9 Steps to Plan a ONEderful First Birthday Party for Your Child

Congratulations, your little miracle is almost 1, and you made it through your first year of being a parent! You have a few gray hairs, you haven’t had an uninterrupted shower in a year, and eight hours of sleep seems like a fantasy at this point. But even with all of that, you wouldn’t trade it for the world.

You want to throw your little cherub a birthday party, but you don’t quite know where to start. That’s because you’ve never planned a party for someone who has no idea it’s happening, gets somewhat cranky without a nap, and will probably try to put all the decorations in their mouth.

The good news is you can pick the theme you want because your child doesn’t care, which won’t be the case in a few years. Enjoy being the decision-maker while you can! The party planning process for a child’s first birthday looks slightly different than any other birthday party, and we’re here to offer a simple guide.

First and foremost, don’t stress about every detail too much because 1-year-olds are unpredictable, and you must embrace the spontaneity. The party might get cut short by a meltdown, your child may refuse to take pictures, etc. Go with it!

Before you start planning, decide if you want to take everything on yourself or opt for a birthday event planner. Hiring an expert party planner gives you special access to the best vendors, takes the stress off so that you can enjoy the moment, and can provide you with a next level party that pops with the most innovative and memorable ideas.

Regardless of whether you consult a planner or DIY it, here are nine tips for planning a fantastic birthday bash for your newly minted 1-year-old.

1. Plan Your Guest List According to Baby’s Personality

Let’s be honest, this party is half for you and your friends, but remember that the celebration is also for your child, so try to make the atmosphere as enjoyable as possible. Do they get anxious in big crowds? Then consider a small party with only family and close friends. Does your child thrive in big groups? Then bring on the massive birthday bash! Do they react best to simplicity, or do they do well with constant excitement? You know your child best, so plan the guest list and activities accordingly.

2. Consider Baby’s Nap Time When Choosing the Time of Day

We might be telling you something you already meticulously do daily. Still, it’s important to plan around your child’s naptime and their friends’ naps to ensure your child is as happy as possible at the party and that their friends can make it to the celebration. This usually means morning or late afternoon. Most littles take their snooze somewhere between noon and 1 pm. You also don’t want the party to be too long; an hour or two is optimal for a first birthday party to avoid overstimulation and sugar overload. A big soiree might tire your little one out pretty quickly.

3. Keep Their 12-Month Shots in Mind

You may already have your child’s one-year well-check doctor visit scheduled, where they’ll receive their 12-month shots. It’s wise not to plan the party on the few days following that appointment.

Shots can affect your baby’s mood and cause crankiness or a low-grade fever. Either throw the party before their doctor’s appointment or wait a week to dodge a grumpy birthday boy or girl at the party that you’ve invested so much in. Do what you can to catch your baby feeling their best.

4. Provide Food for the Little People and the Adults

Yes, the party is for your 1-year-old and their adorable little friends, but it’s common courtesy to provide food and drinks for the adults, too. Consider applesauce pouches, crackers, and cut-up fruits and veggies for the babies and charcuterie or finger sandwiches and lemonade for the adults.

5. Keep the Environment Baby-friendly

Since you have a lot of little curious climbers and walkers coming, make sure you baby-proof the place accordingly or at least opt for gates to keep littles out of certain areas. You can go a step further and create baby-changing stations to help parents feel comfortable when their child needs a diaper change. Everyone will appreciate your making a baby-friendly and parent-friendly space.

It’s also best to stick to plastic or paper tableware and drinkware at a baby’s party to avoid glass shattering everywhere because, let’s face it, something will get knocked down; it’s just a matter of time, and breakable dinnerware can be dangerous.

6. Plan the Smash Cake

The main attraction at a first birthday party is usually the smash cake! It’s traditional to introduce sugar to a 1-year-old, and the results are generally priceless. Many bakeries make a free smash cake with the purchase of a cake so that you can have one small smash cake for your baby that they can destroy and a separate cake for your guests to enjoy. Don’t forget to have someone (or yourself) video your child’s reaction to the cake. It will be fun to show your child their first experience with cake: a baby + a smash cake = beyond adorable.

7. Take Pictures Before the Party

Take some pictures of your child while things are calm and quiet to ensure you get good keepsake shots to remember the milestone. Don’t put it off because once the guests arrive, you’ll be busy hosting and tending to your baby, and you have no clue what their mood will be like amidst the chaos. You’ll be glad you took the pictures beforehand.

8. Consider Hiring a Babysitter or Mother’s Helper

If there will be a lot of children, consider hiring a sitter to look after the kids while you’re focusing on the party. It can also help parents relax and enjoy the outing without chasing their children around. Maybe one of your friends has a trustworthy teenage daughter who would be perfect for this. It’s a great option to consider if it’s within your budget.

9. Ask For Help Documenting the Special Occasion

Depending on your budget, hire a photographer or recruit one of your friends/family members as your designated photo taker. If you’re working with a professional party planner here in DC, they’ll know which local photographers have a flair for kids’ photos.

You might be so focused on moving the party along and ensuring your child is enjoying themselves that you may forget to document the celebration. You’ll thank yourself later if you put that task on someone else.

Once you’ve done the planning and decorated the space, don’t forget to enjoy the party and focus on making your little one feel loved and special. The décor and food are fun touches, but don’t get so caught up in making the event Pinterest-perfect that you forget to make it enjoyable for the little guest of honor. We love planning first birthday parties, so contact us today if you need event-planning services.


Congratulations on your first birthday! Despite the challenges, the joy and fulfillment make every sacrifice worthwhile. Plan your child’s birthday party with freedom to choose any theme. Embrace spontaneity and go with the flow. Consider hiring a professional event planner for access to top vendors, relieves stress, and ensures you can fully enjoy the occasion.

9 Steps for a ONEderful First Birthday Party Infographic