My youngest of four girls just turned one–sniff!  I can’t believe I will never have another first birthday party to throw!  With this being my fourth go-around, I have learned a thing or two.  Before I get into the details of the party (including DIY invitations, photo banners, cake and favor ideas, keepsake gifts, and more), I will first share a few thoughts about first birthday parties in general… just my two cents on the subject!  :)



I am all about having parties that are outside of my own house.  Even if you aren’t really particular about things being squeaky clean (me!), you still need the house to be picked up enough for people to be able to congregate (and not embarrass yourself… for example, your friend’s baby who’s crawling on the floor may end up with a big wad of dog hair in her mouth… I will neither confirm nor deny that this has happened many-a-time in my house over the years!)  Also, when a party is held in your home, guests will always have questions about where something is and/or will innocently need a bit of help here and there.  Even though no one means any harm by this (obviously!), if you are the one trying to take pictures, film video, set food out, and most importantly, keep your child(ren) happy, safe, organized, and fed on this special day, there is always an extra element of stress when all of this is happening under your own roof, and you’re the only one to answer questions about things.  Simple solution:  go somewhere else for the party!  :)  Even if that means you head to the park up the street…


What does your child love?  Bubbles?  Elmo?  Buses?  Balls?  Whatever it is, try to incorporate that into the day somehow.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.  You could take a sheet and put some balls in the center–have guests shake the sheet around and let the balls bounce all over… anything that will evoke happiness in your little one.  There is nothing sweeter than seeing your child laughing, squealing, and clapping on his/her special day.  All too often, babies celebrating a first birthday end up having a complete meltdown (especially during cake time) because a party can be totally overwhelming for a 12-month-old.  (Don’t get me wrong, sometimes tears are inevitable, no matter how hard we try to make it a blissful day–and that’s okay, too… it adds to the memories, I suppose!  Just try to laugh it off and snap some pictures–you’ll all laugh about the debacle one day!)  But if you are going to invite the whole neighborhood to the party, for example, just make sure your child is outgoing enough to handle that.  Sometimes having 50 people singing to you (and staring at you) leads to tears–not joy (as we adults might think).  So before you start your planning, I’d suggest that you attempt to think about things from your child’s perspective rather than your own… each child is different, so try to get inside the mind of yours.  :)


When is your child’s best time of the day?  First thing in the morning?  If so, consider a morning party.  Does he/she still take two naps?  Then maybe mid-day in between naps is best.  I think we adults tend to plan parties for dinnertime, but if you think about it, that may be your child’s worst time of the day.  Even though a first birthday is a great excuse for us adults to have a party and get together with our grown-up friends, I have found that the most successful parties (i.e. the ones where the child is the happiest) are the ones where everything was truly centered around the guest of honor and his/her needs and likes.


With all that said, if you haven’t seen your friends in a long time (because you’ve been busy this past year after all!) and you have been dying to have a party–then by all means, forget about all of the above and go big!!  :)  Host it at your house, invite the whole gang, cross your fingers that your little one will love every bit of cake time, and then put the baby to bed post-cake and enjoy the rest of your night!  After all, it’s been quite a year for ALL of you (remember those sleepless nights?!), and that is something for Mom and Dad to celebrate, too!

There’s no wrong way to have a first birthday party… just giving you some things to think about, especially if this will be the first time you host a birthday party for your child.  :)


Before you can have a party, you need an invitation!  Nowadays I know that an email can suffice, but I’m a sucker for paper invitations.  I love to tuck them into the baby book!  :)  Such a special keepsake…

See how I made my own invitations (and thank you notes) using Wishing Tree Designs

In order to create my daughter’s invitations and thank you notes, I used a picture I took of her on the beach with some balloons.  Too cute!  :)  View this post to see more from this photo shoot.  I also share a few editing tips.  Look how dark it really was the day we took these pictures!  Just a few quick clicks on my computer, and the pictures went from being almost unusable to being shots that are among my favorites!

Special Photo Banners

Each month I took a picture of my daughter next to a big stuffed bear to show some scale.  As her birthday approached, I decided to print these pictures and hang them up at her party.  It was so fun to see them all in a row!

I used Skitch to add the circles and the numbers.  (It’s a free program I downloaded to my computer, and I use it to add text and arrows to all the pictures you see on this blog.)  I then simply printed the pictures using Shutterfly (my go-to for almost everything picture-related) and hung them across a ribbon with tiny clothes pins from my local craft store (Michael’s).  I had the photos all pinned up at home so I just had to tape up the ribbon when we got to the location of her party.  (We had her party at The Little Gym.  They do a great job for the little ones… parachute time, bubbles, balls, music–and every child’s favorite:  the inflatable walk!)


I also used these pictures to create a special keepsake book for my daughter as a first birthday gift.  I made this book at Blurbview this post for all the details.  I have also used Shutterfly for many photo books (such as gifts, an extended family cookbook, and various books for our own family).  I have had really good experiences with both companies.


Along with the pictures of my daughter in front of the bear, I also went back and found other favorite pictures over the last year.  The top ribbon is holding pictures of our four girls–one photo from each month; the center ribbon is holding various favorites; and the bottom ribbon is holding family pictures over the course of the year… it was really fun to look at everything all in a row.  Not only did the baby grow a ton, but my older girls really changed as well!  (As for my husband and me–we didn’t age a bit, of course…)


Polka Dot Cake & Cupcakes

You can’t have a first birthday party without cake!!  I dedicated an entire post to describing these fun polka dot cupcakes and smash cake.  They are so easy to make even though they look pretty fancy!  I also made another smash cake for my daughter’s actual birthday–we celebrated with just our family of six that day.  There are lots of photos and tips in that post if you’d like to check it out.  :)

Simple DIY Banner

See below for how easy it is to make a banner like this!

On my daughter’s actual birthday, we had a little mini party for her, just our family of six.  Below is a picture I snapped of her that day–I know she’s my child, but I could just eat her up!  :)  See more from her special day here

After I made the “ONE” letters, I kept staring at it to see if there was something I could do with it for her party the following week.  I decided to print “IS FUN” and create a banner.  The details follow:

I took the letters I had already printed and then added a few more.  (I used basic white cardstock.)  The font used is Cooper Black.

I then cut the edges down a bit.

Next I pinched the bottom end to find the center easily–I squeezed a bit on that center spot to create a tiny crease so I could see the middle.

I then measured up 2 inches and drew a mark.

Next I drew a straight line from the center mark to each corner.

I cut the triangular piece out.

I used a ribbon to create my banner, but you could use anything–yarn, string, etc.  I punched a small hole with a hole puncher and then wove the ribbon through as shown.  (Tip:  cut the ribbon to a sharp point to make it easier to pull it through the hole.)  Tie a knot in the back of the card to secure the ribbon.  Leave enough excess ribbon on the far end so you can tie (or tape) the banner up when it’s time to display it.

In between letters, take a shorter piece of ribbon and weave it through as shown (so the ends are in the back of the cards in order to hide the knots).  Be sure to leave extra length when separating words.

Tie a knot behind each card to secure the ribbon.  Trim off the excess ribbon so it doesn’t show from the front.

Don’t forget to leave extra length between words.

Voila!  Simple enough!

Party Favor Idea

My daughter’s party was very small–we invited just a handful of her little friends and their older siblings.  Since the kids ranged in age from 10 years to 6 months, I decided to give each family a book they could all share rather than individual goodie bags for about the same amount of money.  (Even though I have given away many, many goodie bags filled with various trinkets over the years, I will admit that goodie bags make me a bit crazy at this stage in my life.  Especially when my three oldest girls attend the same party–they will walk in the door and suddenly there are plastic rings, spinning tops, and super-balls everywhere!  As I mention in this organization post {worth looking at with more than 100 tips!}, I now sneak a lot of their goodie bag items and fast food prizes and tuck them away in a treasure box of sorts.  I eventually donate these goodies to teachers to use for rewards for good behavior in the classroom.  I have less clutter in my house; the kids don’t even realize these “little things” are missing; and the teachers are very grateful–we all win!)

As a general rule, then, I try to give away favors that my friends won’t be cursing my name for handing out!  :)  I also hate feeling like I’m being wasteful if I spend money on things that I know the kids will love for just a quick moment, and then they are either in the garbage or off to Goodwill.  So through the years, we have given away favors such as coloring books, t-shirts, socks, gloves, notepads, books (love BOB learn-to-read books in particular–can buy a set and give each child a single book), sidewalk chalk, cookies, doughnuts, etc.–whatever seems fitting for the birthday girl… it’s usually something she has loved at that age and wants to share with her friends.  Don’t worry about “not giving enough” or disappointing the kids somehow–in my experience, kids are happy to leave with anything!  My older daughter recently had a couple of friends tie-dye shirts at her small party, and that was their “favor”… they loved that idea because they are now reminded of the party each time they wear their new shirt!

So for this first birthday party favor, I chose to give out a book that our family loves–If I Could Keep You Little by Marianne Richmond.  It describes how we parents often wish our babies could stay little, but that would mean missing out on all the great things to come.  It’s very sweet, and perfect for a first birthday.  (I gave one to my daughter as a gift, too, and I wrote a special note inside the book for her.)

I printed up these tags and tied them on to each book.  (I simply layered two circles on top of one another and then added text.)

Here’s a peek inside the book… isn’t it sweet?

The page below is definitely relevant in this house!  My girls have all had a mind of their own when it comes to getting dressed!!

This is how the book ends… it would also be perfect for a preschool or kindergarten graduation gift.

Tip:  Use a Belt or Scarf to Secure Your Baby on a Chair

As I mention in this post, this is a great tip if your child will have to sit in a chair without straps.  When we attend parties away from home, there are rarely high chairs for the little ones, so it can be very handy to use a belt or long scarf to secure your child.  They won’t last long like that, but it will keep them safe so you can back away and take pictures, and you know they can’t fall during cake time!  :)

Keepsake Gift Idea:  Personalized Stool With Engraving Underneath

I love keepsake gifts, especially for a first birthday–it’s such a special milestone!  I think it’s neat to imagine your child looking at a gift years from now–maybe even sharing it with her own child–and knowing that the gift was received on her first birthday.  This personalized puzzle stool is a perfect example of such a gift.  I was able to have it made with her name here at The Stationery Studio, but what I loved most was that I could have the bottom engraved with a message for her.  What a precious gift–and one that she can pass on to her own children one day!

See how I could have the bottom engraved?  Love this!!  (I blurred out her birthdate just a bit–that’s not an error by the engraver!)  :)

I hope this post has been helpful–especially to those of you with little ones about to celebrate a first birthday!  Such a special time…

What first birthday ideas can you share?

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