When you have small children, the old saying rings true: the days are long, but the years are short. Before you know it, your tiny newborn is a robust, toddling 1 year old. Which leads you to wonder, what's the best way to observe this exciting occasion? Of course, your baby won't remember this day, so if you want to have a celebration, plan one that works for both you and your little one.
Your Baby's Temperament
For most 1 year olds, simpler is better. Too many people and too much excitement can result in a very unhappy guest of honor. But you know your baby best, so make your plans accordingly. If he loves people and other babies — the more the merrier! If she's that rare toddler who thrives in new environments, a destination party might work, although for most, a home party is best.
The Guest List
Whom to invite? It's a tough call, because you may feel pressure not to leave anyone out of this special event. Plus, for every child you invite, expect to host both his parents and possibly some siblings as well (whether you've invited them or not!). If you also have a large extended family, the list can expand exponentially.
Timing Is Everything
Turn once again to your child's temperament — and that of your other little guests — to determine when to have your party and for how long. Often, a late-morning or early-afternoon party works well if you'll be hosting other small children. No matter the time of day, keep the celebration short.
To Theme or Not to Theme?
Again, your baby won't be aware of whether you have decorations or matching paper plates, let alone whether they feature his favorite cartoon character. But having a theme helps you with decorating, invitations, food, favors, and activities.
Should you elect to go with a theme party, consider these age-appropriate ideas:
- Beach babies
- Rubber ducks
- Bugs, ladybugs, or butterflies
- Barnyard animals
- Cars and trucks
A small group of toddlers is easily entertained. You won't need a troupe of acrobats or a larger-than-life Elmo. Instead, just provide a safe, baby-proofed environment and plenty of age-appropriate toys, such as:
- Fine-motor toys with knobs and levers to manipulate, such as play gyms or busy boxes
- Colorful plastic balls to grab, mouth, and roll, plus containers to drop them in and then dump them out of
- Push toys for beginning walkers to toddle behind
- Cloth tunnels or foam blocks to crawl through and over
Depending on the kind of party and time of day, there's often no need for a full meal. Make your life easier (and your party less expensive) by providing snacks that toddlers, older children, and adults can all enjoy. Avoid allergens and choking hazards such as nuts and whole grapes. Instead, try:
- Crackers and cheese
- Cut-up fruit
- Bagels or muffins (without seeds, nuts or raisins)
- Animal crackers, cookies or mini-cupcakes (instead of knife-and-fork cake)
- Macaroni and cheese, or plain pasta with an assortment of toppings (some can be for adults or bigger kids only)
Do Guests a Favor
Of course, there's no obligation to send guests away with a parting gift. But if you do choose to give favors, make sure they are appropriate for your smallest guests. Here are some possibilities that can do double-duty — they are safe for 1 year olds, but enjoyable for older kids too.
- Bubbles (you can even make your own personalized labels if you like)
- Crayons (large, fat, washable ones are best)
- Finger puppets
- Bean bags
- Balls (soft or inflatable)
- Inexpensive musical instruments (such as plastic drums or shakers)