Planning an Epic First Birthday Party

Congratulations! You survived the first year with a new little one. Whether this is your first baby, or your third – you and your family deserve to celebrate this milestone! After all, your bundle of joy is now officially a toddler! That’s a big deal, and so is their special day! Planning your child’s party should be fun, so here is a guide to take the stress out of planning a first birthday party.

Decide When and Where

The first step is to pick the place and the date. It’s important to take into account when your guests will be able to attend. If your child’s birthday falls during the week, consider choosing the weekend before or the weekend after. If you already have a location in mind, think about availability and cost. Scheduling the party for after nap time is a clever way to ensure that your child will be in a good mood. If your house is spacious enough, consider having the party in your home as an easy way to save some dough. Other options for location include a local park, a play area, or a restaurant. If you want to reserve a pavilion, be sure to do so ahead of time. During the busy season, the Cedar Rapids area parks can book up quickly.

Pick a Theme

Picking a theme is the perfect way to guide your decorations and food choices. If you struggle with coming up with an idea, Pinterest is a great place to start. Another way to develop a theme is by thinking about your One-Year-Old’s favorite things. Party themes developed from your child’s favorite book, food, or activity can turn out really cute. We had a puppy theme because my son loves dogs, and a friend of mine had a “fiesta” because their son loves tacos! The options are limitless – if your kid loves “the hungry caterpillar,” go with a bug theme! Have fun with this, you might only get to choose the theme a few times before your child insists on Paw Patrol or Jojo Siwa every year, lol!

Create a guest list and send your invites

First start with space considerations. If you are having the party in your home, you might want to keep the number of attendees intimate. Start with family members and then extend it to your closest friends. Want a bigger attendance? Consider inviting your child’s daycare. You can order and mail invitations or create a Facebook event and invite people that way. If you aren’t design savvy, Etsy has options for invitation templates and custom designers.

Choose the menu

You should use your guest list, budget, and theme to help you create your menu. At our puppy themed party, we grilled our own hot dogs! They were a cheap and kid friendly option. If you want to take some of the extra work off of your plate, you might decide to order the food. Order pizzas and delegate someone to pickup the food, or have a caterer bring it to you. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I have been to a birthday party where they had a fast food “dollar-menu” buffet and it was a total hit for all ages.

Plan the Smash Cake

Perhaps the most iconic part of the first birthday bash is the “Smash Cake!” First, decide if you want to make it yourself or if you want to order it from a bakery. Next, think of design ideas. The fun part of this event is that it’s supposed to be messy – but you might want to stay away from things like black icing so it doesn’t stain their little hands. If your child has dietary restrictions, consider making the cake out of fruit or doing something like a “sand castle smash” instead! Don’t forget to pack an extra outfit for afterwards. If your having the party at a park or somewhere outside of your home, consider packing your high chair or a disposable table cloth to smash the cake on. On tip is to do the smash cake before they eat, so that your child will be hungrier and less tired from all of the party activity. You will probably be distracted during the cake smash, so delegate someone to take photos on your phone or consider hiring a photographer.

All of these tips will help you plan a great party, but the most important thing is to just enjoy and celebrate the one-year milestone. The party doesn’t have to be perfect or “Insta-worthy.” Let go of perfection and just have a great time. Celebrate being together and the fact that you have created and nurtured another HUMAN for an entire year. Take lots of photos and don’t worry about looking perfect. Your child might not remember this party, but you will! You did it mama!

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Jess is a first-time mama to her son, Benson. After welcoming their new baby, she and her husband Kevin moved to Cedar Rapids to be closer to family. When they were house shopping, Jess made Kevin promise her that they could stay within 20 minutes of a Target. She has a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Missouri State University and works from home full-time. In her free time, she can be found online shopping, listening to true crime podcasts, or reading on her kindle. Her family loves being outside, playing board games, and their golden retriever Leo.


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