Party Like You're 1

15 Ideas For The Best 1-Year-Old Birthday Parties

It's an important birthday, but it doesn't have to be complicated. Here are the best ways to keep it simple and successful.

by Emily Kelleher
Originally Published: 
Baby in party hat with balloons
Constance Bannister Corp/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Your child’s first birthday comes with a lot of expectations. After all, it is the first birthday party — an event that’s bound to be well-documented and whose memories will be cherished in years to come (seriously, these are the pictures you look back on). As important as this milestone is, the best 1-year-old birthday party ideas are usually the simplest. This event is mostly for you and the friends and family who’ve helped you survive your first year as a parent and, of course, posterity. So choose a 1st-birthday theme that sounds fun to put together, and enjoy one of the few birthdays in which little guests won’t need to be entertained, beyond maybe a safe area to crawl around. Just think… next year you’ll be shopping for a 2-year-old.

1. Winnie the Pooh

Pooh Bear was made for a first-birthday theme. The books themselves serve as easy, functional decor, while these precious art prints can be hung in the birthday boy or girl’s room afterward. Of course, there’s always Winnie the Pooh balloons, customized name banners, cake toppers, onesies.

2. Very Hungry Caterpillar

One of the difficulties of choosing a theme for the first birthday is that 1-year-olds don’t really have interests yet. But books provide the perfect theme with a dose of nostalgia. Entertain kids during the party with reading of the classic book. This lantern decoration will serve as the perfect backdrop, while these leaf-shaped serving trays will add some fun to your snack display. Decorate festively with Very Hungry Caterpillar–themed paper plates, cups, napkins, or tablecloth. And don’t forget the invites!

3. Where the Wild Things Are

Because if there was any word to describe your child’s first year of life, it would probably be wild. Keep things easy and consider ordering from the plethora of decor available on Amazon, from a high-chair decoration, to a banner, crowns, or a cake topper. Or go DIY with a cake topper made out of a good-old-fashioned construction paper crown, and decorate with some strategically placed greens. Chocolate-covered pretzel rods look like sticks, and gold balloons and a copy of the book pull the theme together.

4. Brunch Themed

Like we said, your kid won’t remember the party, so you might as well do something you like. Brunch time is perfect for hosting those guests who are still on a nap schedule before they’re tired and cranky, and it requires little else than pancake mix and maybe some balloons (these flamingo balloons are super cute and semi-reasonably priced, compared to party store pricing). To add a personal touch, use this photo banner to display a photo from each month of your baby’s life. If you’re still not satisfied on the decor front, there are a plethora of high-chair decorations out there, like this pink one or this colorful version that comes with a matching birthday hat. These plastic stemless champagne flutes are perfect for offering the adults a mimosa, and this first-birthday paper goods set will minimize cleanup.

5. Strawberry Patch

Dress your birthday girl or boy in pink or red, and serve strawberry shortcake or, even easier, chocolate-covered strawberries. For other easy ways to get the theme across, serve snacks in these pink paper berry baskets, and send guests home with these functional hair-tie favors. Thanks to the wonders of the interweb, there are even these strawberry and the first birthday–themed high-chair decorations, banner, lantern decoration thing, and cake topper available at the click of your fingers.

6. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

This childhood favorite makes the sweetest gender-neutral theme. For inspiration, check out this decor and cake topper. For decor you won’t throw away as soon as the party’s over, try these star and moonlight signs that double as a soothing nightlight.

7. Rubber Duck

Turn a nightly chore into the most adorable first-birthday theme with these banners and balloons, and this high-chair topper. Birthday rubber ducks can serve as simple cake toppers or party favors, while bubbles provide theme-appropriate entertainment.

8. Pumpkin

If your baby was born in October and you’re prone to pet names, you’ll love this theme. This pumpkin-themed first birthday high-chair toppers in pink and brown will get your birthday girl or boy looking festive even if they’re just crying and throwing Cheerios around. There are plenty of options in terms of cake toppers, like this “one” or this “little pumpkin”. This banner featuring 12 numbered pumpkins is the perfect opportunity to showcase a picture of your baby at every month of his or her life. This set of premade decorations will set an elegant color scheme with relatively little effort on your part, while these photo booth props add some interactive fun.

9. Music Themed

A musical theme is perfect because it’s one of the few activities 1-year-olds can participate in. Pick up a baby instrument set or some maracas for some festive entertainment, and you can still play your favorite songs to appease the adult ears in the room. Bonus: They’re not old enough yet to play a drum set. Of course, there is plenty of premade decor out there to really drive the theme home, from cupcake toppers to inflatable guitars and microphones and music balloons.

10. Baby Shark

Doo doo doo doo da doo doo doo. From banners to balloons, cake toppers, entire decor sets, and even kid-size masks, the internet makes it really easy to put together this theme. Now if only getting the song out of your head was that simple.

11. Cookie Monster

What’s a first birthday without a cartoon character and dessert consumption? Not something anyone wants to be a part of, that’s for sure. A Cookie Monster party can be as simple as some blue balloons and a generous serving of cookies and milk. Of course when you give a mouse/new parent a cookie theme, they likely be tempted by this onesie, personalized banner, high-chair banner/crown/cake topper combo, or even a cookie piñata.

12. Humpty Dumpty

Start with a soft color scheme, and create a space for guests to play with toys like this Humpty Dumpty plush or listen to a reading of the book and other nursery tales. For food, try Humpty Dumpty deviled eggs or cake pops dipped in white chocolate and decorated with a friendly face.

13. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

This fun and educational childhood favorite offers the perfect twist on the classic luau party. Decorate all of your favorite baked goods with these letter sprinkles, and display a copy of the beloved book. This inflatable palm tree alludes to the story, especially if you tack construction paper letters to it. Since the story takes place in a palm tree, finish off the theme with this tropical party pack, which includes leis and coconut cups.

14. Watercolors

This simple theme lends itself to lovely decor you might have trouble parting with once the party is over. Start with this beautiful tableware set and paper napkins, or make table mats by painting plain white paper with watercolors. For a DIY decoration, anyone can do, place tape on a canvas in the shape of a “1” before painting it with watercolors. When you remove the tape, you’ll have a white “1” and the perfect decoration for a gift or cake table. Let little guests exercise their creative side with these paint sets, and if you really wanna go all out, put your baby in a little beret. Striped shirt and necktie are optional.

15. Bumble Bee

As scary as they can be to kids (and adults), bumblebees make the cutest first-birthday theme. Start with this “happy bee day” balloon set or this adorable burlap banner, and avoid a scary looking attempt at a bumble bee cake with these cupcake wrappers. For the extra fun, include a bumble-bee piñata and a bee-themed photo backdrop. Black and yellow balloons and black-and-white striped or polka-dot paper goods keep things cute and festive.

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