Celebrating baby's first birthday: Who's the party for anyway?

The Internet offers a wealth of birthday party themes, craft ideas, and elaborate treats to mark babies' first birthdays, and designed to impress family and friends. Do babies really need or appreciate all that fuss?

Courtesy of Lindsey Downie
First birthday parties are big business in the world of Pinterest, but chances are, the honoree just wants to smash up a cake. Here, a 1-year-old digs into a ladybug cake at her backyard party in Billerica, Mass.

We are just about a week out from my son’s first birthday. I’ve polled friends to find out their opinions on how a first birthday should look. 

When celebrating a first birthday, would you choose to have: A) A huge blowout bash (rent a moonwalk, bring in the clowns, hire a caterer), B) A simple soiree (send out invites to a dozen or so friends, provide food and drinks), or C) A candle, a cake, and a picture.

The majority have chosen B. Some make the point that this is a birthday he will never remember other than the pictures. Others say that this is a celebration more for the sake of the parents (to which I can’t help but respond with “Yay! We made it to one and he hasn’t been eaten by wolves. Hooray!”).

There will be no crafts, no invitations and no themes for this first birthday. I have chosen option C. I don’t want to seem like a birthday grump, I am quite the opposite. If anything, I set expectations for birthday celebrations too high, which is why I want to pace myself when it comes to my own kid’s birthday. With reality shows like “Outrageous Kid Parties” on TLC, I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes, or blood pressure, too high right out of the gate.

I look at it this way. My son has never had a cake baked for him. He’s never had a candle lit in his honor and stuck in a cake. And he’s never had his picture taken of him as he smears cake all over himself after it has been set on fire. We are already introducing quite a few mind-blowing antics into this whole birthday thing as is.

Let me address the biggest areas of intimidation for me when it comes to children’s birthday parties.


There is a file box in our office filling up with mementos from my son’s first year. This is for a baby book, which has already been purchased, and which remains unfilled. We hope to complete it before he leaves for college. Plus, I already crocheted his Halloween costume, so I’ve cashed all my chips for the year in that department.

I searched the internet for “first birthday ideas” and Pinterest is at the top of the results, rife with examples of bubblegum-sweet party crafts and posed picture ideas. Each pinned image is beautiful and stirring, and perhaps would be good fodder for a slide show that I can have running on loop in the background during my son’s birthday.

We may create a handwritten sign that reads “One!” to be used for a picture, but it will most likely be taped to his back like a “kick me” sign as he toddles away. Taking month-by-month pictures with a sign showing his age had to be abandoned as soon as he started to walk. When handed a sign, he looks at me as if to say, “Do I eat this or rip it up? Neither? Okay, I’ll do both.”


I found an image on Pinterest for a sports-themed birthday party, complete with fake grass on trays of baseball and basketball cake pops, goodie bags that look like popcorn bags from the ballpark and little pennants with varsity font wishing junior a happy birthday.

Here’s a theme for us: trying to wear socks. Maybe if we create a theme around an activity involving an apparel item that is ignored or removed 90% of the time we can improve the usage rate, right?

Forget sports, pirates, or rainforest friends, let’s go with celebrating trying to keep socks on my son’s feet. That’s something he needs more of every day.


We shipped out birth announcements four months after our son was born. I’m already starting to think ahead to the holidays. If we throw another mailing – electronic or otherwise – into the mix, our friends and family will be lucky to receive a Christmas card from us by Valentine’s Day.

Here is what you will see on my son’s first birthday: a cake, a candle, a camera, a kid, and two loving parents. We are thrilled to celebrate this milestone together. It is the first of many, and we want to make sure we enjoy it along with all the other little celebrations that make most days a reason for a party. We don’t want to knock his socks off just yet.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Lane Brown blogs at Mudlatte.com.

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