First birthday ideas can feel like a real minefield to navigate and it can be tough to try and not compare your plans to celebs glossy photos on Instagram. Just remember that whatever it is that you decide to do, the main thing is that you are taking the time to celebrate the first year of your beautiful baby boy or baby girl's life, and all the memories you've shared so far.
First birthday party ideas
Whether you’re planning a big bash for your tot or fancy something a little more laid back, we’ve got oodles of first birthday ideas for you to take a look at, from cake to party inspiration.
We know it might seem a little strange to invest in a cake for your baby to destroy but trust us – the photos are adorable! Unsurprisingly, the craze started off in the US but now parents all across the UK are getting on board. While it's something many photographers offer to shoot in a studio, we love the idea of a home-photoshoot (although it might be worth waiting for a warm day so you can take the mess firmly outside). Then simply set up your camera to capture the fun and let your baby dig in. Invite friends and immediate family along to witness the cuteness.
Costume first birthday party
Admittedly, this is one that is firmly for your enjoyment but if you love dressing up your little one, what about a fancy-dress party with all her baby group buddies? You could keep the theme broad and allow parents to pick whatever costume they like or choose a specific theme like animals or superheroes.
Teddy Bear’s picnic first birthday party
If you’d prefer to keep things smaller or even if you don’t have much space at home, consider getting your close friends and family together for a picnic in the park. You can make this as relaxed as you want to, you could arrange everything yourself or get everyone involved and encourage people to bring a different dish each and spread out the work. For a teddy bear affair, get little ones to bring along their best furry friend too.
Festival fun first birthday party
While 2020 won’t be seeing any festivals this summer, there’s no reason for your youngster to miss out on the fun! Children’s tipis are hugely popular so get guests to bring them along if they have them and set up a garden festival where you can play music for the babies to boogie to and offer fun food options and a face paint, edible glitter or even temporary tattoo station.
Whether you have a boy or girl, if your toddler loves their princesses, consider booking an appearance from a Disney hero. This is a service that many companies now offer on a national and regional scale. Usually, your chosen princess will make an appearance at your baby’s birthday party, take lots of photos with the children and also run activities such as games, songs and stories.
Paddling pool first party
If your baby was born in the summer months and you’re expecting warm weather, consider asking fellow parents to bring along paddling pools so you can set up a pool party in your back garden. This is especially a great theme if your tot loves his or her mermaids. Just don’t forget those swim nappies!
Peter Rabbit first birthday party
Take inspiration from cleaning sensation Mrs Hinch who threw her adorable son Ronnie a Peter Rabbit themed lockdown birthday party. Influencer Sophie bought pom pop bunting, vegetable soft toys and made 'carrot cones' (filled with cheese balls) and soil desserts (made from oreos and buttercream). Check out these adorable Peter Rabbit decorations.
A timeless first birthday theme, a dinosaurs party will never get old. And if these dinosaur decorations aren't enough to convince you, we don't know what will!
Joint first birthday party
If you’re part of an NCT crew, it’s likely your babies will all have been born around the same time. This is a great opportunity to think about holding a joint party for whichever parents’ fancy taking part. You can share ideas, food prep, decorating and costs, making it a cheaper option all round. Just be sure you’re all on the same page first.
Book themed first birthday party
If you and your youngster have a particular favourite book you like to read together whether it’s The Hungry Caterpillar, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt or Guess How Much I Love You, what about basing your little one's birthday party around the story? Take inspiration from the plot for your decoration and even outfits and maybe gift each baby with a copy of the book at the end of the day.
Safari first birthday party
Here’s a wild idea, if you’ve got an animal-loving youngster, make this your theme for your baby’s birthday. Rather than choosing one specific animal (though this is an option too!), this means you have a broader range of ideas you can play with. Gather cuddly stuffed safari animals for the children to play with and look into balloon animal tutorials that will seriously impress your guests.
We don't care what anyone says, unicorns will never go out of fashion and if your child adores these mythical creatures, a unicorn first birthday is a must. You won't be hard-pressed to find decorations but if you need a little inspiration, check out the best unicorn party supplies.
Royal first birthday party
Treat your little prince or princess like the royalty they are and take inspiration from the first birthdays of Princes George, Louis and Archie and Princess Charlotte.
Who should you invite?
Kate and Wills like to be low-key – George’s intimate christening was followed by a private tea at Charles and Camilla’s, and a small family affair with friends is often a wise move. Image: Getty
Nearest and dearest
‘Keep the guest list short and invite a friend for older siblings so they don’t feel left out,’ says Sarah Reynolds, from online magazine The Party Times, owned by Party Pieces, Carole Middleton’s celebration supplies company. Image: Corbis
Keep it short
‘Hosting at home is practical (or take a picnic to the park) and aim for no more than two hours’ party time, which will suit one-year-old energy levels and attention spans,’ Sarah adds. Ideally hold the party at teatime to tally with baby’s routine. Image: Corbis
Pick your theme
Choose two to four contrasting colours to influence decorations, and so on. ‘For our flamingo party, we used lime and hot pink and worked around that,’ says event planner Mark Niemierko of Niemierko Kids. For toddlers, focus on their latest favourite. ‘We’re getting lots of Frozen-inspired requests right now, as well as enchanted woodland events.’ Image: Corbis
Be décor savvy
And by décor, we mean balloons. ‘Have helium ones so they’re out of reach, or if you want normal ones to play with, under inflate them slightly so they won’t burst too easily and cause tears,’ says Sarah. Image: Corbis
The food focus
For a one year old’s party, food is about quality over quantity, while also making something that’s both child- and parent-friendly. Image: Corbis
For grown-ups, too
‘It’s nice to do a few separate dishes for adults, especially as the kids won’t eat a lot and most will end up on the floor as they feed themselves,’ advises Darren McGrady, who was personal chef to The Queen for 15 years. Image: Corbis
Think easy to eat
Good options for little ones are homemade banana bread (Darren suggests cutting into small cubes with a tiny piece of fresh strawberry held in place with whipped cream cheese), minced turkey meatballs and finger food. Image: Corbis
Also try this easy carrot and egg recipe. ‘Grate the carrots, sauté in a little olive oil, fold in a tiny bit of egg yolk to bind and then some whipped egg whites,’ says Darren. ‘Bake for 10 minutes until set and allow to cool. You can now use a small shaped cutter to make bite-size pieces.’ Image: Corbis
Sarnies for the royals
‘To make egg mayonnaise sandwiches for William and Harry when they were tiny, I’d pass boiled eggs through a fine sieve to take out any lumps or shell and then bind with mayonnaise,’ says Darren. ‘No need to butter the bread, just cut the crusts off.’ Image: Corbis
Perfect sweet treat
And if you want regal treats, make jam pennies – buttered white bread sandwiches with strawberry jam, cut into circles. ‘They’ve been served in the nursery since The Queen was a toddler and I always made them for the boys,’ Darren says. ‘At Balmoral we made jam from strawberries that William and his childcare nanny picked in the gardens.’ Image: Corbis
What to wear?
Blue, white, red and green have been the go-to colours in George’s wardrobe (Kate stocked up in BabyGap for the royal tour in April). But as with anything baby related, the key words are comfort and practicality. Image: Rex
Keep it classic
‘The Duke and Duchess choose timeless styles for their baby,’ says children’s fashion designer Rachel Riley, whose sailboat-design dungarees (£75, rachelriley.co.uk) sold out after George was photographed in them at a New Zealand playdate. ‘They've also made dungarees a must, which work well for both sexes because they allow movement and are easy to undo (for nappy changes), but still look smart.’
A touch of colour
Add a modern twist so he or she stands out. ‘Perhaps a smock dress with neon detail, or traditional buckle shoes in a fun colour,’ suggests Rachel. And with chocolate, cake and grass to contend with, two words for you – machine washable. Image: Corbis
Let them eat cake!
For their wedding, William and Kate ordered a chocolate cake, using an old family recipe, and an eight-tiered cream masterpiece made by Fiona Cairns – a layer of which was enjoyed at George’s christening, in line with tradition. Image: Corbis
Choose simple colours
‘A limited colour palette for a cake is more interesting,’ says Fiona. ‘A soft, pastel vintage green is always popular, and we often match icing to decorations – pale pink with sugar strawberries for example.’ Image: Corbis
Go with tried and tested
Fiona adds: ‘A good, basic cake is a Victoria Sponge . It is a simple recipe, which can be adapted with flavours such as lemon or chocolate and used to make little fairy cakes or a larger cake to cut.’ If you’re not confident, think about a tray bake, vanilla cupcakes or small meringues filled with cream. Image: Corbis
William and Kate's first baby George enjoyed a Peter Rabbit-themed bash at their Kensington Palace, filled with the young royals friends and family. It is thought that grandmother Carole Middleton's party-planning business was respondible for all things decorations.
All in the presentation
Fiona suggests assembling the little cakes on a large board, spelling out the child’s name or age. ‘Decorate everything with tiny sweets, many are now made with natural colours, or use sprinkles or edible flowers and colourful candles.’ Image: Corbis
Prep where possible
Some recipes freeze well, including undecorated sponges and unbaked biscuits, so make as much as you can in advance, then ice and decorate the day before or on the day. Image: Corbis
Celebrating with a party at the family's home in Amner Hall in Norfolk, Charlotte's parents William and Kate released photos of taken by The Duchess of Cambridge herself to celebrate the special occassion.
Boost party bags
‘Bake gingerbread men and pipe them with guest names,’ says Fiona. ‘These can be done a few days ahead and put in cellophane bags with ribbon.’ Image: Corbis
What about entertainment?
Ellie Goulding did a set at the royal wedding but, assuming your baby (or budget!) won’t expect quite that level of ents, go for consistent winners – music, bubbles and toys. Image: Corbis
As with his big brother and sister, Kate and William shared photos of Prince Louis to celebrate his first birthday. While no details of how the youngest child spent his birthday, we've no doubt it was a special day surrounded by friends and family.
Keep it relaxed
‘One-year-olds aren’t all going to play games together so keep things flexible with a few structured activities, and gauge how involved the other adults at the party will want to be in case you need help,’ says George Whitefield, director of children’s party organisers Sharky and George. Image: Corbis
Get the water out
‘Babies and toddlers love ball pits, bubble machines and disco lights and, if you can be outside, water play is good fun – get lots of mini watering cans and plastic cups then let the kids loose,’ George says. Image: Corbis
Lockdown didn't stop Meghan and Prince Harry's celebrating their son Archie's first birthday. Most likely quieter than planned, the couple reportedly enjoyed a very messy afternoon involving a smash birthday cake. The royals are also said to have spent time on zoom celebrating with friends and family.
Simple treasure hunts with boxes of toys or snacks work, too, and can be adapted if you have different ages at the party. Image: Corbis
George also recommends The Baby Grand National game. ‘Get a large rug and put all the babies in the middle. The winner is the trainer (aka parent) who can get their baby to crawl or roll off any side of the mat.’ Image: Corbis
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Having worked for Mother&Baby magazine for four years where she wrote news and product pages, features and interviewed celebrities such as Paloma Faith, Fearne Cotton and Alex Jones, Emily now works as Digital Writer for Mother&Baby online.
A fondness for travel, chocolate and her sausage dog Luna, in her spare time. Emily also runs the lifestyle blog, Musings & More.
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