Party for one: how to plan a perfect first birthday

First ever birthdays. They’re a mixture of chaos, cake and screams of joy, and that’s why they’re a milestone like no other.

The guest of honour may not be your ideal host (learning to blow out candles and share your toys takes more than 12 months to master, apparently). But who needs airs and graces when you have the first ever year of your life to celebrate? With a mixed crowd of littlies and adults, planning and hosting a tantrum-free, fun-filled first birthday party goes something like this:

1. Choose a location with something for everyone

Outdoor locations are great for reducing food-related clean ups (which are a reality for any event involving kids), but they should ideally have a few special features. First, an enclosed area will reduce the time parents have to spend chasing wandering little ones. Hiring a community garden space, or hosting in a friend’s or family member’s backyard can be ideal.

If you need something indoors, check out your local community or scout halls. They’re often rustic and rarely fancy, but they are purpose built for crowds of kids. And, they often give you access to a private space at a reasonable price. Private party venues aren’t in short supply, but anywhere such as play centres or gaming halls, where you’ll have to share the space with many others, can make it tough to keep an eye on wayward littlies, so they are often better suited to parties for older children.

Good seating, close proximity to toilets, clear visibility of energetic kids, and easy food preparation and clean-up facilities are the main boxes to tick.

2. Keep it short and sweet

Fatigue seems to inspire a special kind of unreasonableness in the toddler set. Unless you have a quiet, familiar space to put the guest of honour and his or her younger counterparts to sleep when the warning bells sound, aim for a party that wraps up before tears set in. Kicking festivities off after a morning or afternoon nap will help everyone make the most of the day. And make sure any entertainment you have planned kicks off promptly after guests arrive.

3. Limit your rubbish to reduce clean up

Kids are especially unlikely to remember where they put their cup/spoon/plate/shoes, so expect a significant increase in the dishes-to-guests ratio at your typical first birthday party. You can opt for the (environmentally responsible) disposable option and get your party good delivered to your door, post office, or Parcel Locker before the big day. Or, you can ask guests to bring their own. As long as you have a sink or tap to rinse things afterwards this will reduce the overload of rubbish (and it makes it easier to know whose cup is whose).

The other major source of rubbish can be present wrapping. While the wrapping can often be as fun for one-year-olds as the present itself, asking guests to bring unwrapped gifts, or to pop them in paper bags instead makes the clean-up of little pieces of paper, wrapping string and sticky tape a task you can skip at the end of the day.

Aerial view of toddler sitting on the floor tearing wrapping paper off a gift

Choosing a few high-quality, and potentially re-usable items for decorations will help too. Poppies for Grace stocks all the candles, party hats and other party items you can pop a party popper at. We also love these gold party crowns from We Love Sundays.

4. Games, party bags and invitations

Jumping castles and chocolate fountains might be on your wishlist, however, it can be easy to forget the simple things when planning the big day. A real invitation as well as an electronic one never goes astray. Not everyone operates entirely in the digital realm, and seeing the invitation on the fridge ensures it stays top-of-mind.

The party bag has to be one of the highlights of the party, so make sure they’re made up and ready to go well before time. The folks over at We Love Sundays even have these covered for you.

If you’re able to hire in some help, having a dedicated person to run a few games with the kids will be well worth the investment. Time to sit back, relax and take it all in is important for the adults and organisers too.

Colourful party invitation and paper plates.

5. Food for thought

The birthday cake is usually at the top of the food priority list, for good reason. A morning or afternoon tea time slot will reduce the need for complex catering. However, regardless of when you choose to hold your event, it pays to keep the focus on a few ‘wow’ items and keep the rest super simple. Complicated menu items not only increase the time spent in the kitchen, they will also make the shopping task beforehand more arduous. Busy parents beware!

If the cake is the centrepiece that everyone’s focussed on, consider adding just one or two other special foods and the rest needs be no more complex than fruit platters, dips, chips and the usual suspects (depending on your dietary requirements).