First birthday parties.
Every parent knows the amazement of a whole year going by, seemingly, in an instant. It’s baby’s first birthday and you want to go all out and really celebrate. I mean, they only ever have one first birthday, it should be epic, right?
Well, yes and no.
My kids are 4.5 years old and 21 months at the time of writing, yet I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long time. When OG was about to turn a year old I felt a lot of pressure (from myself, and maybe Pinterest) to have a big perfectly planned party.
I made a birthday banner and bunting that took all of my free time for a week to make. I planned lots of yummy food, and I invited all of our family and my mommy friends and their kiddos. The total was around 30 people!
A few days before OG’s birthday we all got the flu and canceled the party, which we rescheduled for just our immediate family, aunts uncles and grandparents. I was so thankful that we got the flu! Well, thankful we didn’t have the huge birthday bash we had been planning, and here’s why:
I have come to realize over the years that I don’t like to host very much. Being an introvert, I am easily overwhelmed by the idea of introducing people and making sure everyone is comfortable and taken care of. I much prefer to go to other peoples parties where I can leave if I’m feeling socially exhausted.
More time celebrating
If I had 30 people, half of them kids, at my house at one time I would probably not have been able to spend much time relaxing and celebrating my child’s first birthday. Hosting takes a lot of time and energy and I was glad that I got to just hang out and eat cupcakes instead. She only gets one first birthday after all!
You probably already know that we try to have fewer toys as a benefit to our kids imagination growth (among other things). Though I try to tactfully dissuade gifts, sometimes people just don’t feel right attending a party without a gift. As most parents know, kids almost always have more toys than they need or know what to do with.
Let’s face it. Birthday decorations are pretty eco unfriendly. Lots of plastic and paper disposable stuff gets tossed immediately after the party.As I said, some people will always bring a gift. I am always thankful for their generosity but sometimes gifts, even clutter free gifts, aren’t a good fit and I give them away. I know this isn’t exactly wasteful since someone will probably benefit, but it feels wasteful to go through the whole exchange.
And most importantly…
Better for the birthday girl
The truth is that first birthday parties are more for the parents and family than the child.
Less stress for the one year old
One year olds can easily become overstimulated and overwhelmed by lots of people and lots of stuff going on. They will feel just as loved with a new cardboard box, a cupcake, and just their most favorite people around.
OG was, and is, a very sensitive and (possibly) introverted child. Lots of people would have been way too much for her. Who wants to be overwhelmed on their birthday? Of course, some kids love socializing. QC is much more of social butterfly and would probably do ok with a large party at one year, but why push it?
Instills an appreciation of simple things
If I’ve dedicated my life to living simply then why would I throw outrageously huge parties for my kids? The truth is that I own my life choices for myself, I am confident in that. But when it comes to my kids I can easily slip back into the idea that they need certain material things to be happy.
The ironic thing is that kids are born minimalists and only learn materialism as they grow! So, why not just support their instincts?
I want my kids to value their relationships. Inviting a school full of children isn’t the best way to help a child build self confidence and friendships. I’ve heard people say to keep the number of kids to the birthday child’s age minus 1. Obviously, how many children you invite may not be something you can control, like if you have lots of nieces and nephews.
I think for a 1 year old 1 friend would be ok or just siblings and cousins would be ok too. The idea is to be mindful of allowing space for the children to celebrate together rather than just be overwhelmed by each other.
One year olds don’t usually play “together” but play near or next to each other so having just one friend who is a similar age would be perfect.
How to plan a simple first birthday party?
Here are some tips for throwing a great one!
Choose a theme or color theme
I tend to stay away from the character birthday party themes because I don’t want my kids to think I value commercialism (they will value what we value!) and a one year old ain’t likely to recognize Mickey Mouse anyway.
I prefer to go with a color scheme instead of a theme but it’s your choice. I choose 3 colors that go well together and are easy to buy decorations for (maybe choose your colors right at the party store!).
Choose the day and time
Keep in mind when your child is at her best. Have the party start around the time she wakes up from a nap so she will not be overtired.
I stick with streamers, balloons, and fun party hats. You could also get party plates and cups but it’s unnecessary (especially if your crowd is small).
Pick your child’s nearest and dearest and invite just them!
My family really likes food so we usually go all out. If you don’t like to cook you could hire the cooking out. If you prefer, you could choose just finger foods/appetizers which would be much easier than a full meal.
Choose comfortable clothes for the birthday boy or girl
I made the mistake of thinking I needed to buy a special birthday dress for OG. It ended up being in her way when she crawled around (she wasn’t walking yet). With QC’s birthday I just dressed her in play clothes and she was happy!
First birthday parties: Big bash or simple soiree?
I’m glad that OG’s first birthday was the simple, wonderful party that it was. We loved it so much that we planned almost the same party for QC when she was a year old. Simple decorations, yummy food, cupcakes and the most important people in her life.