forget. 

1st birthday party

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It’s entirely up to you whether you make the cake yourself, or hire a professional or pick one up from the supermarket. But whatever you choose, there’s plenty of options out there to make your baby’s first birthday a special one. Check out this roundup of the most amazing first birthday cakes (opens in new tab) we've ever seen. They won't be easy to replicate but they're sure to impress if you can manage one!

Should you have alcohol for a first birthday party?

Alcohol is a tricky topic, and discretion is definitely advised when it comes to making the call. We doubt your guests will expect a fully stocked wine bar or a fridge full of beers, but a glass of prosecco or some non-alcoholic cocktails (opens in new tab) could be a nice way to toast the special occasion without overdoing it.

Michael says, “I'm always of the mindset that a children's party should be for children. If you're doing alcohol then the grown-ups will no doubt really appreciate this although I really don't think they expect it.”

1st birthday party ideas: decorations  and themes

A 1st birthday party is such a special time in any parent’s life, and you’ll no doubt want to commemorate this occasion by taking lots of pictures. There are lots of things you can do to get your party Instagram ready, so you can easily look back on your child’s birthday.

 We’ve put together some helpful tips to help you prepare.

  • Clear a space in your living room or garden for the party's main setting, make sure it’s baby-proofed!
  • Put down a selection of mats, cushions or other soft furnishings for little ones to play on and ensure they’re safe and comfortable.
  • A themed buffet area with paper plates and other cute decorations will brighten up the space without you needing to spend too much time on it.

1st birthday party

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  • Cute pictures of your baby will go down well with friends and relatives and can complement the other decorations you decided to go for.
  • You can bulk out the decorations with balloons, bunting or paper chains - especially if it’s popular cartoon characters or a familiar animal that your baby loves. But these should be placed out of reach, to prevent them from bursting and scaring your little one. 

There are all sorts of popular themes for kids parties out there, with decorations to suit just about any taste. You might want to go for superheroes, princesses, pirates, dinosaurs… the possibilities really are endless! Or, you could opt for a colourful theme, like bright and sparkly or spots and stripes. 

If you are opting for a costume theme and you’re encouraging younger guests to come dressed up, choose something easy. More obscure themes might make it more stressful for others to get involved.

1st birthday party ideas: games and entertainment

Keep planned activities to a minimum at your baby's first birthday party. One-year-olds are unlikely to have the attention span or skills to participate in lots of games, so don't worry too much about organising anything, unless you have some older children coming too.

  • While they might be too young for pass the parcel, a fun party game for babies involves wrapping up a small individual presents in several layers for all the little ones. They can then try to unwrap it themselves. It’s a great way to keep them entertained!
  • Finger painting goes down well with babies, but you’ll need to be organised and ensure you’ve cleared space and that there’s adult supervision at all times.
  • If there are older children there, you could provide activities like hula hoops, ball pits, colouring books, crafts, and soft toys
  • For crafting ideas, why not take a look at our easy rainbow craft projects for kids (opens in new tab)? They’re sure to brighten up their day! 

1st birthday party ideas: Costumes

1st birthday party

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A one-year-old won't really appreciate fancy dress, but they will look cute - and provide some great photo opportunities you can look back on for years to come.  If you want to get really into a fancy dress theme, you can buy all sorts of costumes for babies - such as animals, superheroes, fairies to suit any theme. John Lewis (opens in new tab) and Amazon (opens in new tab)  have great, affordable options. 

If you're trying to keep costs down or just aren't that keen on fancy dress, a few party hats will make for some nice pictures on the big day.

1st birthday party ideas: Party bags

Party bags (opens in new tab) are a fun way to give back to your guests, but it’s likely that babies won’t get much from them. With this in mind, there’s no need to spend a fortune on its contents. Small, meaningful gifts are much more appropriate for a 1st birthday party. As well as a slice of cake, you could also give other babies some bibs or socks, a little book, crafts like crayons or chalk, bubbles, and something like a rattle to play with.

Thank you cards are also a nice gesture, and can easily be added to the party bag at the end of the event. Michael adds, “It’s not essential, but it’s a nice touch. Parents will often appreciate it. Froggles Parties have free resources on their website that parents can use to thank guests. ”

1st birthday party ideas: Venues

It's a good idea to hold your baby's first birthday party at your house or a relative's house, as it'll be a familiar and comfortable setting. You don’t want your little one getting too overwhelmed in a strange location.

However, you might fancy something a bit different or just want to avoid the cleaning up! If that’s the case, there’s a couple of ideas you could consider to celebrate with your little one.

Indoor soft play centre: Any indoor soft play centre that has a baby area is a great idea for a first birthday party! Babies will be able to play on the soft shapes and in the ball pit too. You could enquire if the centre does special party deals which can include food and a party bag at the end too.

The park: If your baby was born in warmer months, a trip to the park is a great option. Get some friends to all bring a different food and have a little picnic - babies can play with outdoor toys, roll around in the grass and have a go on the swings! Don’t forget to always take your litter home with you, and not leave it bags up by any overflowing bins 

What is a good time of day for a 1st birthday party?

Babies rely heavily on routines, so it’s a good idea to plan their birthday celebrations around nap time and feeding time. You know your baby better than anyone, but experts suggest hosting it at around 10am (opens in new tab), if that’s possible. 

A 10am party means you can serve brunch for your guests, and little ones will be wide awake and ready to enjoy the party fun. It also means you can wrap things up earlier, so you can set the baby down for their nap and get on with the cleanup. Of course, that might not always be possible - if you have guests travelling some distance or you’re unable to set up at a booked venue. 

1st birthday party

Credit: Getty Images

How much should you spend on a 1st birthday party?

Everyone’s budget is different, but Michael notes that spending loads on a party doesn’t necessarily mean it will be better or that children will enjoy it more. He noted it’s a common misconception that many parents can have.

Michael says, “The more you spend doesn't necessarily equate to the more children enjoy the party, in fact it is often the opposite.

“Often parents will spend heaps of money on an overload of activities that are just too much for kids to absorb all at once. e.g. an entertainer on one end of the room, whilst also having a bouncy castle in one corner, a face painter in the other, mobile pet party for another part of the party, candy floss machine somewhere else, etc. The assumption many parents make, is often that having all these things will make it a wonderful party to remember. But that simply isn’t the case.”

Instead, he recommends focusing on one or two things that will keep them entertained and allow them to really enjoy the party. When it comes to little ones, they love giving their attention to one thing and really enjoying it.

He added, “Kids like taking their time to enjoy things. Overloading the kids with too much in one short window often leads to them not enjoying anything at all, especially if there are too many things competing for the attention at once. It's far better to pick one or 2 things that they can enjoy separately so they can really soak it in and enjoy it.”

10 decorating and other fun ideas for a first birthday party

One Little Star Blue Party Kit

One Little Star Blue Party Kit

What is it? This One Little Star party kit is available in blue and pink designs, and has everything you need for the perfect party buffet. It’s got 8 paper plates, 16 paper napkins, 8 party cups, 3 centerpieces, a banner and a tablecloth.

How much does it cost? £19.99

Reusable Rainbow Birthday Party Decorations

Reusable Rainbow Birthday Party Decorations

What is it? These party decorations are a bright rainbow colour, which are sure to brighten up any room and help you celebrate. They’re reusable too so you can put them up for many more birthdays!

How much does it cost? £13.99

Melissa & Doug Puppet Time Theatre

Melissa & Doug Puppet Time Theatre

What is it? A puppet show is always a great way to entertain babies! This wooden puppet theatre is sturdy and there’s room inside for one or two puppeteers. It includes a clock with movable hands and a chalkboard panel for playbill information.

How much does it cost? £79.99

Melissa & Doug Snacks & Sweets Food Cart

Melissa & Doug Snacks & Sweets Food Cart

What is it? This food cart is the perfect toy for your upcoming party, as children can pretend to serve a variety of snacks including soft drinks, pretzels, hot dogs, ice cream and more!

How much does it cost? £149.99

Giant Unicorn Airwalker Balloon

Giant Unicorn Airwalker Balloon

What is it? Bring a magical unicorn to your baby’s birthday with this giant inflatable balloon! It stands at 4 feet and floats along the ground, and is sure to delight party guests. It can be inflated with either air or helium.

How much does it cost? £29.99

Dinosaur Birthday Party Decorations

Dinosaur Birthday Party Decorations

What is it? If you’re doing a dinosaur theme for your little one, you’ll definitely need this dinosaur birthday party kit! It features 5 large sized dinosaur balloons,1 happy birthday banner, 1 party folding fan, 5 simulated leaves, 60 latex balloons, 5 small dinosaur balloons, and 1 large sized coconut tree.

How much does it cost? £16.99

Balnore Bubble Machine

Balnore Bubble Machine

What is it? This dinosaur bubble machine has 28 bubble bars of different sizes can produce more than 3000 bubbles per minute and it’s 180° rotation design means, you can adjust the head of the dinosaur to any direction.

How much does it cost? £14.99

Balloon Garland Kit

Balloon Garland Kit

What is it? Balloon garlands are a great choice for any party, and these ones come in three different colour schemes; pink, red and blue. The kit comes with plenty of balloons and a tying tool to create your own garland in minutes.

How much does it cost? £13.99

Inflatable beach decorations

What is it? This kit has everything you need for a beach themed party. It includes 2 inflatable palm trees, 2 beach balls, 1 flamingo, 1 banana, 1 parrot and 1 dolphin which is sure to brighten up any room or outdoor space!

How much does it cost? £13.99

Animal party decorations

Animal party decorations

What is it? These animal themed decorations will add the perfect finishing touch to your little one’s birthday party, with adorable safari themed balloons in tiger, monkey, lion and zebra designs, and happy birthday bunting.

How much does it cost? £12.99