1-year-old birthday party ideas

Last modified on Thursday 23 June 2022

1-year-old birthday cake with balloons in the background

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Planning a one-year-old’s birthday party can seem like a huge task, but pulling off the perfect first celebration for your child is easier than you think - and it might even end up being some fun for you, too! This is everything you need to know, from venues to food to gifts.

Indoor party ideas

For your baby's very first birthday, a small gathering at home is often ideal. You won't have to worry about the weather, and you'll be in familiar surroundings in the event of a poonami! If you want to invite lots of people though, choosing a different venue can mean more space (and possible less clear-up too). Why not try one of these options?

Your own home

A simple family gathering at home is often the perfect way to celebrate your baby's first birthday. Your baby will be in familiar surroundings, so will be less likely to get overwhelmed. Invite a few family members and organise a birthday cake, and you basically already have everything you need!

To make it extra special, you could decorate with balloons and streamers (it's amazing how much fun young babies can have just playing with ribbons of string!)

Soft play centres

Most soft play centres will cater to all ages, from babies to toddlers and older children, so it's a great choice if you want to invite older siblings to your one-year-old's birthday party. Soft play centres usually offer bookings for parties and catering will often be included - which takes the pressure off when it comes to organising food!  

You can browse your local soft play centres with our handy search tool here - just check the age range they cater for, whether they have a section suitable for one-year-olds, and if you’ll need any adults to supervise.

Booking out an hour should be enough time for one-year-olds, so they don't get too tired out!

Village hall or community centre

Another great indoor party venue is your local village hall or community centre - ideal if you have a large guest list but don’t fancy a bunch of kids running around inside your own house!  

Hiring a hall will usually be quite inexpensive, and you can keep costs down if you opt to make the food yourself. Simple soft play equipment will keep one-year-olds happy. Plus, you'll have more freedom on how many people to invite (just bear the numbers in mind when it comes to food). 

Check out your local halls for hire using our search tool, but be mindful that not all will offer children’s parties, so make sure you call individually to check.

Outdoor party ideas

The park

At one year old, your child likely isn't old enough to appreciate an elaborate outdoor party, so getting some friends and food together for a party in the park can be a great easy option.

Bring some outdoor-friendly toys and picnic food, and if your local park has a play area for younger children you can keep them happy with a go on the swings. Plus, no clean-up at home!


If you've got some nice greenery nearby, then a picnic is also an easy and hassle-free option (weather-dependent, of course!). Bring some finger food and little desserts, and some outdoor toys to keep baby entertained.

Garden party

A garden party is a great way to get the best of both worlds when it comes to having a party at home and outdoors - if your garden space and the weather allows!

You can decorate the garden with bunting, hire a bouncy castle for any older kids, or set up play mats with toys. Plus, you have freedom when it comes to the theme, with animal, jungle or dinosaur themes working well outside.

Who to invite

The size of your guest list will vary depending on the size of your venue and your budget for food. Start with your must-have invitees, and keep adding until your numbers are full.

For a first birthday party, you'll likely invite grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. If your child goes to a nursery or you're part of a play group, then invite some of their baby friends, along with any children of family friends.

It's ideal to send out party invites between two and four weeks in advance. If you're paying in advance for a venue, ordering food from a caterer or buying ingredients yourself, you'll want to have numbers sorted early - so ask for RSVPs as soon as possible too!

Plus, it'll give your guests long enough to make themselves free and buy a gift, but not too long that they'll forget or lose your invitation.

Games and activities

One-year-olds are a little young for proper party games, but there a loads of activities you can have lined up to keep them entertained. Some ideas include:

Sensory box

Sensory boxes are a great way for babies to explore new materials, shapes, colours and textures. All you'll need are some boxes with 5-10 objects inside each. Try things like a wooden spoon, pipe cleaner or a large bouncy ball, and let the kids and adults explore.


Blowing bubbles is an easy way to keep babies and toddlers entertained - just make sure you save this one for an outdoor party as sticky bubble residue won't go down well inside your home. Stock up on bubbles for the adults and older children who can play with them in front of the birthday boy or girl - just keep the bottle out of reach of the younger kids.

You can buy bubble-making machines, too. See more details here at Amazon.

Building blocks

While one-year-olds might not be able to build a lot with building blocks, they'll certainly enjoy playing with them and knocking them down. Scatter some blocks on the floor and let them explore at their own rate.

Cardboard boxes

We all know that young kids will often prefer the packaging of a present over what's inside. Once presents are unwrapped, keep the boxes and wrapping paper to one side and let the children climb into cardboard boxes and crumple up wrapping paper. It'll probably go down better than any game.

Food and drink

Party food

Small, bite-sized food is your go-to for any child’s birthday party. At a year old, your baby should be able to confidently eat most of the same food as older kids, so finger foods are a great option for both the birthday boy or girl, and their guests.

If you’re worried about making sure there’s enough food to go around, fill up a cardboard meal box for each child. That way, you know no one will miss out.

For some crowd-pleasing savoury bites, try finger sandwiches, cheese cubes and crackers, as well as bits of fruit like banana. Check out our party food guide here


For drinks, your baby only needs water or milk. If you want to give fruit juice to under-fives, the NHS recommends that you dilute it with 10 parts water to 1 part juice. Older kids can have squash, water or undiluted fruit juice.

The NHS advises against fizzy drinks or flavoured milk for babies and toddlers, but if you want to offer them to older kids, it's best to give them after the food, so the kids aren't too full of sugar to eat anything healthy.

If you’re at home and are worried about damaging furniture or carpets, keep the food and drink in a designated room or the garden.

Birthday cake

Depending on how much of a baker you are, you have a few options when it comes to cake. You can find themed birthday cakes in most supermarkets, or if you want something extra personal, check out your local cake maker (they can work absolute wonders!).

If you fancy baking your own cake, browse our library of recipes, from cupcakes to chocolate cake, plus gluten free and egg free options, too. And our cake decorating guide has you covered when it comes to design, from castles to trains or the classic caterpillar cake. 

A good idea for a one-year-old is a smash cake that they can get their hands into and enjoy pulling apart. Perfect for fun - and less so for mess!

No time for cake? Why not grab or make some chocolate eclairs? They're already in the shape of a number one!


For extra dessert options other than cake, it’s a good idea to have some finger bites available. Little chocolate bites or fruit are easy to have out on the counter and will keep everyone happy! 

At one year old, your child will be just old enough to try ice cream, but they might prefer sorbet as it's better for younger babies.

Gift ideas

Whether you’re buying for your own child or giving gift ideas to friends and family, you'll probably want their first birthday presents to be special, whether it's something fun or a sentimental keepsake.

Some good ideas include a toy pram to help once they start taking their first steps, a personalised onesie, a ball pit or a personalised story book. We've rounded up some more of the best first birthday gifts here.

We love this wooden toy pram that's available here at Amazon.

Party bags

If you're inviting older kids, be aware that they might be used to getting a party bag every time they attend a party! It can sometimes be tricky to know what to include ...

If you've thrown a themed party for your child, then a themed party bag is a great idea, with stuffed animals for an animal theme or tiaras for princesses. Noisy toys like a rattle are also a good idea for one-year-olds or some craft equipment like crayons. Oh, and don't forget the cake!

Check out more party bag ideas here.

Tips for a great first birthday party

As with any party, planning ahead and getting organised with a list of everything you’ll need to do in advance of the big day will make things whole lot easier. These top tips should help things run even more smoothly:

  • Child-to-adult ratio: If you've got lots of family members attending, it's likely that the number of adults will outweigh children at a first birthday party. Make sure you've got enough food and drink to entertain adults too (they'll probably appreciate some grown-up food!).
  • Write down the gifts your child receives and who they're from as soon as your child opens them. You'll thank yourself later when it comes to writing thank-you notes!
  • Don’t drop your usual rules. Okay, a party is a time for kids to have fun - but that doesn’t mean you should drop your usual rules when it comes to tantrums and misbehaviour. However you usually deal with a tantrum, the best thing to do at a party is to take your child away from the audience, so going to a free room is a good idea.
  • Keep your phone charged and make sure there's plenty of space for all the adorable photos you're bound to take! Your one-year-old may not remember the party itself, but they'll look back on the pics with fondness in the years to come.
  • Set an end time on the invitation. If your party is at a soft play area or a venue, you’ll already have a limited amount of time for the party to take place. However, if you’re hosting at your own home, it’s a good idea to specify an end time on the invitation - that way, no one outstays their welcome and your baby won’t get too tired.

Looking for more birthday party ideas? Check out our articles below, or swap tips with other parents in our forum.

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Does your child have a sibling with a birthday coming up? Check out our other birthday party guides by age:

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Or browse party ideas by theme:

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