Etiquette for 1St Birthday Party

Updated on July 26, 2007
L.D. asks from Columbus, OH
11 answers

What is customary for a childs birthday party?
Goodie bags?
Opening gifts at the party or later?
A start and end time on the party?
My son is turning one and we sent out invitations for a cook out with family and some friends. There will be a handful of children coming too. Any suggestions are appreciated.

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answers from Columbus on

If the other children are about the same age as your son, you can forego the goodie bags. They won't care. If there are some older toddlers (like 4 or 5 years old) you could offer something tiny if you want, but it's definately not a requirement.

Yes, open the gifts at the party. I do it at the end, after cake.

Yes, have a start and end time planned. That way, no one shows up too early or outstays their welcome. Try to plan it around your son's naptime. I would keep it to no more than 2 hours. Anything longer than this could make for very grumpy kids.

Basically, I've learned that simplicity is best when it comes to young children and their celebrations.

Enjoy the party and take lots of pictures! They grow so fast.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Keep it simple. it is after all his first birthday, don't worry to much over the little things, when children are young it is normally ok to open presents with teh guest there, the other kids really like to see them open their gifs and be excited over what they got them, this is more true when they get a little older. Don't be surprised when he just rips into everything at once with little acknowledgement though or if you have to help him move past that first gift. If it seems overwhelming open gifts from friends and save teh family gifts for well after the party when he's ahd a chance to destress from all the excitement. depending on the age of the children goodie bags are nice, we always do them but my baby is now 4. making them up ahead of time and giving them out right before ppl leave is easier than trying to keep track of them all, for me it seems to be the same way with the gifts, the later in the party you open them the easier it seems, you aren't rushing to get everything out of boxes or dealing with other children fighting over getting to play with things or rushing to move on to another activity while the kids still want to play. plan for a mess during cake time and have soemthign ready if you need to change him so he can get back to the party. and for teh sake of your child have a start and end time, whatever works best for him, generally after nap time so he is well rested and in a good mood, do not plan a party that means a child misses a nap, it's a disaster waiting to happen, and even if you keep it short htose close friends and family can always hang out if things are going well, but it cuts down on the number of ppl there for exteneded periods. most importantly though keep it managable, it's a memory you'll charish and one that your child will soon forget, so don't go so overboard that you stress yourself out, sit back and enjoy the time, it only happens once.



answers from Cleveland on

Hi L.!

I personally do not do goodie bags for a 1st birthday parties. But you can if you want. I do them when the kids get like 3 and up. I would have a start time but not neccessarily a leave time unless you want them out by a certain time. There would be nothing wrong w/that if you ask me. Your 1 yr. old will not be interested in opening gifts, probly playing w/the wrapping paper tho lol! I had the other kids help my 16 mos. old at her 1st birthday party. I think the guests like to see you open their gifts. I usually have everyone eat first, then gifts then cake. I do know some people who open gifts after everyone leaves but I don't like to do that. I know I enjoy seeing someone open the gift I brought.
Hope that helps.




answers from Cleveland on

On both of our childrens first birthday we had some food then opened presents. The chidlren then played with the toys and those who wanted to stay did so. We didnt have any other children come (as there werent any yet in the immediate family) but my step mom has since had a 1st Bday for her son and she did pretty much the same thing. She did have goody bags for the other chidren filled with the cheapy dollar toys from Walmart (or where ever). She got some age appropriate toys and put them in bags before and labled the bags as to who's was who's. That worked out well. Each child kept their bag and their toys in it. As far as start time, always do a start time. That way people arent showing up long before or after you cook. As to the end time most of the time it pretty much ends when the children get tired. Anyone who has children know the limitations of them. Just go with the flow.



answers from Cincinnati on

L., You are very fortunate that your sons b-day will be warm outside. Both of my kids are in the winter before and after Chrictmas! What I did for my 18 month olds first b-day was have the party at our house. There were quite a few little ones so I got them balls for their "party bag" and made up snack cups with cheerios and cheese puffs. For some of the older ones, I made up individual treat bags. We had appetizers,cake and then presents. It was a good time! Have fun



answers from Dayton on

I just did a test run for my sons first birthday. I made the cake tonight and it was a big fat flop. My advice is go with a bakery cake if you can afford it. Or do a good cake mix!!! Good luck. Ours is on sunday!!



answers from Cincinnati on


I've held two first birthdays, so I'll just share my opinions for you to freely ignore if they do not make sense for you!

Pick a theme that the child likes, and tell everyone who will be there, as well as those who cannot make it (people who miss the party often still like to give the little one a small gift, and feel less out of the loop if they know the theme).

Goodie bags that relate to the theme are generally given to the participating children as you are saying good-bye and they are leaving. You want to make sure to get things that will be appropriate for the child, and they can relate to your theme or just something kids in general like.

Open the gifts towards the end of the party, after the games, because the givers like to see the child actually open the thing they gave. If some small child has to leave early, you can even let the honoree open a gift early, just so the other child can watch, smile, clap, give a hug, whatever. It is interesting the joy and pride I have seen in even very little kids when they see another child open the gift they helped select.

Definitely provide a time range, and for a 1-year-old, keep it shorter. You can say something like, cookout from 2 pm to 4 pm, with the understanding that family and very close friends can stay and hang out "after the party." This way, though, parents with small kids know how long they are expected to stay, and have a definite "OK, it's over, we can leave without missing anything" expectation.

So, decorate according to your theme, even if it just involves one tablecloth. Have two or three games for the kids. There are about a zillion websites that can help guide you. Have plans for what to do if it rains. If some kids might be a little older, it is nice to have a hands-on craft for the kids who get there first to do while you wait for everyone to arrive. Can be as simple as coloring a name tag, bookmark, or other thing they can keep.

When the parents arrive (and for little kid parties, they are expected to remain with their child the entire time), tell them the schedule of events. Something like, 1 game at 2:15, cookout food until 3, birthday cake at 3, another game or 2 until 3:30, then presents, and goodie bags awarded as children leave.

Wow, did I get long-winded? I hope this helps guide you a bit.

Best wishes,



answers from Mansfield on

Oh how fun!=} The big number one birthday...its the first mildstone in ur little ones life. I came from a huge family of seven chidren plus my mom raised my four cousins for a few yrs. (we r from KY But we had a huge home-yard and happening life. What a childhood we had. Our birthdays and holidays are all of us kids best memories:D These are big events..and u dont need alot of cash to make it fun. To this day yrs out of school my friends always talk about hanging out out the Lyons den..:D The most my mom put into wasnt much..ballons(lots of them)..the kids luv em. I remember at every party there was always the four ballons tied together above the table..on each chair and lots on the floor for us to run and play in. Then the crot paper tined together hear and there. That was 7 bucks and its pretty as ever. I wouldnt spend alot on things to hang up. When we where older we had like pin the donkey and what not but nothing costly. But fire up the grill. Let the men grill out and the kids play in and out of the house. We had a cookout/grill out and ate first. Then we gathered around the table siting and parents/adults standing while singing happy b day. Then after that it was tear open the presents...muwwwaaa:D Oh i say it was like always 2-4 when we were older sometimes it was 4 hrs. But our family always hung around cleaning up and visiting afterward so it was really always a family get together really. I say go with what feels right. U will get ur own thing down. Just hv fun and dont go broke. Dont forget the pictures and cam cord if u got one...happyfirst birthday little one!
let us know how it turns out.



answers from Cleveland on

Hi L.!
We just had a 1st b-day party for our daughter and it was a blast. We had bubbles for the older children (ages 4-9) and most of our friends brought their babies (ages 1-2). I got a ton of balloons and sent all the kids home with a bunch in lieu of a "goodie bag." The babies especailly liked that. We also got butterfly cookies (that was our theme) from Cookies By Design and sent people home with those.

The party was from 1pm-4pm and that was the perfect amount of time. I was a bit intimidated by all the gifts - almost more than my baby shower! - and tempted to open them later, but I got through them pretty quickly with a few helpers lined up to throw out the trash, etc. (the older children are great for that). Another nice touch is to make a little speech or toast to thank everyone for their help over the year. Have fun and get ready for an exhausting day!



answers from Columbus on

I like simplicity. For my son's 1st birthday, it was mostly family. I make simple appetizers for food & I made his cake. I got a journal type book & had everyone write a wish for the future for him. I then took 2 pictures of each quest or family holding Ben. One was a polaroid. I bought inexpensive plastic picture frames from Michael's. They got a picture of his birthday, & the other picture was put in the book along with that person or family's wish. I don't succeed, but I try to do this every year. Since I gave out the frames, I didn't do goodie bags. I don't plan anything any more for my daughter's birthday. Her birthdat is 2 days before Thanksgiving. This year, we are having family & turkey dinner. With cake & ice cream.



answers from Columbus on

I've hosted 3 first birthday's for my 3 kids, and here's what I think.

DEFINITELY have a start & finish time. And like another poster said, keep it short. I always do 2-4. Yes, open presents and keep it at the end. People expect to see the child open the gift that they bought. I've been to one or two parties where people have said "we'll open presents later" and most people don't take too well to that. I went to a party where we were told he was opening afterward, and several guests took their gift to the child and helped him open it right then and there.
Goodie bags are up to you. For my older 2 children, I passed on those because the other children at the party were all about 1 and I knew they wouldn't know or care either way. Plus, traditional goodie bag toys are small and are choking hazards, but you can put whatever you want in them and make them safe and age appropriate.
Mostly, just do whatever you want to do and enjoy the day with your child!

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