How to host your tot’s first birthday party

The stylish guide to a birthday party everyone will remember (with the possible exception of your tot herself)

birthday boy with cake and hat

Your tot’s first birthday is a olouhance to celebrate all the amazing things you’ve achieved in the first year of life. What a ride it is – from those fragile, blissful early days when you first bring your newborn home, to watching them master skills like clapping and smiling, to perhaps hearing their first words or seeing their tentative first steps. It’s hard to overstate the importance and sheer wonder of the first year of your baby’s life. You’ve learned things you never knew you’d have a need for (sterilising! Applying nipple cream! Singing lullabies at 2am!) and you’ve taught your Tot some amazing skills, too. The first year, of course, can be tough as well – there’ll be late nights or nights of broken sleep, crying (yours and hers!) and little teeth causing havoc with your Tot’s mood. And yet – you’re here! You both survived this wonderful, challenging first year – and it’s time to celebrate.

Where and when?

If possible, try to have your tot’s party at home. For their first birthday, having the party at home makes a beautiful memory – and it’s also a lot easier than hosting the party elsewhere. Your tot will feel more comfortable in their own surroundings and you’ll have a better time, too (especially if you hire a cleaner to help post-party!).

Weekends are the most popular time, but of course, your tot isn’t exactly on a 9-to-5 schedule, so weekday parties are perfectly fine! This might work well if most of your guests are from your tot’s playgroup, for instance.

In terms of timing, babies are (as you know!) easier to manage and much happier in the mornings, making early parties an easy choice. But if your tot still has two naps, consider a party between the morning and afternoon nap.

Keep the party to 90 minutes, max – you’ll be done by then, and so will your tot!

Getting inspired

We love a good Instagram stalk, especially when it comes to party planning. Get some ‘gram-spiration from @amyatlas, @thefestiveco, @emikoblue, @littlebigcompany and @makebakecelebrate (among many, many others). For pinspiration, read our article here on our favorite pinterest party boards.

The simplest way to start planning is to choose a theme. It could be a color, a nursery rhyme, your tot’s favorite toy or book or even a place (if your tot loves the beach, say). Then, you can start incorporating everything else into the theme.

What to serve

Sure, the day is for your tot, but don’t forget the adults! If the party is in the morning, coffee is mandatory (and ensure there’s decaf varieties if you have pregnant mamas-to-be in attendance). If the party is in the afternoon, a bottle or two of good quality French champagne is perfectly appropriate!

For kids, keep the food simple (and remember, they probably won’t eat too much anyway). Cut fruit into fun shapes using a cookie cutter. Small muffins (flavored with berries or ham and cheese) are perfect for little hands, as are bite-size meatballs. Be mindful of allergies and choose recipes that are gluten-free and refined sugar-free (there’s nothing worse than ten one-year-olds coming down from a sugar crash all at once). Small frittatas filled with vegetables are a great gluten-free option and can be served hot or cold. If the party is in summer, treat kids to some banana “ice-cream” (we like this recipe) – but be warned, it will be messy! Remember to ask for dietary requirements, and avoid nut butters (allergies!) and honey as it can be toxic to small children.

For the adults, you’ll need something more substantial. Consider getting the party catered, especially if the guest list is long! Keep your theme in mind when it comes to the food – for example, if you have a piñata, why not get a local taco truck to feed the troops? Again, ask guests for allergy and dietary requirements.

If you’re want to do the catering yourself, we suggest a substantial cheese board (perfect if you do decide to go with bubbly!). You’ll need 50 grams of cheese per person, as well as crackers, fruit and quince paste to serve. Go for a mix of hard (a vintage cheddar), soft (a French triple cream brie) and blue. To keep things healthier, you could serve a crudités platter – a mix of chopped vegetables like radishes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers served with hummus, baba ghanoush, tzatziki and ranch. It’s substantial but light – perfect.

Stay true to traditions

If you have special family traditions, incorporate them into the festivities where possible. It could be as simple as serving rugelach if you’re Jewish, or a Doljabi ceremony if you’re Korean (wherein the lucky tot gets to choose from five items that represent their possible path in life). Tradition is so important and makes the day even more special.

The activities

As you no doubt already know, there won’t be many games that’ll keep your tot hooked at this point. Instead, clear a space (and ensure there are no nearby electrical cords or choking hazards) and lay down a soft rug. Place age-appropriate toys and books on the rug, and crank up some Wiggles tunes. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you could try setting up a coloring-in station. We love the idea of transforming one of your child’s photos into a coloring-in page (get the instructions here). Use non-toxic crayons and be prepared for a little mess!

The favors

It’s tradition to hand out favors to guests as they leave, but mounds of sugar or plastic are not what any tot needs! We love the idea of gifting a classic picture book (Madeline or Thomas the Tank Engine), kids’ sunglasses (cute, practical and potential photo op) or a potted plant to remember the day. For grown-up guests, a flower market, where they can curate their own bouquet, is a great memento.

The cake

If you’re comfortable with the idea of your tot celebrating with a little sugar, then cake is the way to do it. Make it festive with ombre layers, frost it with watercolor or simply blanket it in sprinkles! Top your cake with a cute bunting banner, elegant tall candles (keep tots well away!) or even small balloons. Then, the only thing left to do is sing, eat and enjoy!

If you want to keep the cake refined sugar-free, we love this recipe for banana cake (it uses the sweetness of bananas and a touch of agave syrup) and this Paleo chocolate cake recipe (though it does use almond meal, so ask about nut allergies).

And finally…

Take lots of photos! This is a day to remember, so ensure that someone is on hand (professional or otherwise) to document the day. If you’re into photo booths (and who isn’t?) try a floral backdrop (in the style of Kim Kardashian West’s big day), a streamer backdrop or even a doughnut backdrop (like this one from Savannah Guthrie’s baby shower – genius!). Pretty and delicious.