Prince George is about to turn one year old. Who can believe it was a whole year since we all sat glued to our TV screens, waiting to hear the news!
A child’s first birthday is a huge, happy milestone – perhaps not so much for the baby, who quite frankly has no idea what’s going on and just wants to bury their face in cake icing, but for the parents.
It’s also the moment we wake up and think, ‘where DID that year go?’
Where Kate Middleton may have the help of her sister, Pippa the party planner, you may not know where to start with your little one’s first big do. Modern Family Expert for Care.com, Liz Fraser, has some invaluable tips:
1. Keep present-buying simple – You can buy the most expensive, amazing, stimulating toy in the world for your child’s first birthday…and chances are all they will do is play with the box. Remember this! A few simple, fun toys and books to play with (and try to eat…) are all that’s required at this stage. Believe me, you’ll be glad of that saved money as they get older and want the latest electronic gadget or expensive trainers.
2. Stay close to home – Once you have sorted the timings around your child’s sleep routines (assuming they are helpful enough to have one…!) try not to get carried away with big, over the top plans. Keep it simple and small with close friends and family. You don’t need to hire the Albert Hall; having the party at home makes decorating and getting the birthday boy or girl ready much easier, whilst keeping them in a familiar place.
3. Be resourceful – If you do bravely decide to hold the party somewhere other than home, take your trusty bag of fun things to entertain your child and his or her friends, in case they become restless. Don’t forget that everyday items can be fascinating for small children too. Just some rustly paper, or balloons (not blown up fully, as they pop much less easily…) can entertain them for ages. And please don’t worry about party bags! They are totally unnecessary, and most other parents will be very grateful that you bucked the trend. A piece of cake and a balloon is just FINE.
4. Invite those closest to you – You might feel that you have to invite everyone who has played a part in the first year of your child’s life. You don’t. Take into consideration your child’s personality and how they deal with large groups of people, (not to mention how much food you’ll have to provide….!) and think about inviting only close family and friends to keep things simple. And remember that this is also about YOU having a nice time, and celebrating your first year as parents, so invite the friends you’d like to share this fun event with.
5. Get decorative – Very young children like bright, bold colours. Paper bunting is a great alternative to balloons, if they are too terrifying when they pop, and also a fun activity for younger children to be involved with making. Tissue banners, bright plates and so on are all good, cheap ways to brighten things up, and make the room look fun.
6. Let them eat cake - First birthday cakes only go one way: messily. Your child will end up with cake down their front, all over their face and on their head. Truly, haute cuisine this is not. Baking a cake doesn’t have to take long, but if you don’t have the time, buying one no longer generates finger-wagging by older relatives or other mums. Just do what you can manage. Making one at home is a great way to involve older siblings, who will see this as a great excuse to eat lots of cake mixture, and thus love their new sibling even more. And do please learn from my (bad) experiences: drawing a character on with icing is much easier than attempting to make a 3D-character cake. Oh, and candles are a MUST. Just not the re-lighting ones, unless you want to be there for 24 hours filling your house with smoke.
7. Capture Everything – As much as we sometimes moan about technology taking over our lives, it has its advantages where capturing these special moments is concerned. During the party, you or your partner may want to grab your phone and capture a handful photos or videos so you’ve got this memorable occasion on record forever, to look at in years to come when they’ve left home – which happens very fast! You could even use an app to then automatically turn the video clips into a pretty professional-looking ‘first birthday’ film if you fancied! The Oscars beckon…
8. Share Everything – Whilst many families are becoming more and more spread out by the generation, it is also now easier than ever to connect with family wherever they are in the world. Sharing the photos of your little one on social media, or even connecting with family members on Skype during the party, can make them feel a part of it.
9. Enjoy! – Whilst all of the planning and logistics can be pretty hectic in the run-up to the party, as well as overseeing the party on the day, make sure to enjoy this special moment with your child so that you can create some happy first memories. And do remember to get that classic photo of your baby with their hands IN the cake, for the 18th birthday party….
However you prepare for your child’s first birthday, the most important thing is to create memories and surround yourself with close friends and family. Enjoy yourself!