When it’s time to celebrate your baby’s first birthday, there are so many fun ways to celebrate that don’t cost a fortune. Here are my favorite first birthday party ideas to share the love and celebrate the milestone.
First Birthday Party Ideas
Celebrating a first birthday is such an important milestone for both the baby and the parents. What a year! When we celebrated my son’s first birthday, we kept things simple because it seemed like a good way for me to avoid becoming overwhelmed when I was already dealing with a lot of last first baby feelings! But whether you’re having a small bash, lots of guests, or something in between, there are easy ways to keep it fun and low stress.
These ideas will help you have fun on the day of baby’s first birthday party—with easy decorations, birthday party themes, desserts including cakes and cookies—and more ways to enjoy the celebration without too much work, stress, or planning.
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1st Birthday Party Smash Cakes
Oh, I love a good birthday cake, and these are my very favorite first birthday cakes and cupcakes. Most of these can be made ahead of time, there are ones to make for kids with food allergies such as eggs and dairy, and all of them are yummy enough to share with the rest of the family, too, including older kids.
Vanilla Oat Smash Cake
With maple flavors and a creamy yogurt frosting, this smash cake is healthy and fun to make. It’s a perfect way to celebrate your little turning 1.
Healthy Apple Cake
This is the cake I made for my third kiddo, and we all loved it! Hilariously, he actually didn’t want any on his big day since he was too overwhelmed by the singing, but he liked the leftovers! We had this on the dessert table with Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, an assortment of berries, and melon.
Allergy-Friendly Blueberry Birthday Cake
This cake is free from the top allergens and has a fun and bright frosting. It’s a yummy option for a kiddo who can’t eat eggs or dairy.
Healthy Banana Cake
If you have super ripe bananas, this cake comes together easily. Plus, it’s easy to make gluten-free and nut-free and can be made ahead of time. Baby can smash this cake (which is fun entertainment for everyone) or you can slice it to share.
Sweet Potato Baby Cake
With an easy stir-together method and a naturally sweet flavor, this delicious Sweet Potato Cake is a perfect baby cake for a first birthday, a festive holiday dessert, or a treat to share on a day that needs it! It has a pretty pale orange color and is a perfect party food.
First Birthday Cupcakes
Use two of my favorite recipes to make a batch of easy cupcakes to share with the family. Each of these is lower in sugar than a traditional cupcake but totally perfect for celebrating the big 1st birthday. We love sharing these with cousins or baby friends who come to celebrate, too.
Healthy Vanilla Cupcakes
With a bright and flavorful frosting and lower overall sugar, this combo is one of my favorites—and both the cupcakes and the frosting can be made ahead!
Healthy Banana Cupcakes
I made these for my middle kiddo’s first birthday and they were easy to make and fun to eat. The cream cheese frosting is so easy and so good!
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
This flavorful frosting delivers on both flavor and texture. And pairs well with chocolate cake, vanilla cake, or even strawberry cake.
Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes
These Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes have super yummy fruit flavor, are a great option for a first birthday or toddler birthday, and are the prettiest pale shade of pink! You can top each with a fresh berry.
With a simple stir-together method, these easy Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting are a perfect fall dessert to share with the kids! They have less sugar than similar cupcakes, yet they deliver big time on both texture and flavor. Each is a perfect finger food.
First Birthday Activity Ideas and Games
Make the day feel a little more special with these fun and easy activities you can do at home. These work well if you have older kiddos in the house who can help join in the fun of the day, but you can do them with just one kiddo, too.
1. Smash Cake Video
Set out a sheet, put a little cake down, and let your birthday boy or girl have fun with their cake—smashing it and eating it however they like!
2. Ball Pit
Order a bunch of small plastic balls, fill up a baby pool, and let the little ones play. Stay close to help them if they need it!
3. Balloon Toss
Blow up a few balloons and toss them back and forth and up and down.
4. Painted Onesie
We made a few first birthday onesies for my baby the day before his big day and had a contest for which one we liked best—and then he got to wear that one on his big day! It was fun to see the designs we all came up with and was an easy craft that just required white onesies, puffy paint, and cardboard to put on the inside of the onesie to avoid the paint from seeping through the top layer.
5. Name Banner
Make or buy a simple name banner to hang on the window or near the kitchen table to signify that it’s a special day. (We actually hung two star banners and kept them up for months since we loved the gold glitter stars so much!)
6. Bath Painting
Let the kiddo get extra messy on their big day with painting in the bathtub (or baby pool). Put them into the tub or pool, give them finger paints or washable paint, and let them go to town! You can also do this on a big sheet of paper (though I’d recommend you do it outside if you can!).
7. Painted Handprints
Paint washable paint onto the kid’s hands (or feet!), and help them make handprints on paper. Write on the date and occasion once dry and stick into the baby book for a memento.
8. First Birthday Crown
Pick up one from the store (Target usually has sets of cardboard crowns in their birthday plates and cups aisle) or make one. I’ve done both and each was a fun way to make the birthday more fun.
9. Water Play
This can be done any day of course, but playing with a water table is always a fun activity for the kids! Or bring out the bubbles and let the kids try to pop them.
10. Music Time
Whether you play instruments or not, can carry a tune or not, have a family dance party as a fun first birthday party idea. You can put on a favorite album, look for something you like on YouTube, or use a streaming service like Spotify.
Fun Ways to Connect with Loved Ones Remotely
If you live far from relatives or can’t gather for one reason or another, there are ways to connect remotely that will still allow you and your birthday kiddo to feel loved. Here are a few.
1. Google Hangout to Sing Happy Birthday
Invite the family to a Google Hangout (or go with Zoom if it’s a large crowd!) and have everyone sing happy birthday to the special kiddo if they can’t be there in person. You can also have loved ones send recorded videos and play them throughout the day.
2. First Year Video
I used Animoto to put together a video slideshow of the best photos of my baby’s first year. This was something I could easily share with family and friends and a great way to keep the memories in an easy place for the future.
3. Mail Cards for the Baby Book
You could ask loved ones who live far away to send a card with a note that includes their favorite memory from baby’s first year for the big day to keep with the baby book. Sweet and simple!
4. Facetime Storytime
You could have a grandparent or loved one read a favorite birthday book over FaceTime as a special treat for the big day. We like birthday books including Dr. Suess’s Happy Birthday Baby.
Simple First Birthday Ideas
It can often feel overwhelming to celebrate such a big milestone, but it’s possible to have the day feel special even when you keep things simple. So this is your permission to not feel like you have to do all the things—unless you really want to!
And know that having a simple first birthday can be cake and a song. Or cake and a song and one activity. You do what feels right for your family in the moment.
Favorite First Birthday Themes
Some popular, classic themed first birthday party ideas include:
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Best Tips for First Birthday Parties
- Plan the timing around baby’s nap schedule so they don’t have a party happening when they’d rather be sleeping.
- Include party supplies on your list such as tableware, napkins, utensils, plates, cups, and candles.
- We love a simple party favor like a favorite printed photo of baby or the whole family.
- Take inspiration for planning the themed birthday party from baby’s favorite foods or games.
I’d love to hear your ideas, so please comment below to share.
This post was first published March 2020.
Wow Amy, I really like your articles and content, and the way you respond to people in the comments.
I am a single mom to two AMAZING and beautiful kids. My 5 year old has had a themed party with special cake and decor and all the family to celebrate every single one of his birthday’s. My daughter will be turning one year old in two weeks and we no longer have any family whatsoever that can/would travel back from out of state to celebrate her 1st birthday, like they celebrated all of my son’s birthdays. I knew before she was born what kind theme I would have for girl’s 1st birthday. Her nursery decor and my overly large pregnancy tshirts have everything to do with this choice. I went all out with my son’s 1st Mickey Mouse birthday party, and every birthday since. So when I found out I was pregnant with my baby girl, I just knew her very 1st birthday celebration was gonna be a Unicorn “Magical One” themed party with the perfect unicorn outfit, unicorn horns (party hats), the specially ordered-3 months in advance-unicorn cake, and the same family that left us to celebrate completely alone. I never imagined said family leaving my kids and I to be left without them for important moments likes this. We are left without them and without any “real friends”. It’s just the 3 of us now. I believe everything happens for a reason so I need to know how I can make this a true, memorable 1st birthday for my only daughter with only her 5 year old brother, and me. Not to mention I work every day, except Sundays at the worst paying, emotionally draining job that somehow leaves me with literally zero money to do anything extravagant with my children. I never even have enough money to travel the 3 hours to our closest Zoo. How do I make this birthday special for the 3 of us without feeling like I am completely failing my daughter, failing my son as well.
I would focus on spending time together and doing your daughter’s favorite things, whatever they are. Bigger doesn’t always mean better and you can commemorate the milestone simply by taking the day to focus on your family. I know this is hard and I hope you have a great day, whatever it winds up including!
I made a video with animoto. What a lovely idea.
So cute! I would also like to recommend a tutu for baby girls 1st or 2nd birthday and photoshoot!
Loves these ideas! My dad lives on the side of the country so he bought our kids each a book for them and he bought himself the same book, then we face-timed and read them the book that they each had a copy of. It’s was fun and the kids loved it!