Photo by: iStock

Baby's First Birthday: Party Themes

by Kathryn Walsh of "Mamapedia"
Photo by: iStock

Whether your baby’s first year has felt achingly long or shockingly short, the first anniversary of his or her birth is cause to celebrate. Some parents feel huge pressure to plan an extravagant bash, but that requires time, money and energy that you may not have to spare. Instead, focus in on a fun theme and reflect it in just a few key details. We talked to a few moms about how they chose to mark this once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

Future Focused: Look to Tomorrow
In coming years, your child’s invite list will be largely peers. For the first birthday, though, you’re probably planning to invite mostly family and your own friends. That makes this party the perfect opportunity to reflect together on your child’s first year, and to create keepsakes for him or her to relish in the future.

Jennifer Porter, a children’s party designer who runs Satsuma Designs in Seattle, suggests asking each guest to write “a little bit of love and wisdom” on small cards, which you can make into a book after the party. “It can be as easy as stringing each note with some ribbon,” she says. “This also makes an adorable garland for future birthdays.” Instead of bringing toys, ask guests to gift your child with copies of their favorite books, no matter the reading level. That way your child will have a stash of books to read at every age.

Sweetly Specific: Your Baby’s Nickname
After a year of cooing and baby-talk, you’ve probably accumulated a laundry list of nicknames for your little one. So celebrate your beloved “bitsy” with an “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” party, or serve nothing but various muffins to honor your little “muffin.”

That’s what Heather Gims did for her daughter, whose nickname is Lil’ B. “We had a bee-themed party!” she says. “The decorations, plates, et cetera were all yellow and black. We had a cake with bee toys as decorations. And she even wore an outfit that had bees on it. We also had a cute little yellow antenna headband for her, but that didn’t stay on very long. It was so cute and fun, and it felt personalized for her.”

Celebrate Yourselves: Parents’ Choice
You have years of Disney- and Pixar-themed parties ahead of you. But for this very special first party, consider a theme that celebrates you and your partner as much as it does your baby. After all, this is a big milestone for all of you, and your infant doesn’t yet have an opinion about party themes.

Lisa Alfaro and her husband took that approach for their son’s first birthday. “My husband and I are both big fans of The Beatles and incorporated them into our wedding, so we decided to go with it for his birthday,” she says. “The theme was Yellow Submarine. Everything was yellow, we had a 2-tier theme cake and fed everyone sub sandwiches and goldfish.”

The best part? Using a theme that’s significant to you may make party planning easy. Use your collection of Red Sox jerseys to decorate for your baby’s baseball party, or dig out the Irish decor you used for your wedding and reuse it for an Irish-themed birthday bash.

Echoing her own wedding theme made party planning a breeze for Lisa. “What I loved most about the theme is it was so easy to execute and didn’t require overthinking or a lot of work,” she says. “Win-win, we got to have a blast instead of being stressed!”

Kathryn Walsh is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and travel topics. Her work has appeared on,, and

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