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.

sweet potato cake with plates.

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.

Vanilla Oat Smash Cake with Yogurt Frosting
This First Birthday Smash Cake has a base of rolled oats and is simply decorated—so your little one can dig right into the deliciousness. You can start prepping the frosting the night before. This recipe is baked in mini cake pans to create a small, personally sized cake for your newly minted toddler.
Get the recipe

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.

Healthy Apple Cake (with Yogurt Frosting)
For a first birthday or a family celebration, this Apple Cake is easy and delicious. (Note: You'll want to start the frosting the night before you plan to make the cake so it has time to thicken.)
Get the recipe
healthy-apple-cake on cake stand

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.

Blueberry Smash Cake (First Birthday Cake)
This naturally sweetened birthday cake is delicious and easy to make ahead of time. Plan ahead to let 4 bananas ripen to have brown spots to ensure that the cake has plenty of natural sweetness.
Get the recipe
sliced blueberry birthday cake on colored plates.

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.

Healthy Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
This lightly sweetened cake is perfect for a first or second birthday—or just any day where you’re craving some cake to share!
Get the recipe

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.

Sweet Potato Baby Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Plan to make the
at least two hours (and up to 3 days) before you want to make the cake so it has time to cool.
Get the recipe


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 Vanilla Cupcakes (So Easy!)
These Healthy Vanilla Cupcakes are light, fluffy, and moist. They’re also less sweet than most conventional cupcakes, both in the cake and in the pretty pink frosting, but they are still SO delicious! 
Get the recipe

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!

Favorite Banana Cupcakes
This naturally sweet cupcake is perfect for a first birthday—or any birthday there after. See the Notes section under the recipe for allergy-friendly variations. We love this with Cream Cheese Frosting.
Get the recipe
banana cupcakes on cake stand with first birthday hats

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.

Favorite Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
With a bright strawberry flavor and pretty pink color, this Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting is delicious and ready in minutes. You can make this up to 24 hours ahead and store in a plastic zip-top bag in the fridge until ready to use.
Get the recipe
strawberry cupcakes with sprinkles

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.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Fresh Berries
This recipe was updated in February 2021 to increase the amount of cupcakes from 9 to 12. You can make the strawberry puree up to 3 days ahead of time to make this easier.
Get the recipe

Pumpkin Cupcakes

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.

Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
I like to frost these soon before serving. You can make the frosting ahead, transfer it to a zip top bag, and store in the fridge until ready to add to the cupcakes.
Get the recipe

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
  • Princess
  • Sports
  • Mermaid
  • Unicorns

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.

Related Recipes

I’d love to hear your ideas, so please comment below to share.

This post was first published March 2020.

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  1. 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.

    1. 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!

    2. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. When your daughter gets older, she’s not going to remember who was or wasn’t at her birthday parties until the age of 5. With that being said, GO ALL OUT, like you did for your son. Even if it’s just for the three of you. What really matters is her experience, and the happiness she’ll express in pictures. Which will be the memories she’ll keep. So have fun and take lots of pictures and videos.

      On another note, go to parks near you, and mingle with other parents who have children the same age as yours. And look for another job. Preferably something remote.

      Good luck to you. And don’t be too hard on your self. You’re doing the best you can, and things WILL get better!


  2. So cute! I would also like to recommend a tutu for baby girls 1st or 2nd birthday and photoshoot!

  3. 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!