Return to work after Maternity Leave can be stressful, throwing a first birthday party can easily add to the mix. Having a good plan for the first-ever Birthday for your precious baby, it’s one of these things you should have in place.
Many of us will have fond memories of celebrating childhood birthdays, but possibly not back as far as our first – so why bother? Because surviving that first, extremely tough, sleep-deprived, nerve-shattering year of parenting is worth celebrating, isn’t it? Plus, you’re making happy memories to look back on with your child when they’re older.
So how do you celebrate this milestone, especially in the strange times we find ourselves in?
Here are a few thoughts and ideas that might help.
Who Do I invite?
At the moment it’s more about who can I invite than who should I invite. Whether it can only be your immediate family, up to six people or, if things change for the better, a few more or a larger gathering in the garden when the better weather is here – don’t feel it’s not worth celebrating, it really is.
Themes and Decorations
Regardless of the size of the gathering, you will be allowed to have, if you have a party theme, keep it simple. This can be just a colour scheme, often pink or blue, so the decorations match the invitations, tablecloth and possibly even the cake.
You might like to add in a favourite book or tv character, Peter Rabbit is always popular, and incorporate them into decorations and invitations too, with a few cuddly toys scattered around for good measure.
Homemade decorations are perfect for this. You can easly make your own, personalised bunting.
Fun and Games
You won’t need many games for a first birthday party, and nor will they need to be very sophisticated. If there will be a few older children at the event, maybe a few cousins, they make great recruits for organising and running the fun games the little ones should be able to manage to pass the parcel and musical chairs (but with cushions on the floor). A room full of activity toys, such as mini ball pools and tunnels is always fun, and little ones just adore catching bubbles, so get those cousins blowing. If numbers are restricted, or you can only have your household, you can still have fun, just on a smaller scale.
Capturing the party on camera is absolutely essential but will take a little planning. Having a designed photographer, a fully charged camera and plenty of memory on the phone is an excellent start to have some good snaps.
A really lovely idea is to keep a time capsule containing things from your child’s first year, with the final additions being items from their first birthday party; an invitation, deflated balloon, bunting, tags from gifts, list of guests and photographs etc. A shoebox would be perfect, covered with a mosaic of wrapping paper from their first birthday presents.
The cake is the centrepiece for most birthday parties, and none more so than a First Birthday. If you would like to commission a bespoke cake, ensure you do your homework or get recommendations for local cake makers and book within plenty of time. And remember, cheapest is not always the best. If you are on a budget, you could also check out supermarket chains for their offerings.
If you want to bake your own cake with a minimal effort, Victoria Sponge is your best bet.
Decorating your own cake needn’t be too arduous either. A simple 1st Birthday cake topper is excellent and can be kept in your time capsule and even used for subsequent children, a great family heirloom.
You can also buy other types of cake topper, such as the cool, decorated animal figures – again, something to keep in your Time Capsule, and you could also bring it out each year for your child’s cake, starting a new tradition.
If you don’t have one already, now might be the time to buy a cake stand. I would always advise a plain one as it’s far more versatile and elegant.
You must respect the nap. Whilst you can plan the party to avoid your child’s nap time, some of the guests may need a lie down during the party (and I don’t mean one of the parents). Set aside a quiet corner with pillows, floor cushions and blankets for tired ravers – you will probably need it.
No need to be fancy, unless you are feeding the parents too, just a selection of the sort of finger food your little one usually eats. In these strange COVID times, we find ourselves, there should be no self-serve platters. The best idea for party food is to prepare each little guest their own lunch boxes, this way they only touch their own food, and if they don’t eat it all, they can take it home for later.
So, there are a few ideas that will hopefully get things started when planning your event. And don’t worry, they only usually have birthday parties until they’re about 11 or 12, so not too many years to go!
Kathy Newport is a local cake maker, who after career break started Party Animals blog that helps parents and carers organise parties for their own children.