Keep things as easy as possible for YOU, the mom/hostess. When I was planning Baby Boy’s party, I heard some peeps of “What about the coffee and tea?” and “You have to have coffee and tea!” I chose not to, and I was VERY happy with that decision. Whenever I’ve done coffee and tea for a gathering, I’ve spent all my time in the kitchen making it, pouring it, serving it, and refilling cups, etc. I wanted to ENJOY the party! Plus I didn’t want any hot liquids around so many babies and toddlers. Huge paranoia!
Consider cupcakes instead of cake. I baked Baby Boy his very own smash cake (so cute!), but stuck with cupcakes for the guests for two important reasons. First of all, because I love cupcakes and think they’re super-adorable (especially with the little toppers I made out of cardstock and toothpicks). But the other deciding factor was THEY ARE EASIER. With cake, I would have been the one cutting it and serving it and organizing plates and forks for each piece. With cupcakes, I arranged them on a special table before the party started, and once Baby Boy was attacking his smash cake, I simply invited people to help themselves. Stacks of plates and napkins on the table = easy peasy, and people could eat as many as they wanted.
Keep the food kid-friendly. I was serving adults, but also quite a few babies and toddlers, so I didn’t want anything that could be dangerous for them. I stuck with cheesies (HUGE hit with everyone), cheese, crackers, Goldfish crackers, fresh fruit, sandwiches, chocolate-chip cookies, and cupcakes. I purposely did NOT serve anything with nuts, or anything small and hard (like candy). I even vetoed the idea of a raw veggie tray because I kept envisioning toddlers choking on baby carrots when no one was watching.
Make things easy for the parents. I know what it’s like to feed a toddler. It’s messy! You have to cut everything up! So I put packages of baby wipes around the room for easy clean-ups, as well as MANY stacks of napkins, and had a station with a cutting board and knife for chopping up fruit or cheese into baby-sized pieces.
Have sippy-cups for little guests. I got this idea from the party C threw for her son’s first birthday. Genius! Sure, parents usually travel with a sippy cup, but it’s always already filled with something. Buy a bunch of those Take ‘n’ Toss sippy cups, wash them, and keep them on the drinks’ table — parents can fill ’em up with juice, lemonade or water.
Designate a play area. We had rented a large room (a hall, I guess) for Baby Boy’s party, since we were still in our (teeny) condo at the time. As you can see in the above photo, I arranged the room around a play area in the very centre. Babies could sit there and play together, while the adults had a 360 degree view of them. It was very handy!
Keep the decorations kid-safe. I bought a package of balloons, but only affixed them high up on the walls (making one of those banners). I didn’t have any balloons scattered around or left where kids could reach them. I know they’re fun to play with, but we had very, very tiny guests (the oldest was just two), and I didn’t want to risk someone popping one and swallowing a piece.
Choose a colour scheme. Once I decided on red, yellow and blue, it was so easy to pull together the decorations. I bought a crapload of plastic tablecloths from the Dollar Store in those three colours, and used them on all of the tables. It made a dingy hall so bright and cheerful! Little Sis contributed by making the gorgeous paper poms. They got SO many compliments and were “adopted” at the end of the party to decorate my aunt’s bridge club — they were way too pretty to toss!
Have a guestbook of some kind. While I loved the idea of taking guests’ photos with a special sign, or doing something elaborate like that, I opted to buy one of those photo mats that you can sign with a special marker. I made a sign that invited people to sign it, and we left the party with a beautiful collection of messages and notes to our birthday boy. Pop a photo into it, hang it on the wall, and you’ve got a lasting reminder of the day they turned one.
Show off their first year! I had a table set up with scrapbooks from Baby Boy’s first year, and hung strings of photos along the walls. Some of the guests hadn’t seen Baby Boy since he was a newborn, so it was nice for them to see him grow and change over his first 12 months.
I’m Heather Laura Clarke. I’m writer living in beautiful Nova Scotia, I have a 11-year-old son and a nine-year-old daughter, I married my high school sweetheart, and this is the story of my handmade life.
Whether I’m writing novels, decorating a room, busting out my power tools to build furniture, getting muddy in the pottery studio, sewing clothes for my kids, or cross-stitching a swear word, I’m all about using my creativity to craft a life I love.
I’ve been writing this blog since 2009, so if you dig deep into the archives, you’ll meet a bright-eyed 25-year-old newlywed who was basically obsessed with having kids, buying a cozy house, and supporting herself full-time as a writer. (Spoiler alert: she got exactly what she wanted.)