smash cake - first birthday party ideas

The Best First Birthday Party Ideas

Woohoo, you and your little one have made it through his or her first year and it's officially your baby's first birthday! To celebrate this milestone, of course you want to throw a fun party – read on to find the best first birthday party ideas that are eco-friendly, budget-friendly, and easy to put together for a birthday party at home.

Pick a Theme

First, choose a theme for your party. Is it elephants? Dragons? Princesses? Whether you’re honing in on a first birthday idea for a boy or a girl, there are tons of versatile and flexible options out there. Our advice is to pick your birthday party theme and its complimentary colors, and make choices for birthday decorations and serve ware based on the color scheme. Don't worry about getting your kid's character/animal/whatever on every single piece of party serve ware or every decoration; as long as you have one recognizable element with the theme (say, the invitations, or on customizable favor bags, more on that below), the rest of your party decor can be color-coordinated and that's enough!


First Birthday Cake Ideas

Smash cake for 1st birthday partyNext, consider the cake. Are you going for a traditional homemade smash cake? (If so, read on below for the perfect photo backdrop in the form of affordable tissue paper garlands.) Maybe it's a store-bought cake decorated with a garland cake topper that's in your color scheme. Whatever you decide, plan for a cake with enough servings for all the adult party guests, as the one year olds will likely be filling themselves up on snacks throughout the party.


Babies and toddlers have brief windows of time between naps, and even smaller attention spans. Plan to cap your party at 1 ½ hours long, and throw it either in the late morning, around 11am, or in the early evening, around 5:00pm. We can’t guarantee it’ll fit all nap schedules, but the majority of one year olds tend to take their naps in the mid-morning and early afternoon.

Party Activities

Kid pool for first birthday party activityLet’s face it: since one year olds can’t arrange their own play dates, most of the guests at your kid’s first birthday party will probably be adult friends of yours. That’s fine! It just means you can keep the kids activities simple.

Foam blocks for first birthday party kids activities- If your party is in the summer, a kiddie pool will provide lots of entertainment. We like this one because it doesn’t require inflation, it’s foldable, and has a drainage spout.
- For indoor parties, these non-toxic soft foam blocks ($21) are perfect for little hands and safe for little mouths. Set up a play area and let the babies loose to create and build with these colorful blocks.

Cardboard playhouse- To keep both one year olds and any older siblings entertained, consider a color-in cardboard playhouse$35. It comes in a variety of themes, and serves as dual-purpose entertainment - both for coloring in, and for playing! Stock up on extra crayons (more on that below in the party favors), and set them up near the playhouse for the kids to grab and use. Keep the playhouse around after the party for your little one, and recycle when needed.

A sweet activity for the adults attending your kids first birthday party is setting up a photo booth for guests to make a photo album for your baby to have and cherish for years to come. Here's how:


Tissue paper garlands for photo booth background, kids first birthday party ideas

Custom notebook made from recycled paper

- Set up a backdrop. This colorful background, made from tissue-paper garlands, is customizable to your party's colors, comes in a variety of sizes, and starts at just $10! Best of all, it also works as a 1st birthday decoration idea for a boy or girl; just customize to your preferred color palette.
- Create a picture station with this instant film camera - think Polaroid, but updated. A refurbished version starts at $45 (don't forget to buy film!).

- Pick a notebook or photo album, and set out some glue and pens. Encourage people to take photos and post in the book, along with sweet messages for your child to read as they get older. We love this customizable, hand-painted notebook made with recycled paper - starting at under $10, it's super affordable and can easily fit in whatever color scheme you choose. (Note that it's shipped from the UK, and will need lead time.)

Party Food Ideas

For older kids and adults, check out our post on kids party food. It also contains links to some of our favorite compostable and recyclable party serve ware.

Recyclable fruit cup for kids first birthday partyOrganic baby food in pouchesWhat about the one year olds, you say? Fingers foods reign for the younger crowd, so set out bite-sized food in 4-ounce recyclable cups (these ones come in multiple color choices to fit in with your color scheme). Think foods that require little to no prep work, like:

- blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries
- goldfish, pretzels or crackers
- puffs or veggie sticks
- shredded cheese

For a little more effort, but still finger-food friendly, think:

- cooked, buttered pasta
- mini scrambled egg bites (bake whisked eggs in non-stick mini muffin pans)
- steamed edamame

Supplement with store-bought pouches, like this variety pack of organic Go-Go Squeeze applesauce (just $6 for 12 pouches!), or an organic version with veggies, $19 for 24 pouches. Throw any extra pouches at the end of the party into the party favor bags for guests to bring home.

Party Favors - First Birthday Ideas for Boys and Girls

We've all been there - you've spent an afternoon at a kids birthday party, your family's had a lot of fun, and then you get a sad little goodie bag on the way out. As a final impression, a goodie bag filled with cheap plastic toys is not a good look, nor is it fun for a parent to worry about those small trinkets making their way into tiny mouths.

That's why we have a new game plan for party favors: choosing purposeful items that families can reuse in their everyday lives.

Custom cotton pouch for party favors for 1st birthday party ideasEco-friendly kids snack cup for party favor bagsAs a favor bag, we love this customizable cotton pouch (starting from $1.70 each!) from Etsy seller Kport Gift Company. Choose this or other adorable designs to fit in with your chosen party theme. (Bonus tip: larger versions of this pouch can double as a first birthday gift idea, if you're so inclined.)

Next, fill the pouch with responsible, eco-conscious, and still FUN party favors. We recommend:

- Colorful kids snack cups (3 for $5): they're plant-based, and perfect for on-the-go snacking. Fill them up with your favorite toddler snack, twist on the lid, and pop them in the bag for a tasty and reusable party favor.
- Beeswax crayons: naturally non-toxic and made from beeswax (as opposed to the petroleum-based paraffin in traditional crayons), these crayons are a steal at $10 for 12 packs. 
- Supplement the crayons with mini notebooks in bright colors. Make sure to get the pouch listed above in at least the 5x7 size or larger to ensure the notebook and crayons will fit.

And just like that, your party favor bag becomes a travel activity bag for parents to keep and reuse when they travel with their little ones. No more throwaway favors and plastic in landfills!

We hope this collection of 1st birthday ideas for boys and girls is a helpful starting point for your little one's celebration. Whether you're having a small, intimate affair with just family, or a giant celebration filled with all your kid's daycare classmates, our tips and birthday party ideas can help make it a memorable occasion.


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