Your baby is about to turn one? Time to plan a birthday party they won’t remember! Really, first birthdays are meant for you, your family, and friends. It’s a way to say thank you for answering your frantic middle-of-the-night phone calls and for watching the tot so you could enjoy a restaurant child-free. Plus, it gives everyone a chance to coo at your kid and snap photos of their smothered-in-frosting face.
Since the guest list will likely be heavy on adults with a few kids sprinkled in, don’t go overboard on the games and party favors — you’ll have plenty of opportunity for that with future birthdays. That said, you want to make the party enjoyable for all ages, so it’s good to have a few light activities planned. Here are 10 ideas for making birthday number one a hit.
1. Build a (mini) ball pit.
Babies and toddlers love the sensory experience of playing in plastic balls — just don’t go overboard with this. Order this 200-pack of phthalate- and BPA-free balls from Amazon, inflate a kiddie pool in your rec room or living room, and fill ’er up. Besides keeping your baby and other under-2s entertained, it’ll serve up awesome photo ops for your guests.
2. Create a time capsule.
Your baby may be oblivious to this now, but they’ll get a kick out of it when they’re older: Create a time capsule full of notes from everyone who helped celebrate their first birthday. Then keep it sealed until the child graduates from high school. Set out small pieces of paper and pens and ask guests to jot down what they love most about your baby now, a memory from the party or other time spent together, their hopes and dreams for your child, or advice for later in life. Decorate a small plastic box or storage container (anything that has a sealable top) for guests to drop their notes into.
3. Have a pajama party
If you hold the celebration at 9 or 10 a.m. on a Saturday, your guests can still have most of their weekends for themselves. And if you tell everyone to just come in their jammies, parents won’t even have to scramble to get their kids ready for a morning party. Serve pancakes, fresh fruit, oatmeal, OJ, and lots and lots of coffee.
4. Do a book swap.
If you’ll have more than a handful of children at the party, a book swap is great, especially if they are all different ages. Instead of gifts, ask parents to bring a gently used book or two that their child has outgrown and place them on a table. Then have the kids — with parent supervision — pick out a “new” book they can take home. Make sure to have story time to dig into those new treasures, with an adult or older kid reading a few out loud.
5. Guess the baby’s weight.
Every guest will want a turn holding the birthday baby anyway, so make an easy game out of it. Have everyone guess your 1-year-old’s weight, down to the ounce, and write their guess on a slip of paper that they drop into a hat. Then pull out the bathroom scale, gently sit the kiddo down, and give a prize to whoever’s guess was closest.
6. Do yoga.
If you have a lot of yogis in your life (or you’re one), encourage guests to bring their mats and dress for gentle yoga. Everyone — parents of newborns, children of any age, childless adults — can get in on the session. Serve a few different fruit-infused waters to keep everyone feeling great.
7. Build a photo booth.
For lots of laughs at the party and memories that’ll last, create a photo booth in a well-lit room. Find a colorful patterned tablecloth or jumbo piece of fabric with a wild print and hang it on a wall for a backdrop. Then gather up a slew of fun props— hats, wigs, funny glasses, fake mustaches, boas — and put them in a big basket nearby. Any bigger kids at the party will love playing dress-up, and the parents will love getting goofy with their babies — and each other.
8. Play Who’s That Baby?
In your invitations, ask all guests to send you a photo of themselves as a baby. Then blow them up and hang them on a wall or a big bulletin board with a number under each. At the start of the party, hand your guests a sheet of paper with numbers on it and have them write down their guess for who each baby photo depicts. At some point, go through and announce who every photo is, and give a prize to the person who gets the most correct.
9. Make it an open house.
Instead of a two-hour party with a set agenda, make the event run a little longer but more like a graduation-party open house. This will let guests drop by for a short bit whenever they choose and give each person more one-on-one time with you and your baby. Another perk of an open house is you can get away with not serving a meal. Just set out cookies, salty snacks, lemonade, and cupcakes in lieu of one big cake. Your baby won’t notice.
10. Rent a hall.
Is your place too cramped to fit everyone you’d like to invite comfortably? Rent a hall or room in a church, community center, or school for a few hours. These venues are often pretty cheap — sometimes even free — and they provide plenty of space for hanging out, eating, and mingling. To give the kids something to do, set up a table with puzzles, board games, and paper and crayons. For food, keep it easy with build-your-own sandwiches, veggies and dip, chips, and cake. This might be the perfect time to hit up your local grocery store’s catering services.