Planning a birthday party for your one year old

  • Understanding your one-year-old
  • Who to invite
  • Getting the timing right
  • Games and activities
  • Choosing a venue
  • What food to serve
  • Choosing a theme
  • The party bags
  • Choosing presents
  • Top tips for a successful party

A baby's first birthday is always something special for the parents, grandparents, close friends and family. It is also potentially costly as people spend a hefty amount in organizing a lavish birthday party and on birthday gifts. However, think if you really need to spend so much and don't feel pressurised into going over the top. Your baby won't appreciate such extravagance and small is definitely beautiful at this age!
Understanding your one-year-old
Your one-year-old may be fearful of strangers, and strange or new places. Despite liking other babies, she won't understand how to play with them yet. She will enjoy individual attention and likes to make you laugh. All of which adds up to an intimate, low-budget family party!
Who to invite
The old saying "One guest for every year your baby is old" is a good one –- but may not hold ground in our society where everyone you know may expect an invite for your baby's first birthday. So plan carefully. Why not use our party checklist to make sure you're prepared to enjoy the big day!
At this closely-attached-to-mum stage, the best way you can make this a special day for your one-year-old is by offering her loads of undiluted attention. Her social network will be small and intimate and that's how she likes it. She won't thank you for a house full of strangers, so stick to close friends and relatives.
This is a party that grandparents, family and friends will not want to miss. You may want to invite some neighbours or friends from your old antenatal or postnatal classes, too. Why not buy or make some really special handmade or personalised invitations.
Getting the timing right
You may have planned a pooja, a havan, a visit to an orphanage or temple, or a big party -- but just remember that the star of the day is your baby. Try not to fit in too many activities in one day and choose a time when your baby is well rested, or it may just get her cranky.
By one, your baby may be in a daytime nap routine. The worst time for the excitement of a party is when your baby is tired, so afternoon tea, after nap time, works well. If you are inviting other baby guests, check out their nap times with their parents. Once one starts wailing, they all will! Keep the party brief -- an hour or so is quite long enough at this age. If you have planned a late evening party or an early dinner to accommodate working parents, try to wrap it up before your baby's bedtime.
Games and activities
Loud bangs from party poppers and bursting balloons, fireworks or crackers may frighten your baby, and discarded poppers and balloons are a serious choking hazard at this age, so leave them till next year. Why not have some musical fun, such as dancing with your baby, or a nursery rhyme tape on in the background. She'll appreciate a few simple games, such as Row the Boat or Round and Round the Garden with plenty of tickles, too.
If you have the space, you may want to hire a small party train -- little ones can enjoy short rides along with their mothers. Your baby will also enjoy peek-a-boo games, lots of bubbles from a no-tears bubble maker, finding toys hidden in a box or under a cloth and, of course, she'll enjoy helping you to open her presents (although the wrapping paper will be far more fun than the gift!).
Choosing a venue
Home is the place where your baby will feel most secure. If you are expecting many children, choose the largest room in your home or your lawn to host the party so that there is enough place for everyone. Your baby will appreciate a few colourful decorations with balloons and streamers. However, remember to remove all unused balloons, wrapping paper and cello tape as they may be a choking hazard. Avoid using hydrogen balloons to decorate the house as the gas is dangerous and highly flammable, you may want to choose a few helium filled balloons instead.
If you want something more adventurous, you could buy a baby ball pool or make one by placing a lot of colourful balls in an empty paddling pool. However, do keep an eye on everyone -- sometimes little ones tend to get rowdy and you wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt.
What food to serve
Keep food simple -- most of it will probably end up on the floor in any case!
Finger foods like potato chips, baked potatoes wedges, plain noodles, french fries, sandwiches cut into bite sized portions,muffins, chopped fruits and idlis will be excellent for both babies and adults, as eating them won't interrupt play or interaction.
Parents may well have brought a bottle or feeder cup with them containing the drink of their choice for their baby, but have water, milk and diluted fruit juices at the ready. If you're providing food for grown ups and parents keep it simple but do try keep individual tastes in mind.
You can serve homemade snacks like sandwiches, vegetable pakoras, cutlets, bread rolls, noodles, pasta, idlis , upma, vadas or chaat. You may also want to call in some pizzas, burgers or special food items from any popular restaurant. Soups, juices, tea, coffee or milk shakes are drinks everyone would enjoy. For more ideas take a look at our article on birthday party recipes.
If you have planned a lunch or dinner party, you may want to serve your guests home-made fare like aloo puri, chhola rice, chhola kulcha ,tandoori vegetarian and non vegetarian items, special raitas and,an interesting salad. These are less messy and easy to cook. You could also hire a caterer to take care of a special party menu in case you wish to offer a larger variety. This will allow you to spend more time enjoying the party and looking after your guests than worrying about the cooking.
Avoid serving foods like dry fruits (peanuts, almonds, raisins etc.), popcorn, small hard candies, small fruit like grapes or cherries that may present a choking hazard to the little ones.
Some babies will have quite a few teeth and be able to bite into food; others may still be toothless, so cater for both extremes: bread sticks, tiny sandwiches with cheese spread, cut into shapes, cubes of mild cheese, and mini juice cartons are ideal choices.
You could also include traditional Indian sweets like gulab jamun, ras malai or rasgullas or other favourites like custard, fruit cream and ice creams. Chocolate fingers are scrummy, but messy -- plain or chocolate chip biscuits may suffice. Jelly tends to be more of a play material at this age and is very messy. Your mini guests will probably eat very little food, so aim for a variety of taste, texture and colour rather than quantity.
Keep paper plates or cups handy, little ones may insist on feeding themselves. You could also serve food in sturdy plastic plates and glasses specially suited for young ones.
Aim for a wonderful cake -- a home made one is special, but markets have a great variety available, or order from a bakery. You may need to order this in advance. Don't let your baby near the candle, as she will want to grab, not blow it.
Choosing a theme
Party themes aren't important to a one-year-old. You might want to aim for a colour-coordinated look matched to your baby's birthday cake or party dress, but it's more for the benefit of the keepsake photos than your baby at this stage.
You could also give your party a personal touch by making a collage of your baby's photographs. You could choose pictures of special moments, or those tracking her development through her first year. Hang it on a wall where everyone can take a look. You could also ask guests to write a special birthday message for your baby, something which she will enjoy reading when she grows up.
A tiny handprint of all the little ones along with their names could also be a great party keepsake. Something you and other mums would love to treasure. If possible try to take a picture with each guest, you could send their picture and handprint along with a thank you note to make it more special.
The party bags
Party bags are really superfluous at this age, and the usual goodies like sweets and balloons are downright dangerous. If you really want to give a going away present to your little guests, opt for a small, safe soft toy each or a board book to chew on. You could also choose rattles, bath toys and feeding accessories like colourful plates, cups and water bottles for the little ones. If there are children of an older age group remember you can never go wrong with chocolates and books.
Choosing presents
By now, your baby will appreciate something, which makes a noise or lights up, or both, so activity centres are a good choice. It's never too early to read, and textured board books are great fun for your tactile baby. A trolley, or push-along to aid walking skills will be popular, and new bath toys are always welcome.
You may want to consider a big, lasting present, such as a baby swing for outdoors or a rocking horse. If you already have loads of toys, she won't object if some people buy her clothes! Check out our other present ideas. You may also want to consider opening a bank account for her or investing in a policy, which she can use when she is older.
Top tips for a successful party
• Remove your carpet and opt for a large washable mat instead.
• You may want to remove your sofas, couch or divan out of the way in order to protect your upholstery. You could choose to rent out colourful and sturdy plastic party furniture instead.
• Have somewhere clean, handy and well equipped for nappy changing. Keep spare diapers, toilet paper and hand towels ready.
• Breastfeeding mums may appreciate somewhere quiet and private to feed -- keep a room aside to accommodate them.
• It's crawling, walking and climbing time -- stair gates, balcony gates, window grills and fireguards are essential.
• Stow away precious ornaments and breakables like crystal ware, photo frames, vases or curios. These may break or could even pose a choking hazard for young children.
• Keep pets well out of the way (for their own protection!).
• Keep a very watchful eye on the party area for hazards, such as forks, knives, glasses, paper napkins, stray balloons, plastic wrappers or small swallowable objects, and clear them away quickly.
• Keep a few packets of paper towels and wet wipes handy accidents are bound to happen with so many little ones.
• Babies will play alongside each other, not together, so keep a variety of toys available within a large, safe floor space.
• Relax -- let your baby and her guests set the pace.
• Make sure you have a willing volunteer to take plenty of photos or unobtrusively wield a camcorder -- you'll be too busy!
• Take lots of pictures of your baby, the candle, cake and guests and you will have some beautiful memories to look back on when your child is older. You could even celebrate by planting a tree and watching it grow along with your baby each year!

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