You did it! You made it through one year of parenting, and it’s time to plan your little one’s first birthday. The first year of parenthood is a blur. As I’m sure every new or seasoned parent knows. When my daughter started approaching her first birthday, I about cried every time I thought about it. I knew that we would have a minimal budget for any birthday festivities and her first birthday happened to fall in the midst of a global pandemic. Nonetheless, I was still determined nonetheless to make this a memorable experience for both child and momma.
Photo by Amponsah Nii Davidson on Pexels.com
A note on the theme: I chose a girly colored Winnie the Pooh Bear theme because my little girl had the most chubby cheeks when she was born and we always called them her Pooh Bear cheeks. Also, in an attempt to make her first plane ride more enjoyable, we let her watch The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. She loved it!
Here are the lessons I learned after planning my little one’s big day:
1) Whatever you choose to do, remember it’s really for you
Your little one isn’t going to remember his or her first birthday, nor will he or she be disappointed with you if their first birthday isn’t exactly as you’d hoped. In fact, many times the hoopla with all the guests just stresses the little birthday boy or girl out more. With that in mind, it’s very important to consider where your priorities lie. How do you want to remember the day? What do you want the focus to be? Chances are, you’re not hoping to stress yourself out. Nor, are you planning to stay up to midnight the night before trying to get everything together before the party.
Keep it simple. Do you want the cute photo ops while your baby mooshes up a cake? What about a perfectly decorated house? Do you want to focus on your guests having a good time? Whatever your priority is, choose one and keep it simple. As you’ve probably already found out, time doesn’t work the same way it used to before baby. Nap times and bedtimes only offer so much time, so manage accordingly.
2) Plan ahead
I started the first birthday planning process early. The pandemic was shutting things down and I didn’t have much else to do, but man am I glad I did! Thinking about it early helped me maximize my creative side, keep the budget at bay, and be intentional about my time. Not only was I able to have fun with it. I also capitalized on screaming deals with the Disney store, Amazon, and the post-Easter 90% off sale at Hobby Lobby. No one needs to know that the plain kiwi green tablecloth I used as a backdrop for my little girl’s smash cake was an Easter item.
Starting early also helped me to have fun! Instead of stressfully cramming everything into a short time span, I picked at the tasks when I wanted to. I crafted when I wanted to, went to bed early when I wanted to or binge watched the Mandalorian a week before the party, because I could. I also got creative with the cake.
Baking a cake for allergies
My little one turned out to have some pretty severe allergies. I wasn’t about to figure out a new allergy on her birthday. So, I tried a smash cake recipe a friend gave me that was free of sugar, eggs, dairy and gluten. I made it with regular wheat flour, because my daughter could handle gluten. Instead of leaving it plain, I tried a decorative frosting void of her major allergies (soy and dairy). In a test run, she loved it and my husband didn’t complain about the trial runs either. The best part was that any failed attempts just became a little no pressure snack. I had no worries because I worked ahead and gave myself plenty of days to try and fail. By the day of, I could bake with confidence!
Sugar, egg, and dairy free smash birthday cake.
3) Again, keep it simple
Pick your top priorities. Consider what you’ll remember most. Allot time to complete each task. Be realistic with your time and then allow additional time just in case. Everything that doesn’t get done doesn’t matter at that point, you have what you’ll remember anyway. The goal is to create a memorable experience of celebrating your little one.
4) Ask for help
I’m sure the grandma’s or aunts are itching to help out, but may not want to step on your toes. I recommend having some ideas that can be easily delegated. That way, just in case they ask, you can take a few things off your plate. Maybe it’s a side dish, maybe it’s balloons, whatever it may be, keep it simple. And, if you’re type A like me, don’t delegate anything that you have a strong vision for. It just makes everyone happier that way!
Cake table décor.
5) Get creative
I know the theme of this post so far has been all about keeping it simple, but on the flip side, feel free to get creative. It’s your child’s first birthday, so why not go a little extra. You only get one! Check out Pinterest, go on a craft store outing with your little one, and get brave. I found it was fun to spend an evening after bedtime working on her little party favors or a backdrop for her smash cake. Since I had a clear budget, I opted for mostly DIY decor. This was a great way to save some money, but also exercised my creativity muscles. And, since this party is really for the mom anyway, it should be a fun experience to plan.
Honey Bear Favors.
For party favors, I decided to fill small 2oz Honey Bears bottles that I got off of Ebay, create a handmade tag, and curl some ribbon to add flare. This cost me less than $5 for the honey and $1 per bottle. I already had the ribbon and yellow card stock at home. We bought her a plush Pooh Bear for her birthday as well as set him up next to the favors as a decoration. For her smash cake backdrop, I used a Pinterest post for inspiration. My mother in-law bought the balloons, and my mom assembled it using balloon wall adhesives. I created the rest of the backdrop with recycled Amazon boxes.
Present and smash cake backdrop.
Playing to mine and my baby’s likes
For the table decor, I created mini hundred acre wood signs to be placed on the food table as well, bought moss off of Amazon and scattered that around the whole cast of Winnie the Pooh (Also, available on Amazon). The little figurines are so cute and will be a fun toy as my little one gets older. In fact, she already loves them! I’m also an avid scrapbooker, so during my maternity leave I had started a baby album for her. I decided to turn it into a one year album and had it out for display during her party. I also left one page blank for guests to take a picture with her and sign it with a birthday message.
First Year Scrapbook and Guestbook and homemade Pooh Bear outfit.
6) Keep your expectations reasonable
Throughout the first year, how well did your baby do with gatherings and timely structure? Their birthday isn’t going to be any different. With my little one, we usually had great wake windows of about three hours. The first hour she was a wonderful little angel, the second hour she got ambitious and adventurous and the third hour she would start to get cranky and opinionated.
With that in mind, we planned for guests to arrive before her first nap was over (that accounted for the late people), plus it allowed for us to greet and get the adult chit chat out of the way before baby woke up. Once the birthday girl woke up and had her snack, we immediately jumped into the birthday festivities (photos, presents, cake). Then, we did lunch and whatever else was on the party list. That way, at her happiest state, we took pictures, by the time she needed to be adventurous, she had new toys to play with and when she got cranky, all her birthday party festivities were complete and it was just a social hour.
7) Finally, Celebrate you!
One year of life is celebration worthy, but so is the first year of parenting. When your baby goes down for the next nap or for bedtime, toast to yourselves! No matter how many nights were spent crying, no matter how many blow outs, and fits in the store, you did a great job of loving and caring for your baby. You did it! Cheers!
What I wish I had known:
8) Allow even more time
Despite our best efforts, my husband and I ended up staying up until 1am the day before the party. Due to a busy work schedule, we didn’t get started until after bedtime and between putting up decorations and making the smash cake and guest’s cupcakes, we were way in over our heads. Basically, I recommend managing your time well and budget more time than you think for creative tasks. If I could go back, I would have organized my work day better and started baking during the first nap and decorated one of the cakes during the second, which leads me to my next point… If you also struggle to find a work life balance as a work-from-home mom with an infant in your care, check out my 7 must know tips for working from home with an infant.
9) Don’t count on a second nap
It’s a well-known fact that as soon as you get used to your child’s sleep routine it will change. If your one year old hasn’t done it yet, he or she is getting ready to drop that second nap. Just so happens, our girl decided the day before her birthday party and the day of her party, she was going to try without the nap. That messed with, what I thought were perfectly planned, plans and created more stress than I was prepared for. Once again, keep it simple!
10) Be very clear why you are delegating
As mentioned earlier, I gladly accepted the help when offered. And, in most circumstances, it worked out great and really added to the overall birthday experience and memory-capturing photos. However, there was one task that I delegated for sheer lack of time. The relative ended up buying all the supplies, in fact about 3-4 times more supplies than we expected. The caveat: those supplies required a certain level of DIY. It was a very nice gesture, but missed the point of lightening the time load and ended up adding more work for my husband, which kept him busy through the first 15 minutes of the party. Facepalm.
11) Clear the house for nap time
As mentioned earlier as well, our little one decided that her party day was the day to skip her second nap. In fact, we tried for over an hour as she was completely exhausted after her exhilarating time of family, presents, and cake. When the party wound down, we put her down for the nap and spent a little more time with our guests. However, as in all merry times, our guests were loudly laughing and the cleaning that was going on was causing clattering as well. Therefore, just as the most important part of her nap time routine happened, our little girl was being reminded that she was left out of the fun and she did not like it. Looking back, we should have immediately ushered people out onto the patio for afternoon drinks and snacks to keep the noise outside and the happy, sleepy baby in.
All in all, I am very happy with how my daughter’s first birthday turned out and will look back on these memories with much fondness! If you are preparing for your little one’s big milestone, or really any other celebration that you are in charge of, be sure to check out my Mom’s Guide to Keeping Your Sanity during the Holidays for must-know strategies to enjoying the entire process of any celebration.
The Mama behind Momma Life 2 the Fullest
Hi Mama! I’m so glad that you are here! My name is Ashlyn and I am a wife, full-time mom and full-time university faculty among other less important titles, such as coffee junkie, outdoor lover, craft and Pinterest enthusiast, energetic traveler, activities planner, and to-do list master. I find that my day sometimes feels like a swirl of diapers, meals, meetings, chores, etc. And, I created this blog as a landing spot to share my experiences and purpose to live this crazy mom life to the absolute fullest.
I was born and raised in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I was homeschooled for the majority of my childhood, which offered me some unique traveling and cultural opportunities. I earned my degree in English and my Masters degree Instructional Design. Before landing my current, work-from-home job, I also taught in the classroom as a 9th grade English-Language Arts teacher.
When we had our daughter, I knew that I wanted to do everything I could to be as present as possible for my little one, so that’s when I found my current flexible-schedule, work-from-home job at an online university.
Mom life is a true gift from God. We were selected to be our little humans mommies, and that is a tremendous blessing and a huge responsibility. This life isn’t meant to just get by. This life is meant to live to the fullest, and our children deserve the most present, life-breathing versions of us.
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