How to Plan a Birthday Party for a One Year Old

Birthday party planning for a one year old is special for both parents and kids (but mostly parents!). These tips for a happy first birthday party start with the party dress and end with cleaning up after the party. The tips are quick and easy, and will help you plan a first birthday party that will make everyone happy.

1st birthday program for kids

First Birthday Party Dress

The Mud Pie Baby-Girls Newborn “I’m 1!” Birthday Dress is a fun way to celebrate birthday one, if you have a daughter. Or if your son likes to dress up pretty! If he’d rather something less frilly, he’d probably dig a Happy Family Superhero First Birthday Kids T-Shirt, with a matching crown.

Although a big mess after a first birthday party can seem overwhelming, remember that it’s a symbol of a fun party for your kids! “I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends,” says  Nancie J. Carmody.

To make the party planning less stressful, make sure you order your birthday cake early. That’s a super important birthday party planning tip I know well, because I worked at a bakery. Many a parent would rush in at the last minute, wanting to order a last minute birthday cake.

Whether you’re shopping for first birthday or 40th birthday gift ideas, don’t wait until the last minute!

And here are several planning tips for one year olds that will make both parents and kids happy…

8 Birthday Party Planning Tips

Throwing a birthday party for your child should be fun, but birthday parties take a lot of work. These birthday planning tips will help the party go smoothly, keep parents happy, and let kids have fun!

Include the relevant details on birthday party invitations

The invitation can be homemade or store bought – it doesn’t matter. What matters is the details: whose birthday it is, when, where, and what time it starts and ends. Any extra information can also be included. For instance, if it’s a sleepover, what do kids need to bring? Ask about food allergies so you can plan the birthday menu accordingly. Make a point of stating if you do not allow siblings. Many parents may want to attend your child’s first birthday party with the whole family, which can throw your birthday party plans and menu out of whack. If you do not mind extra kids (because they can make the party fun for the kids), prepare extra food, prizes or gift bags.

Avoid making birthday gift requests

What you should never do is request a certain type of gift for a one year old’s birthday party. This includes money, gift cards or suggestions of brand name toys. This type of request puts parents on the spot, especially if they are on a budget. One of the best tips for planning birthday gifts is to state that presents aren’t required.

Be prepared to pay for all kids if the party is somewhere else

If you have decided to have your child’s first birthday party at a bowling alley, McDonalds, Chuck E Cheese’s, Dairy Queen, etc, then be prepared to pay for all the kids who attend the party. Don’t expect to plan an exciting, expensive birthday party and have the parents foot the bill! But remember: kids don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a great time – especially if it’s a birthday party for a one year old.

Avoid over-planning a birthday party for a one year old

Many parents go overboard when planning a first birthday party. This tip is about keeping the party simple (yet fun!). If you and the family members you have persuaded into helping cannot pull it off, do not expect to lean on parents to help you. Most parents see this as an opportunity for a well-deserved break. It has to be their choice if they would like to lend a hand. Nothing irks a parent more then a birthday mom who puts on an extravaganza with six craft tables, a pony ride and a gym full of inflatable climbing toys and expects the parents to drop everything and help.

“Read” the kids to pace the birthday party

A tip for recognizing that it’s not a fun party for kids is if they’re lying on the ground gasping from exhaustion or are running around instead of making the carefully prepared craft.

How to Plan the Best Birthday Party for a One Year OldThen, you go with the flow. In other words, meet the kids’ needs — not your own. When planning a birthday party for a one year old, include activities that require a lot of physical activity and some that do not. Always check in on how the majority of children are doing to know what to do next. If they are tired then it is a fine time to eat or open gifts. If they are energetic and cannot seem to sit still, break out the piñata or three-legged race.

Avoid extravagant birthday party gift bags

If you’re giving gift bags (and I don’t believe you have to), make sure they’re not too extravagant or expensive. Providing an afternoon of fun and food is a fun birthday party for kids! A simple bag with a few party favors and a candy or two is sufficient. After a child has consumed candy, ice cream and cake, the last thing parents want is a bag full of candy, unless it is from a birthday piñata. Parents are often embarrassed when the gift bag is more extravagant then the birthday gift they sent! Keep gift bags modest — after all, it’s not every kid’s first birthday party!

Meet parents who collect their kids after the party

Make sure that the birthday party is clearly winding down, towards the end. Perhaps this is the time to open birthday gifts (which can make a very fun party for kids!). Have the children in one spot, so when the parents start arriving you are able to greet and meet each one and send kids home safely.

Enjoy cleaning up – the mess shows a fun birthday party

An important birthday party planning tip is not expect parents to stay around and clean up the mess. If they offer be grateful but never guilt them into it. After you are done, think about your child’s first birthday party as if it was a wedding. It can be successful but there is always things you can learn to make next years party even better.

If you have any comments on planning a birthday party for a one year old, please comment below…If your dog is turning one, read 6 Tips for Throwing Your Dog a Party.

Written by Georgina Bourdeau, a Victoria-based freelance writer, Early Childhood Educator and mother of six who writes articles for magazines and online.


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7 thoughts on “How to Plan a Birthday Party for a One Year Old”

  1. Yeah, I’m thinking glass straws aren’t a great tip for birthday parties for one year olds! Maybe for the parents, but not for the toddlers :-)

  2. Have you considered using glass straws? They’re super classy and toxin free. I’ve seen a few brands out there. my favorite is simply straws, i love the travel case each straw comes with at the simply straws website

  3. 1st Birthday Ideas


    I have to say that you have some really great tips. A lot of parents overlook the cost of paying for ALL kids and not just theirs. Other parents went out and spent money on a gift and in return expect not to pull out their wallet at all.

    Over planning can be a bad idea. If something doesn’t go according to plan, (which it almost always does), you tend to get upset. Parents need to remember to relax and have fun too.

  4. For my daughter’s first birthday, we went to the beach and played in the sand and surf all day long. We didn’t need a traditional birthday party, it was just a group of her friends and the parents. It was much nicer and funner than planning and throwing a birthday party! If you can do something natural and fun, everyone will love it.

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks, Roger — good tip! Well we’re at it, we should add that parents should ask about peanut allergies, too…I think Georgina might agree that peanuts may be a concern for parents throwing parties…

  6. Roger @The Big Red Fun Bus

    As well as food allergies, you may want to think about asking if your guest are vegetarian, this option is becoming more popular, and deepending on your chosen menu you might want to substitute a few pieces so both meat and non meat eaters can enjoy together.
    Also I liked your note on the tidying up. Some great tips. Thanks

  7. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    When I was editing an article about anniversary gifts for elderly couples, I thought that planning a “kids birthday party” might be a fun way to celebrate an anniversary!

    Some elderly couples would LOVE to be thrown back to their youth…like a time machine. So, I think these birthday party tips aren’t just for kids :-)