Stress-Free First Birthday Parties
Stress-Free First Birthday Parties
By Alyson Menutt English
When Caroline Orange turned one year old, her mother, Lindsay, thought she was prepared. “We made sure we had a baby-sized cake just for her and we even laid out a big plastic mat for her to sit on while she ate it.”
Unfortunately, when the delighted family members who had gathered to celebrate the momentous occasion broke into a rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday,’” Caroline was overwhelmed. She started crying. While this made for some memorable family photos, Lindsay still feld a little guilty that she’d upset her daughter on her big day.
“I guess with all the cameras flashing and the sudden noise, she just got stressed out,” Lindsay says, smiling. “But, it’s not like it scarred her for life or anything--she loves being the center of attention now!”
Lisa Kothari, author of Dear Peppers and Pollywogs: What Parents Want to Know about Planning their Kids’ Parties, says since babies won’t remember these festivities, parent should relax and realize the part is as much for the family and friends attending as for the diapered guest of honor. “The first thing I tell families is to relax about the party,” Kothari says. “So many parents feel like it has to be perfect when the truth is, the baby won’t remember any of this. It’s really about those who care for the child celebrating that important first year.”
Making memories is the primary function of these first-year fêtes, says Kothari, who offers a few tips for planning a party that will be fun for families as well as the birthday baby.
Dream a theme
Choosing a theme can make planning the party more fun for parents, and Kothari says simple themes like “cute as a button,” where cake designs and favors all tie into the “button” theme, or something more elaborate like an Eric Carle book-themed party (think Very Hungry Caterpillar) can be a blast to plan, and guests will love checking out everything that goes in with the idea.
Incorporate other children
Remembering to incorporate other children who will be attending the party is important, and it’s an especially pressing consideration when the birthday baby has an older sibling. “Planning games that will be fun for other children who come as guests will help keep them interested in the party,” says Kothari. “When a child has an older sibling, the games can be a way for them to feel involved in the party as well.
Cook up a child-friendly cake
Everyone wants to allow the birthday baby to really “dig in” to her own cake, but many moms are skittish about allowing a child that young to ingest so much sugar. Choosing a low sugar cake recipe is the answer for many families. Kothari says, “Parents are finding wonderful recipes for cake made with less sugar, and they’re choosing to make the cake themselves as they know exactly what’s going into it.”
Guilt-free penny pinching
While some parents do choose to go all out on the first birthday, many others find spending a lot on a birthday the child won’t even remember to be a bit over the top. “I am one of those miserly parents who doesn’t go all out,” says Cheryl Hosmer. “We just had a simple first birthday for each child with homemade cake and two or three presents, little decoration. But all were memorable for us, and we wouldn’t do anything differently. We got to enjoy the children, not the pomp!”
Kothari agrees parents need to realize the trend in “keeping up with the Joneses” can go a bit far with huge festivities for a first birthday. “If a parent wants to go all out, there’s nothing wrong with that, but if they’re stressing out and worrying about what everyone else will think, then there’s a problem,” she says. “I always have to remind them just to relax and realize it should be fun for everyone, including them.”
Photo ops and props
The photo ops for first birthdays are often the most lasting parts of the festivities. Don’t be afraid to use adorable props, either: buying fun birthday hats or dressing a baby up in fun birthday outfits can be a great way to get some memorable moments captured.
And just as Lindsay made sure her daughter had her own cake to dig into, Wanda Yates says she makes sure to make the cake photo-ready, too, but not in the way you might expect. “The one big tradition I have is chocolate cake or some other bright kind iced with dark stuff that shows up well in pictures,” Wanda laughs.
Simply knowing your child and what she will enjoy is important, and just doing what is right for your family will make the day special. After all, there are no score sheets or point tallies at birthday parties, just lots of memories in the making.