Written by Gina Roberts-Grey
The financial and emotional stress of hosting a baby’s first birthday party may take a toll on parents hoping to celebrate their child’s birthday and reminisce about the wonderful journey their baby has taken them on during the past year. From balancing guest lists to planning the menu to choosing a theme and finding the perfect outfit for your child to smear cake on, a child’s first birthday party leaves many parents feelings as though they’re planning a wedding reception.
Having a few tools to prevent stress, reduce chaos and allow for you to have time to join in the celebration will be beneficial as you prepare to celebrate your baby’s first birthday. Armed with tips tested and tried by fellow parents and your heartfelt desire to joyfully revel in your child’s first birthday, you will ensure your baby, family and guests all enjoy a terrific day!
- Set the precedence. Many parents find themselves stumbling upon an unexpected tradition on their child’s first birthday. From photographing or video taping your baby at the same time that he or she was born, to serving birthday cake for breakfast, consider putting a memorable touch on the day. Allow yourself some time before your baby’s birthday to reflect on what special and personal touches you’d like to add to not only their first birthday, but to traditions associated with their birthday that they will grow to cherish
- Keep it simple. After hosting a large tiring gala for her daughter’s first birthday party, Lisa Santoro realized that a smaller and simpler event would have been just as special for her daughter. “She cried the whole day and wouldn’t have known the difference between a huge party or a few family members and friends,” shares Lisa, mom of two young children. Before planning an elaborate party, consider the demeanor and personality of the guest of honor. Many parents find that cake and ice cream or a back yard barbeque shared with family and close friends at home generates wonderfully warm memories and reduces the chance that your baby will be overwhelmed by a huge gathering.
- Expect the unexpected. From uninvited guests to your child wildly crying while being serenaded ‘Happy Birthday,’ expecting a glitch or surprise will eliminate a great deal of pressure to plan the perfect day. Relinquishing some of the control over small details - such as setting the table or arranging balloons - will allow you more time to enjoy the day and the ability to laugh at small flaws that only you notice.
- Party-proof your house. By the time your baby is a year old, it is understandable to feel confident that you’ve successfully baby-proofed your home. Just as child-proof cabinet locks and safety gates are vital safety measures to protect your child, making sure that your antique vase or new sofa are birthday party proofed will prevent an embarrassing or upsetting accident. Take a minute to survey the area where you’ll be hosting the party. Removing fragile or sentimental objects will offer you and the young guests at the party peace of mind.
- Ask for a response. In her book, Hit of the Party, author Amy Vansgard suggests asking potential partygoers to respond to your invitation, and to confirm their attendance two to three days before the party. This step will help you finalize food and beverage preparations and plan for any potential food allergies or special needs your guests may have.
- Let guests know what you want. Well wishing family members and friends often ask for suggestions for birthday party gifts. “Parents should not feel awkward offering gift suggestions,” says Personal Shopper and Retail Manager Aimee Graddick. “I’ve assisted so many clients struggling to purchase gifts for young children. Nearly everyone has expressed their frustration in not knowing what to choose.” Many department and children’s toy stores offer a registry service for birthday gifts that can be accessed either in person, online or by phone. Knowing your baby’s correct sizes, items they already own or that you’ve started a college fund will ensure your guests can proudly bestow the perfect gift on your birthday baby.
- Accept help. Greeting guests, serving food and making sure the camera batteries are fresh can be tough to juggle while you’re attempting to enjoy your baby’s big day. If someone offers to cut the cake, shoot the video or refill the coffee pot, accept their invitation to lend a helping hand. You’ll make your guests feel comfortable, and they will be contributing to your child’s special day and you’ll benefit from the kind assistance.
- Prepare for your guests. Knowing in advance if a guest is allergic to cats or afraid of clowns will help your family and guests enjoy the party. Professional birthday party planner and entertainer, Ross MacRae suggests stating your plans for entertainment or food on your invitations or when a guest responds to your invitation. “This will give a parent the chance to advise you of their child’s needs and hopefully avoid fear and tears,” says MacRae, an experienced parent, partygoer and entertainer.
- Enjoy yourself. “I can hardly remember my children’s first birthday parties; they’re a blur,” says mom of four Donna Turner-Crabb. Wearing the hats of hostess, mother, family member, friend, etc. hardly creates pockets of time for parents of the birthday baby to sneak a morsel of food let alone enjoy their child, guests and the day’s momentous occasion. Stepping out of some of the many roles you’ll play at your child’s party, and into the role of party celebrant, you’ll be able to snap a photo with your birthday star, sample the food you painstakingly selected and appreciate the success of your efforts.
- Savor the moment. Before cleaning up after the celebration, take a moment to salvage a few mementos from the day. Saving a deflated balloon, an extra invitation and some leftover unused cutlery from the day creates the foundation for a birthday time capsule. Adding a few tokens from each party, your child will have a beautiful keepsake you’ve lovingly stored in a box, bin or can decorated with pictures of them eating cake or celebrating each birthday.
Additional tips to avoid birthday party stress:
Stick to your predetermined guest list
Have a back-up plan in case of inclimate weather
Allow time for baby to relax, take a nap or unwind
Gina is an award-winning writer who has contributed to publications like Parents, Parenting and Pregnancy. She can be reached via her website at ginaroberts-grey.com.