Sure, you have the guest list, picked out a theme, entertainment, decorations, and maybe even loot bags, but there's a few things you may not have considered planning (or practicing) for: you're little guy/girls reaction to their first birthday party!
Have you been to a first birthday party where the baby wasn't interested in the gifts? Or the baby totally ignored their cake (what a waste of a photographer for that cake-smash picture!)? Or seen the baby who's just completely overwhelmed by all the people? I have.
I was a little worried all of this would happen to me and Cameron so I got proactive and decide to practice all of this very important stuff during the months leading up to his very big day.
I know it sounds silly. All of my girlfriends were laughing at me too, until I explained what I meant.
The Cake: I have been working hard trying to teach Cameron, my almost 1 year old, to eat without making a mess, so imagine how confused he'll be when I put a cake infront of him and expect a cute-mess!
My Solution: We're lucky enough to have a bunch of cake-occations during the months leading up to Cam's big day. At the last 4 events I started showing him how to "eat cake". At first he was a little timid and mostly just poked it, but after the 2nd cake I was convinced we were going to get a great cake-smash picture, and Cameron had a blast.
Alternative: If you aren't as lucky as we were having all these birthdays leading up to your party you could always buy a small cake and let them practice at home. One caveat: expect lots of clean up! Both the baby and the area around them will need serious clean up. Avoid strawberries if your son/daughter hasn't tried them yet, apparently they are a common early allergy.
The Presents: I remember opening all of Cameron's gifts at Christmas and wishing he could be a little more involved by his first birthday. Unfortunately he had no idea what to do with all that shiny paper and ribbons a little more than a month before his birthday.
My Solution: Easter happened to fall a month before his party, and being the first grandchild on my side Cameron was spooooooiled. We practiced opening bag gifts mostly, which is fine because I've casually mentioned to most people coming to his party that he can open gifts in bags, hoping they'll take the hint.
Alternative: Wrap some of their favorite toys in bags and wrapping paper and let your little one find their it once they get into the package. You'll probably have to help the first few times but they'll learn quickly with the reward of their toys. Do this a few times and they'll be a pro, and won't stare at their gifts blankly. Be sure to get rid of small pieces of wrapping paper, tape, ribbons, and packaging so nothing can be put in little mouths that they might choke on.
The Entertainment: I decided to hire a company called Zoo To You for Cameron's party. They bring about 20 different animals to your house, or in our case backyard, teach the kids about them, and let them interact.
My Solution: Cameron loves animals which I why I chose this for entertainment but I've still been exposing him to animals other than our pets over the past few weeks. Start with other pets who are used to small children, or maybe animals at petting zoos.
Alternative: If you are having another form of entertainment, like clowns, a band, or a bouncy castle, expose your baby to that experience well before their birthday so you can judge by their reaction if they need more exposure or if you need to completely re-schedule something else. Small children can be scary to animals who aren't used to the speed at which they move, and their tendency towards not being gentle so always keep an eye on any child around new animals. Safety first!
The Guests/Comossion: Some babies go through a shy phase around the one year mark. Some babies find it very scary to be around a lot of people, even if they are people they have met. Some babies just aren't used to being around a lot of people. Whatever your situation its a good idea to get an idea of how you son/daughter will react when there are a bunch of people all wanting a piece of them.
My Solution: We have a very large family with lots of kids so every event is crazy and full of comossion so Cameron's already pretty cool with being passed around from relative to relative.
Alternative: If you're family doesn't rival the Bradeys try taking your baby to play groups or other kids birthday parties. You can even take them to a place like Chuckey Cheese to see how they will react. If they don't like it at first, try gradually increasing the amount of time you spend there, or start at a quieter place like a McDonalds Play Place during the day.
The Backyard: We are having a backyard BBQ since Cameron's birthday is at the beginning of the nice weather. The last time we had nice weather Cameron was not even crawling, and now he's standing on his own which will be tricky on the uneven grass, but I want him to be able to show off his new skills and be able to play with the other kids without paying too much attention to the grass (or ratting too much of it).
My Solution: I've been taking him to the park a little bit each day so he can get used to the feel of the grass. I also bought him some good walking/standing shoes so he can work on his balance. Lastly, on the day of the party I'm not dressing him in good pants, instead some jeans that are almost too small so I'm not so worried about him crawling outside.
Alternative: If you're baby really doesn't like the grass and you tried easing them into it (it might just be too weird for them, or they could be allergic) consider relocating the party indoors, bringing a large play-pen outside, or renting a dance floor (the kind they have for outdoor weddings). It's ok for you to give a little too.
The Outfit: Cameron has worn his suit a few times, mostly at Christmas, but he didn't like it too much. Walking shoes are also a relatively new thing for him as well. With both he spends most of the time he's wearing them pulling at them and squeegleing around.
My Solution: I started Cameron in walking shoes a month before his birthday because it was his time, but the benefit of that is that (hopefully) by the time it's his party he will be used to his shoes, they will be broken in, and the novelty of these things on his feet will have worn off.
As for his suit, as I said earlier, because we're having a backyard BBQ I'm not going to bother with nice pants but he will be wearing a cute top, with a tie. Again, I've been getting him used to it slowly in the weeks leading up to his party.
Alternative: If he/she hasn't worn "uncomfortable clothes" you can try them in it, and gradually increase the amount of time they wear it. Same with shoes.
The other option is dress them in something comfortable for them but presentable.
A first birthday party is a lot for anyone to take in, even for you. Make sure you're special guy/girl has a fabulous time by eliminating as many things that could scare them as possible. Now is not the time for party horns, or fireworks, or whatever else is new and scary too them, unless they've been exposed to it first. You don't wanna spend the whole party inside calming your child down anymore than they want to be scared on their big day... Even if they don't know what their first birthday really means quite yet.