Baby's first birthday is a special experience; it's the very first day that is all about him or her, celebrating the first big life milestone. Most of us might be tempted to give the babies in our lives an all-out bash complete with pony-riding, games, huge plates of cake, and entertainment; we have to remember that most of those things are for grown-ups, and since babies won't remember their first party, presents and a special meal should be all that's really needed. It will be nice to have the memories, but do you honestly need that clown that charges $300 an hour when baby won't remember the occasion? Love your baby and give him or her attention on this day, and chances are that Baby will be more receptive to these kinds of things.
If you are wondering what to buy Baby for the first birthday, here are some suggestions: Your baby's personality is unlike any other, so gifts should be chosen according to the speed at which the child seems to be learning. If your child already has an ear for music, a CD of children's songs is a great choice. Storybooks are loved by all ages, and many believe the earlier you read to your child, the faster they will learn. Crib bedding, special food, and soft toys offer different choices, but keep in mind that some of your guests will probably duplicate your ideas and you don't want to spend money on a stroller only to discover that you could have gotten one for free as a gift.
If you do want entertainment, don't choose loud music or anything that might scare Baby; after all, nothing's worse at a birthday party than the guest of honor being cranky. If you know your child likes bright colors, consider a tropical theme or any theme incorporating these flashy colors into the party scene. Even if he or she can't remember the activities, the colors will entice and excite Baby. Always watch your guests, particularly young ones; some younger children would probably have a grand time trying to feed Baby lots and lots of cake or carry him or her around to see the decorations. It's wonderful to invite cousins and friends, but you always have to watch who is trying to further include Baby in the celebration. It's a good idea to keep in mind that a lot of people in one space might be too much for the little one, so if you can, keep your guest list small and only invite those who are very close to the family or a few very special friends.
Does your little one already have a sweet tooth? If you don't want to go the traditional route, there are other suggestions besides cake. Birthday cupcakes and huge cookies can be found or homemade if you can't find anything that suits you. You might find it more special to make the birthday cake or cupcakes yourself. We've all seen the shows where, as soon as Baby's birthday cake is sat down on the highchair, hands plunge into the cake and it's "goodbye, dessert." To avoid disappointment and still give Baby his fun, consider a smaller, "just-for-decoration" cake that Baby can "play" with, and have a larger, fancier cake that guests will actually consume. If you don't want to buy or make two cakes, Baby's own personal cake can be a cupcake; less mess if he decides to play with it, and not too much sugar if he actually eats it!
You can either host a sit-down meal or a salad-bar style lunch where guests can come and fill up on sandwiches, desserts, and drinks. If you are having the party at home, make sure a big enough area can be cleared for children to run around without breaking anything or causing distress. A garage is a good idea for this; there usually aren't many pictures already hanging on the garage walls, so you don't have to pull down lots of frames to hang decorations. If it's cold outside and your garage isn't heated, a space heater will help the guests stay cozy. If you don't want Baby to feel overwhelmed, the party should probably be fairly shorter than an older child's celebration; don't forget that one-year-olds often can't make it through the day without a nap or two.
By Lacie R. Schaeffer