Fun first birthday party ideas: theme, decorations and activities

baby's first birthday party ideas

by Emily Thorpe |

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 party ideas for you to take a look at, from cake to party inspiration.

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 theme ideas

Firstly, the theme - there are so many things to go for, whether you choose your tot's favourite book or cartoon character or their favourite colour. It can all get a bit overwhelming, so we've come up with 11 great first birthday party ideas, perfect for both boys and girls, and indoor or outdoor celebrations.

1. Cake Smash first birthday party

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.

2. 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.

3. Teddy Bear’s picnic first birthday party

Your tot will love looking back at this snapshot when she’s older. Guaranteed she’ll have completely forgotten about her fascination with her giant teddy bear. [Corbis]

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.

4. Festival fun first birthday party

If you've got a summer birthday, how about giving your outdoor celebrations a festival theme! 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 a temporary tattoo station.

5. Princess first birthday party

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.

6. Paddling pool first party

baby in paddling pool

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!

7. 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).

8. Dinosaur first birthday party  

A timeless first birthday theme, a dinosaur party will never get old. And if these dinosaur decorations aren't enough to convince you, we don't know what will!

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

First birthday party decorations

Once you've picked a theme you get to throw yourself into the fun stuff - the decorations! For some decor inspiration - from banners, balloons, cake toppers and more - check out our first birthday decor ideas.

Royal advice on how to plan the perfect 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, with expert advice from Carole Middleton's party planners. Scroll through the gallery for tips on the guest list, where to host, how to pick a theme, what food to go for and even first birthday outfits!

Pssst! Don't forget the party bags! Here are 12 party bag filler ideas to get you started...

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