It may seem like only yesterday that you were still pregnant, letting people touch your belly, preparing the nursery and waiting for your little bundle of joy to be born! Yes – time flies when you’re sleep deprived and planning your life around 2-3 hour feeding schedules! For most moms, the year goes by in a whirlwind and the next thing you know, you’re faced with planning your baby’s first birthday! Now, before you boot up your laptop and start pinning things on Pinterest, let’s chat.
First, you should know that there are two primary schools of thought when it comes to Baby’s Big Day – and many, many opinions in between. Some moms prefer to forego the big celebration for several reasons. It is expensive; it’s mainly for the grown-ups and often, it becomes a “keeping up with the Jones’” and the next thing you know, you have an entire petting zoo in your house because that’s what the neighbors did! And your baby, your baby, no matter how brilliant he is, will never remember this day! So that’s one way to approach it.
Another attitude is that yes, there is cause for celebration and it IS mainly for the adults. After all, you and your husband survived! You made it through all those late-night feedings and early mornings, dirty diapers and more dirty diapers; pediatrician appointments, putting together the crib, navigating how to work the car seat and so much more! So, if you want to celebrate this beautiful bouncing baby – and the fact that you have kept him fed, watered and alive – then by all means, go for it! So, invite your family and friends; your child won’t remember but you will, and one day you can show him the photos of Aunt So-and-So and your dear neighbors celebrating Baby’s First Birthday!
So, assuming you fall in the Pro-Celebration camp, let’s think about what you need and things to consider:
- Location: A first birthday party is a great time for intimate gatherings of family and close friends. If that’s the route you choose, you might want to host the party at your house. After all, you have everything you need, plus your child’s crib, changing table, toys and high chair. After all, he IS the guest of honor so his comfort is priority. However, some moms prefer to go off-site. It might be easier to rent a community center or restaurant or park; you can hold more people and you don’t have the stress of throwing the party and preparing your home. One thing to note: If you are somewhere other than your home, be aware of the surroundings and any potential “non-baby proofed” areas. You might have steps without baby gates, outlets without protective covers, and other small hurdles to consider. Not a problem – just scout it out ahead of time and come prepared.
- Food: Even if your child is the most popular baby on the block, there will be adults bringing the other babies. So, you probably want a menu that adults will enjoy, whether it’s a meal (sandwiches, grilled burgers and hotdogs, pasta – the list goes on) or an array of hors d’oeuvres. Regardless the route you choose for the adults, have some finger foods available for your younger guests, the babies and toddlers that will attend as well. Puffs, Cheerios, Goldfish and other baby-friendly snacks are good options. Avoid small items like nuts, popcorn, candies and other items that could present choking hazards. While we’re on the subject of food, it’s a good time to discuss what your guests will drink. While the Person of Honor cannot indulge in anything special, you may choose to serve alcohol for the adults. However, be mindful of any younger guests – toddlers and other children who might be able to walk about, sampling items that are on their level (and possibly left on the edge of a table). So, just remind guests to keep their “sippy cups” and “grown-up-juice” out of reach. For your younger, non-breast or bottle feeding guests, you can have a nice array of waters and juice boxes.
- Cake: No matter what you do, if you’re going to throw a party, you’ll want to have a cake for your baby. These days, the term is “Smash Cake,” a yummy delicacy that you can watch with delight as your baby hesitantly tastes, feels and later destroys it all! The Smash Cake moment is one that your guests should observe and should directly follow singing of the Birthday Song. Once your child has his own treat, feel free to serve guests cake (a different cake, of course!). Other sweets like cupcakes or cake squares also make a great light dessert.
- Hoopla: We just referenced singing to your Baby, but please remember that your child is young and boisterous games, even clowns or loud music, can be extremely frightening and lead to tears. Keep in mind that it’s best to dial it back a notch or two for your little one so that he is comfortable on his special day.
- Entertainment: Let’s face it – you can have anything from a carousel, Cinderella or Belle, a petting zoo or a water slide. Your baby is probably too young to really participate. So, if you decide to go all out, you’re doing it more for yourself and your older guests – which is perfectly fine if you want to do it. Often, just conversing with guests, passing your baby around and keeping up with him, as well food, drink and cake keeps everyone – especially you as the Hostess – busy. If you feel strongly about doing it up big, that’s your choice. But, if you want to save your energy and your budget for down the road, that’s just as appropriate.
- Capture the Moment: No matter what you choose – your immediate family with some homemade cake and ice cream or 75 of your closest friends with a bouncy house and balloon animals, be sure someone is taking the photos and video. Much like a wedding, you want to ask or appoint someone ahead of time so that it doesn’t get forgotten. After all, we already know your child won’t remember any of this, but you’ll have those photos and video to show him that it really happened!
Last but definitely not least, you want to remember that this is a party honoring a 12-month old baby. If he doesn’t like the cake or falls asleep on the floor before presents, even if you decide to put him to bed because he’s already wiped out, it’s OK. Just go with the flow and let your baby set the pace. Regardless of what happens – if the bouncy house deflates, if your baby throws up, if no one eats the appetizers – you’ll look back on this special day and remember it for what it was. Your Baby’s 1st Birthday!