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Birthday Parties for Babies and Toddlers

girl's first birthday

It takes parenting for a few years and perhaps having a few kids to figure this out, but your baby's first birthday (and second and possibly third) is really more for you than it is for your child. That said, planning and throwing a party for a baby or a toddler is a blast -- for everyone! And since your little one is not as opinionated as he will be in a few years (trust us), you have free reign to do everything you ever wanted to do in a party.

Maybe all you want is a simple affair with a store-bought cake, a couple of other babies, and a few of your best friends. You survived the first year of parenting, you should celebrate, and low-key, low-fuss is a perfectly good way to do it. But if you want to get a little fancier, here are some of our favorite ideas.

Patty Cake, Patty Cake
Make your own cake, preferably in the shape of your child's favorite animal, or decorated like a favorite toy or ball. For example, if your baby loves ducks, cut the cake in the shape of a duck, add dried mango for webbed feet, a blueberry eye, and some blueberry jam "water." Also consider baking a healthy cake, even though your baby will spend most of her time mushing the cake between her fingers (and you should let her -- it's her birthday and this is way more interesting than actually eating it). Carrot cake or banana bread in a cake pan are good options, especially if you use whole wheat flour instead of regular flour and sweeten the cake with honey or agave instead of sugar.

Feeling Theme-y?
It's fun to have a birthday theme. So if you go with a ducky cake, why not find some ducky napkins, give rubber ducky party favors, and ducky invitations? It'll be -- dare we say it -- ducky. Some parents get stressed by the idea of coming up with a theme for their child's birthday. If you don't want to do it, skip it! But if you do, consider adding a homemade piƱata. To make one, mix equal parts flour and warm water, drench strips of newspaper in the mixture, and stick onto a blown-up balloon. Once it has dried, cut out a hole in the top, fill it with treats, tape the cutout part back on, and decorate it any way you like. You could also use strips of colored tissue paper instead of newspaper for an automatically colorful appearance.

Games Anyone?
For a first birthday party, it will be the grown-ups who are playing. Ask all of the guests to bring a picture of themselves or themselves with your baby and to write down a memory of a special time together (good, bad, or funny) and a wish for the future. Afterwards, you can make these into an album that includes party pictures and birthday cards. For toddler birthdays, try musical chairs (the kind where everyone wins), pin the petals on the flower (or pin the bill on the duck), a cakewalk, or a game where children walk on numbered paper on the floor while music is playing. When the music stops a number is pulled out of a hat and the child on that square gets a prize.

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