A Baby’s First Birthday by Baby Chenivan

Karen of blog Baby Chenivan, who is currently splitting her time between the Bronx and Boston, writes an exclusive piece for us on planning your baby’s first birthday—drawing inspiration from the bash she threw her baby Nathan’s first birthday last year and the lessons learned from surviving her first year as a mother.

BEFORE I HAD KIDS, I remember thinking that extravagant first birthday parties were silly. Why make such a fuss when your baby will have no memory of it? But now that I’m a parent, I have been let in on the secret of the first birthday. Sure, it’s a celebration for your little bundle of joy turning 1 year old, but it’s also a celebration for the parents who survived that year! (Read the letter Karen wrote to her son when he turned 1.)

My husband and I were very excited to throw our son his very first birthday party last year. Truthfully, I was probably a tad more excited than him. An excuse to buy themed paper products? Sign me up! We wanted to have a great party, but we didn’t want to spend a lot of money and we didn’t want to let ourselves get carried away and stress over the details.

To keep ourselves in line, we kept the following in mind:

A happy baby makes for a happy party, so plan around your child’s nap schedule. Our son was napping once a day from about 1-3 so we planned a Sunday brunch from 11-1. Nathan was able to go crazy with his birthday cake and then just when he is crashing from his sugar high…naptime! Not only was this the best time for the guest of honor, but it also worked out well for our friends and family. Those who didn’t have kids could sleep in (jealous!) and once the party was over, everyone still had the rest of their Sunday to enjoy.

We wanted a casual, informal vibe, which worked out great since brunch provides so many easy finger food possibilities. Our guests were able to walk around and mingle rather than being tied to their seat in order to eat.

An easy, tasty brunch menu could include:

  • Mini Frittata Cups – Prepare the same way you would a regular-sized frittata, but instead, use mini cupcake tins to make the perfect bite-sized treat. Don’t forget your vegetarian friends: make one with meat and one without.
  • Muffins – Buy some fresh fruit and offer lots of variety like apple spice, banana nut, and blueberry.
  • Bagels – Our local bakery threw in two tubs of cream cheese for free because we were buying so many bagels.
  • Mini sandwiches – Tuna salad and chicken salad are always winners in our house. We bought the fillings from our local deli the night before and stuffed the mini buns about an hour before guests were due to arrive.
  • Fruit salad – Perfect healthy option to balance out the sugary cake; also great for babies who are still mastering the world of finger foods.

Professional cakes are expensive, so I decided to make the cake myself. Rather than taking on the overwhelming task of trying to design a homemade lion cake to go along with our safari theme, I found a great idea online–a simple round cake could be the face, and cupcakes could be the mane. Cute, simple, and homemade – a triple threat!

We shopped online because prices are cheaper—we found adorable safari-themed paper products for half the price we were seeing in our local party planning stores.

I also made a timeline poster to reflect Nathan’s first 12 months in photos. For less than $10, I bought a sheet of poster board, a pack of markers, a glue-stick, and some bright, sparkly stencil letters from a nearby art store.

Not only was this an easy, inexpensive project, but my husband and I had so much fun sifting through all the old photos, remembering how tiny Nathan had once been and realizing how many memories we’d made in that first year.

For the final touches, we hit the dollar store for balloons, streamers, etc.

Try not to get caught up on the details and just enjoy the moment. If your baby doesn’t want to wear the oh-so-adorable birthday outfit you ordered weeks ago, don’t make him. If you forget the food in the oven and everything burns, call your local pizzeria and order some pies.

Years from now when you think back to your child’s very first birthday party, you won’t remember if everything turned out just right. Instead, you’ll remember being surrounded by friends and family, and for us, we think back and remember the look on our son’s face when he got his first ever bite of birthday cake!

Baby Chenivan and son NathanFirst Bite of Birthday Cake

Tell us below how you celebrated your child’s first birthday.

Karen blogs at Baby Chenivan and is now planning little Nathan’s second birthday bash, which is in April. Happy Early Birthday, Nathan!


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