Originally posted on http://www.edhat.com on Oct 23, 2010, 8:45 AM
Originally I posted this article to http://www.Edhat.com but neglected to copy it over to my website when it was revised some years ago. I was reminded of the article last weekend and thought it best to repost it here!
As I approach my daughter's third birthday, I am reminded of how much preparation and work is put into the first birthday party. Having experienced and discussed parties of coworkers and friends' children, the first party may be getting a bit out of hand. In Santa Barbara, there is even more pressure, as out-of-town family and friends want to use the first birthday as an excuse for a short vacation. Having been through a child's first party and approaching my second child's first party, it is fresh in my mind. For the benefit of others, and myself, I have prepared a guide to the first birthday in Santa Barbara.
Keep it simple!
If you're paying for a venue, you've already paid too much. Your back yard or a public park should be sufficient for a good time. Not only that, but it's adding unnecessary complexity to an already-stressful event.
While there are a number of entertainment options available in town, I feel that it takes away from the event itself. A magician seems fun, and I'm not one to shy away from magic, but it puts the focus away from the one-year-old. Clowns are unpredictable and can leave a scar on the mind of a young child. Ponies and petting zoos are ridiculously difficult to organize and require significant real estate. What's more, all of these forms of entertainment are expensive. Instead, save your money and hassle. Put your cash into the gifts instead.
If you are unsure what to get your child or family members are asking, there are a few gifts that are guaranteed wins. Balls, blocks and collapsible crawl tubes are fun, safe and available everywhere. These gifts will get multiple uses over time and can be combined in different settings. The collapsible crawl tubes come in a number of colors, are portable, and just the right speed for a child who has mastered crawling and learning to walk properly. Still, don't be surprised when the child is more entertained by the bunched up ribbon after opening the gift than the gift itself. If it weren't for the pictures, our children wouldn't remember the gifts altogether.
This is quite possibly the most important part of the party. Like all big events, they go by quickly. Taking pictures will help you remember everything. Pass the camera around or encourage someone who doesn't seem to be having a great time to be the photographer. If multiple people bring digital cameras, make sure to copy their SD (memory) cards before they head out the door. The pictures will be appreciated for years to come.
While you could invite all of the neighbors, family members and children of your friends to participate, you're adding additional complexity. Instead, keep the invitee list small. If people want to come, let them, but don't pressure anyone - the social expectations of a first birthday are otherwise undefined and the ambiguity makes people uncomfortable. Close friends and family should be appropriate - everyone else would appreciate seeing the pictures of the inevitable cake fiasco afterwards.
Before my daughter turned one, I had no idea that the first cake was so important. Apparently it's some sort of "tradition" to let your child consume their first piece of cake on their own. Diet and hygiene aside, I simply don't get it. You spend a lot of time preparing for the event and your unprepared and hungry kid is going to smash a cake into your furniture and birthday clothes. Still, the crowd must be satisfied. Go the safe route - use a bib and keep several damp towels on hand to clean up once everyone has had their fill.
A year after the birth of your child, you are finally just getting some sleep. Planning out the first birthday can be stressful, but by simplifying and paying attention to just a few key elements, everyone is bound to have a good time and leave with great memories. If you transfer quickly enough, they will also leave with their SD cards.
Comments from Edhat in order of when they were received
2010-10-23 11:05 AM
Precious child and handsome Dad. You are so right on many counts. As a grandmmother I've been through many 1st bdays. Too many guests stresses the child; a few family members should do it for #1. When my children were little (40 some yrs. ago) common sense dictated having one child guest for each yr. of the birthday celebrant; i.e., two kids for 2 yrs., 3 for 3, etc up until at least 5yrs. "Hectic" doesn't make a fun time for children.
2010-10-23 11:52 AM
dude - don't hire a magician for 1 yr olds. Even 2 years olds can barely focus on putting blocks or legos together rather than emptying out boxes and running around in circles. Wait until they're 4.
2010-10-24 04:34 PM
everyone should steer clear of the supermarket "sheet" cakes... POISONOUS!!!
Good ides to give older siblings / guests the camera to have them take the pix too... saved lots of envious meltdowns.
2010-10-25 10:42 AM
Thanks for sharing these great ideas and the adorable pics :)