Your Baby's First Birthday Party!
Many parents get caught up in the excitement of planning a party for their baby's first birthday, but seem to forget that that their baby is, well, still a baby. Your soon to be one year old will really have no expectations or appreciation of a balloons and banners festooned birthday event. And often, when the big day finally arrives, your baby is likely to crack under the pressure, spending much of your painstakingly planned party in tears.
This is not to say such a big milestone should not be marked and celebrated. Take a step back and have a think about what your baby likes and how you might celebrate the occasion without wreaking havoc on your bank balance and your emotions!
Planning The Big Day
To plan a first birthday party to remember, instead of one you'd rather forget, follow this strategy:
Keep invites down - a room full of (even familiar) faces will most likely overwhelm your birthday boy or girl with the probable result of them becoming clingy and fretful. Keep your party guests to a few family members and close friends. If your son or daughter spends time with other babies her age, you may want to invite two or three. If she doesn't, then bear in mind that the occasion of her first party isn't the best time to launch her onto the social scene!
If you have a big family you may want to split your celebrations into a family only one and one for friends with children she plays with regularly. This should make both events more manageable, so that you have the time to enjoy your baby's first birthday party(s) rather than rushing around playing hostess.
Ditto the decorations - a room decorated to the hilt with balloons, streamers and banners might make you happy, but could well be too much for a toddler to handle. So decorate with a light hand, perhaps using a theme you know she'll appreciate. There are plenty of choices to be found on the high street from Iggle Piggle to Thomas the Tank Engine.
Let her eat cake - just make sure it's not the kind of cake she shouldn't be eating! If you make the cake baby friendly, then you can cut and serve the cake at your baby's usual snack time. Keep toddler portions small to avoid waste. Try not to worry too much; it won't really matter if your child overdoes it on the cake and is too full for dinner later on.
You don't need entertainment - clowns or magicians tread a fine line between screaming laughter and screaming in terror! One year olds are notoriously fickle and unpredictable, what delights them one day may terrify them the next. Also don't try to organise formal party games - they're just not ready for them yet. If you are going to be having several young guests do put out some toys out for them to play with, and enough to keep them entertained while mums and dads can grab a cup of tea and slice of cake!
Don't be a director - don't count on a star performance for the camera or even on appreciative coos when it's time to open the presents. If you're lucky she just might blow out the candles, but don't expect complete co-operation and don't put the pressure on. Instead, let her be herself - whether that means a resolute frown when you want to take a picture or choosing to play with the empty box rather than the beautiful gift that came in it!
Time it right - try to schedule the day's activities so that your baby is well rested, recently fed (don't hold off her lunch thinking she'll eat at the party) and following her usual routine. Don't plan a morning party if she usually naps in the morning or an early afternoon party if she usually flakes out after lunch. Inviting a tired baby to participate in the celebrations is like raising a red rag to a bull - disastrous. And keep the party brief - an hour and a half at the most - so she won't be a wreck when the party's over or worse in the middle of it all.
Record it for prosperity - the party will be over much too quickly and at the end you may well find you didn't even have the time to take a single photo. Recording the occasion in snapshots, on video or film will be well worth the effort. If you think you may be busy organising and hosting, then ask a friend or relative to be responsible for photos or taking video snips.
The most important thing is for you and your baby to enjoy this special milestone! There will be many more birthdays to celebrate in the years to come, but after all, this is the very first one.