Baby’s First Birthday: Fun Party Planning Ideas

By volenday

Sep 20, 2019

Where has that first year gone? Now your baby is not a baby anymore and it’s their first birthday. 

Time for one of the most special celebrations there is. The first birthday – let’s celebrate.

There are so many things to figure out and some relate this experience of the first birthday party similar to planning a wedding. It doesn’t need to be a stressful time. 

Here are some helpful tips so you can enjoy it more and hopefully this will be a beautiful memory to add the plethora of parties that there will be. 

yellow birthday balloons
Image Source: Senjuti Kundu (Unsplash)

Will there be a theme?

Choose a theme that is suited to your child. Here’s a list of some that you may not have thought of:

  • Get creative and use the first letter of their name with the theme.
Image Source: Nik Macmillan (Unsplash)
  • Camping or hiking adventure (tipi’s, roasted marshmallows and hot (warm) chocolates)
  • Into the woods (frogs, birds, Lilly pads and monkeys)
  • Zoo Themed (crocodiles, bears and tigers)
  • One year in a movie (popcorn, admissions tickets, movie feature collation of your babies first year)

birthday party
Image Source: Chris Lawton (Unsplash)
  • Welcome to the Circus (top hats, red and white stripes and elephants)
  • Fairy party (fairy lights, fairy bread, fairy floss and lots of tulle)
  • Wondrous one
  • First place (blue medal ribbon, races and relays, photo idea: winners blocks with child always as number 1)
  • Moon party (one small step for man, One giant leap for mankind)
  • Bumble bee party (beehive cake, stripy socks, honey on bread)
Image Source: Priscilla Du Preez (Unsplash)
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (glitter, cupcakes and Twinkies, more fairy lights – the constellation under child’s birth can be a talking point)
  • Favourite TV show themed (they might be too young for this but maybe Pengu, Peppa Pig or The Wiggles)
  • Colour themed: pick a colour or 2 and get ‘Pinteresty’. Request that guests only wear that colour for some great photos too.
  • Favourite song/band party: If your child resonates with a particular song or band, this could be the theme.
  • Little Man or Little Lady: Make everything very adult but in miniature version. Tag line: “look who’s all grown up!” (Champagne glasses, spectacles, suit and tie, newspapers)
  • Cupcake party (cupcakes… and some more cupcakes, cupcake tower, cupcake throwing contest)
  • Under the sea party (mermaids, sharks and blue jelly)
  • Pirate party (eye patches, parrots and wooden legs – games could be walk the balance plank and who can do the best “Arrrrr!” Of course there is the tagline “I’ve lost my booty”
  • Mr Men
  • Child’s favourite book or bedtime story

And the list goes on…

TIP: Balloons can scare the poop out of babies, so think if you want these or not when decorating.

When is the best time?

Choose a time when your baby and other babies will not be having a nap. No doubt you will know mums and kids that are younger and older than your baby. Be considerate of everyone’s schedule and if in doubt, then let them know in advance that you’re thinking of them and their routine.

birthday spread
Image Source: Brooke Lark (Unsplash)


There may or may not be many other 1 year olds there, so make sure you are catering for your guests and not just your child.

If there will be other children, then be mindful of what they usually eat.

Finger food is a safe option (no dishes to wash) but make sure there are enough napkins and set wipes around for sticky fingers.

TIP: A lot of children this age do not indulge in sugar. Make sure you have enough healthy options for those not wanting to alienate their child from the celebrations.

birthday drinks
Image Source: Toe Heftiba (Unsplash)

You might also like: Baby’s First Foods: The Best Foods to Start With


Juice and water are a safe option unless you’re used to serving fizzy drinks. Personalised little milk bottles or named juice boxes are also a treat.


Make sure you have a designated photographer for the party as you want to be in the photos yourself and not just taking them. Remember that these are memories that your child will not remember unless there is photographic evidence or video footage.

Birthday presents

You can opt for a no present request and instead ask guests to give instead to the charity of your choice, bring a plate of food or just their company is enough.

If you do not specify ‘no’ presents, then people will usually bring them. A place to put them up high is a good idea.

The Cake

I grew up with a mother who made all my Birthday Cakes.  Each year I would flick through the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake book and pick out a Cake I wanted.

It is a fond memory and the cakes always looked and tasted fantastic.

So, it was only natural that I too wanted to make my boy’s birthday cakes.  I can’t say that it was an experience I always enjoyed, as the Cakes did not always represent what I was trying to achieve.

One year my eldest son who is a die-hard Star Wars fan asked that I make a lightsaber Birthday Cake.  This ended in a complete disaster. The Cake ended up looking like something R rated and my husband made a mad dash to the Cake Shop the morning of the Birthday to purchase a more child friendly cake.

Through my years of experience I have come up with a few fail safe strategies to help ensure my Birthday Cakes are more successful and less stressful.

cake with fruits toppings
Image Source: Ben Wicks (Unsplash)

Home made or bought?

When creating children’s Birthday Cake you need a good base to start with.  You can either bake the Cake yourself using a good recipe you are familiar with, buy a ready made Cake mix that only requires eggs and milk to be added, or you can buy a Cake base from the store.

The advantage with making your own is that you can control the ingredients you put into it, by making it allergy safe or healthier by adding less sugar and using other beautiful natural flavors to create exotic tastes.

Should you decide to make your own cake base.  It is my recommendation that you make the cakes the night before.  This way you have time for the cakes to cool, and should you have a cooking disaster you have time to remake them.

Store the cooled Cakes in an airtight container on the bench.  Avoid putting it into the fridge, as the cool air will dry out the cake. 

rainbow cake
Image Source: Annie Spratt (Unsplash)


As we are all aware children can be fussy.  Should your cake contain multiple layers or sections.  Make a variety of different flavored cakes to help ensure all the party guests will enjoy it.

TIP:  When choosing different flavors consider how they will taste once placed together.


In an age where a variety of different allergies are common amongst children, it is advised to check with the invited guests to help ensure that your cake of choice does not include any ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction.

Should some guests have allergies you can supplement ingredients such as eggs, milk, wheat, chocolate and nuts for alternatives that work just as well.

Eggs – Use olive oil or Greek yoghurt as a binder instead of eggs.  

(1/4 cup of Greek yoghurt to 1 egg) or 

(1/4 cup of olive or vegetable oil to 1 egg).

Milk – Use water or lactose free milk. (Coconut, soya and almond milk are all Lactose free and could be a suitable alternative depending on the allergy)

Chocolate – Substitute chocolate for a different flavor.  Mix berries, banana, orange, lime, passion fruit, vanilla or an essence can be added for flavoring.

Nuts – If using a prepackaged ready to go cake mix or bought cake base, check firstly with the ingredients label to make sure there are no nuts present in the mix.  Sometimes products do not contain nuts but have been produced in an environment where nuts are present. This could be a problem depending on the severity of the child’s allergy. 

Wheat – An Ice Cream type cake might be a better alternative or use rice flour as a supplement.

Are you looking for a Fail-safe recipe?

Woolworths Chocolate Cake Recipe is simple and tastes great.

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 60 min


(Serves: 8)

  • 100 gm Melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Milk
  • 2  Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 2/3 cups Flour
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2/3 cup Cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking soda
  • 1 tsp Salt


1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. You’ll get a tall cake in a 20cm round tin, or a smaller one in 23cm round. Grease and line a size to suit.

2. Put everything into stand mixer or food processor and mix well. If using a stand mixer, be sure to scrape the sides and bottom to ensure the flour is mixed in. It will be a moist cake batter. Pour into prepared cake tin.

3. Bake for one hour. The cake will spring back when pressed. Don’t worry about any little cracks on the top … the icing will hide them!

4. Cool in tin and then on cooling rack. Ice and decorate. The cake is stable enough to be sliced horizontally and filled.

Tip:  This is a great base for making kids party cakes. It is easy to cut to shapes and ice. It also keeps well and can be made in advance.

Image Source: Jennie Brown (Unsplash)


You are only limited by your imagination.  Birthday cakes do not need to be your traditional round or square chocolate type cake. A Birthday cake could be an assortment of cupcakes arranged and decorated according to a theme, a cheesecake, an ice cream cake, gingerbread construction and or a macaroon tower.  Be creative!

Children love party themes.  Get your child to pick one and design the cake around this.

Once the theme has been decided, pick the type of cake or cakes that will work best.

In most cases a simple round or square cake will work.  Simply layer multiple cakes on top of each other. Place a cream, jam or butter icing in between each layer of the cake.  Layers are fantastic, not only do they create that much needed height, but when a layered cake is cut open it looks impressive, not to mention it tastes delicious.

Ice over the cake and decorate according to the theme.  Do not forget to decorate the sides too. Lollies and or sprinkles look effective.

Decorate the top by adding small toys or make your own from royal icing, add lollies, and use a piping bag to add flare and a personalized touch.

unicorn cake
Image Source: Joshua Hoehne (Unsplash)

Fancy candles are a must have.  Sparklers, large numbers, bright colours, long thin ones, ones that crackle and ones that do not blow out are all fun additions to a great birthday cake.  

frozen cake
Image Source: Raychan (Unsplash)

Popular Birthday Cake themes for Children:

  • Favorite TV show
  • Disney Character
  • Pirates
  • Princess
  • Numbers
  • Pool Cake (pool party)
  • Sports theme
  • Train or car
  • Emoji
  • Super hero
baby smashing cake
Image Source: Chris Benson (Unsplash)

Smash Cake 

What is a smash cake?

A smash cake is a small frosted cake given to the birthday boy or girl usually on their first Birthday.

Smash cakes have become very popular in recent years.  It is given to the young child (for some children it might be their first taste of cake) and they are encouraged to explore, dig, eat and play with the cake.  The objective is that the experience is messy and that the child should be left to enjoy it.

It is after this that the real cake usually comes out and your masterpiece can be admired. 

It’s becoming a great tradition now to have a smash cake when you turn one. If you have older brothers and sisters, this is always a fun one to photograph. Make sure you’re ok with the amount of sugar that one of these contains as it’s quite a hit (no pun intended) for a one year old to handle. Be ready for sugar peaks and the subsequent lows.

Any cake will be a great treat for your child or you could serve individual cupcakes, as these are much less messy. Well, not really.

Image Source: Thanh Tran (Unsplash)

Tips for success

  • Be mindful of your own limitations.  It is always good to think the design over carefully before starting.  Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have.
  • Double check you have everything you need before you get started.
  • Buy extra supplies incase of an emergency.
  • Enlist the help of others.  Should you have a talented friend or family member, ask for help.
  • Prep the night before.
  • Work from a picture.
  • Be mindful of the size and how many people you have to feed.
  • Taste before assembling 

(Try a small off cut to ensure the cake tastes good)

  • Be patient.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  • Enjoy the experience. Your child will be impressed with whatever you create, because you made it with love. 
  • Stick with what you know.  Use a cake recipe you have used before.
  • Avoid too much detail.  Simple is best. 
  • Use bright and bold colours.
  • Cover any mistakes with lollies and or other decorations.

Lastly hold your head up high and be proud of your efforts.  These are forever memories you are creating and your child will love you for it.

General sequence of events is:

  • Welcome everyone
  • Food and snacks and drinks
  • Games
  • Cut the cake
  • Open presents
  • More food and snacks and drinks
  • Games
  • Goody bags and send off

If there are more adults, older kids than children, try and include them in the games also. If you stuck for ideas you could always go one for one, adult game, big kid game and then children’s game, then maybe a team game. As it’s only a 1st birthday, the games don’t have to be such a high priority as the photos. Enjoy and have a great celebration.

Don’t miss: Baby’s First Foods: The Best Foods To Start With

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