1st birthday themes and ideas to delight your guests

Your baby’s 1st birthday is an exciting time for everyone. You and your family get to watch and celebrate the newest addition growing up before your very eyes. So many milestones happen in the first year: first food, first words, first crawl, first steps—not to mention the first millionth diaper change. 

This day marks your baby’s first rotation around the sun. It’s also an opportunity to start new traditions, acquaint your baby with family, and set the standard for many wonderful birthdays to come. Not to mention send out some of the cutest customizable invites.

Getting ready for the big day? Read on to gather some ideas, themes, and activities to make your baby’s first birthday a truly special occasion.

What do you do for a first birthday party?

Photo of a baby eating a cupcake in front of a banner of monstera fronds.

When it comes to your baby’s first birthday, there are endless ways to celebrate. Whether your party idea is a bonafide family reunion with tons of people, or an intimate get-together, don’t be afraid to personalize your party theme.

Here are just a few items and activities you can incorporate into your baby’s 1st birthday:


— Start new traditions – There’s no better time to start traditions than your baby’s first birthday. Your child can claim they’ve been experiencing that tradition every year for their entire lives, and maybe even pass it on to their own kids years down the line.

Where do you begin? Perhaps you dress your baby girl or baby boy in their favorite color or bring out a special plate with their first handprints. It’s a wonderful time to look back on your existing family traditions as well and pass them on to the next generation. Sure, they can’t wear grandpa’s watch quite yet; but maybe there’s an old family cookie recipe you can make, even if your baby’s only job is being the taste tester. 


— Baby’s first cake – There’s nothing quite like the confused, delighted look on your baby’s face when they taste their first birthday cake, also known as a “cake smash”. It may even be their first dessert ever.

Make cake time even more fun by providing a smaller birthday cake your baby can smash their hands into. Watch the baby go wild with bewildered delight while the adults enjoy their own delicious cake on the sidelines.


— Turning 1 photoshoot – Commemorate this big day with a fun photo session. Pick your favorite local park or deck out your backyard with streamers, posters, and hats. Then position the camera and let the fun begin. Adults and kids alike will love striking a pose and making precious memories on your baby’s 1st.

What is a good theme for a 1st birthday party?Left: “Gold Candle - Meringue” by Paperless Post | Right: “Under Construction” by Paperless Post

Gold Candle – Meringue” by Paperless Post and “Under Construction” by Paperless Post


One of the biggest perks of your baby’s 1st birthday? They won’t fuss over the birthday party theme quite yet. Older children may latch onto a Spiderman, rainbow unicorn, or pirate theme (or all 3). But for your little one’s very first birthday, you have a little more freedom when it comes to the party details. 

Pick something that reflects your child’s budding personality, favorite movie, or food. Looking for Frozen birthday party ideas? Or maybe you’re looking for something as simple as a flower theme party. Either way, we’ve got you covered. Here are just a few 1st birthday party themes that get the party started, along with matching invites to wow a crowd:


— Safari Does your little one gasp when lions appear on their favorite nature show? You may have a junior ranger on your hands. Decorate your party with giraffes, elephants, zebras, and lions. Older kids in attendance can play by dressing up like safari guides and starting a mean game of I-Spy, mini binoculars included. 

Send out a Safari friends themed card to invite friends and family to the savanna in your own backyard.


— Candyland – Are you looking for the icing on top of a perfect party? Choose to delight your guests with a Candyland theme, or butter them up with a decadent and colorful cupcake party. You can select your favorite color combinations, or start with your preferred flavors. Chocolate cupcakes? Red licorice? Rainbow buttons? The options for sugar-coated fun are endless.

No matter the sweet path you choose, you can make sure your friends and family know what a luscious event this birthday will be with a Gold Candle invitation.


— Construction – From bulldozers and wrecking balls to hard hats and yellow tape, you can fill your little one’s birthday with an exciting variety of construction vehicles. You don’t need to rent a Caterpillar tractor for full-sized fun; instead provide tons of toy trucks, legos, and maybe even a sandbox for kids to dig to their hearts’ content. 

This one’s for the child who’s always trying to figure out how things work, stacking building blocks, and knocking them down. Invite your guests to the cake-demolishing first birthday with a cute Under Construction card.


— Dinosaur – Does your little one roar with delight at the sight of their favorite scaly beasts? Transport your party back in time to when giant creatures roamed the earth. Instead of hiring a princess, buy a T-Rex costume for Dad, and watch the little ones reenact Jurassic Park Jr. before your eyes. 

Keep the birthday theme present with a Prehistoric Party invite. At the end of the night, send guests home with a tiny but fierce dino figurine, dino footprint cupcake, or fake candy fossils. An archaeologist’s sweet dream. 


— Animal/Jungle – Is your baby girl or boy mischievous as a monkey? A jungle-themed party may be the perfect theme to delight babies and guests alike. There are so many possibilities when it comes to decorations and activities, like playing pin the tail on the tiger or serving a special jungle punch. You can even invite guests to dress in their favorite animal print, as the whole herd comes together to celebrate the newest addition to the family. 

Gather friends and family around the watering hole with this captivating card. You’ll capture the inner party animal in everyone who receives an invite.


— Winter ONEderland – If your baby was born in the snowy cradle of winter, then celebrate their first birthday by making it a Winter ONEderland for all who visit. Stock up on hot chocolate, plan to bake some scrumptious cookies, and share your holiday movie favorites with friends and family.

How do you convince guests to trek over on a fine winter evening? Our One Wonderful Winter invite will enchant friends and family alike, getting them ready for an evening of comfy winter fun. 

If the wording isn’t quite right, no problem. Regardless of the theme, Paperless Post makes easy to word invitations to match.

What games can you play at a 1-year-old’s birthday party?

Now that you know what direction your party is headed, you can plan some awesome games and activities. Adults and children alike can play, laugh, and learn more about each other and the new baby.

Games and activities for adults

Left: People gathered round a table at a party | Right: Woman reading a book to a baby

Just because the party is celebrating your 1-year-old doesn’t mean the adults don’t get to have their own fun! Here are just a few activities that will make your baby’s birthday a memorable experience for everyone:


— Pop quiz – Who knows your baby best? Before your guests arrive, prepare a sheet of paper or a small booklet of questions about your baby. You can also send virtual quizzes beforehand if the birthday is over Zoom. Here are some sample questions to inspire you:

How many teeth do I have?

What was my first word?

What’s my favorite book?

What’s my favorite food?

What makes me laugh?

Reveal the answers at the party or on the Zoom call.  Even better, pair the responses with a photo of your baby demonstrating the correct answer. For example, attach a photo of your baby eating strawberries under “What’s my favorite food?”

Guests can reveal their funny answers, right or wrong; you can even award the winner a small prize (Candy? Wine? A gift card?). Either way, everyone will get to know your baby better and have a great time guessing.


— Match the photo – Ever wonder what your family and friends looked like at your baby’s age? Your baby’s first birthday is the perfect occasion to find out. 

Ask your guests to bring a photo of themselves at around 1 year old. Shuffle the photos and then try to match each baby to each adult. You’ll have a laugh seeing just how much everyone has grown. The person with the most correct guesses wins a prize for their excellent recognition. 


— Time Capsule – Here’s one way to immortalize your baby’s first birthday: a time capsule that your child can open when they’re older. Buy a few one-time-use film cameras and pass them out to guests at the party; you can also use a polaroid camera if you have one. Family and friends can snap fun photos until the film is gone and write messages to your baby on the back.  Tuck the photos and any other party memorabilia into the airtight time capsule. Bury it in the backyard (or just keep it somewhere safe). Ten years later, you’ve got the baby birthday gift that keeps on giving, with memories of their special first birthday.

1st birthday games and activities for kids

The kids that show up to your baby’s first birthday may become some of their life-long friends. Help them make some wonderful memories together with these baby-friendly birthday activities. 


— Host a music class – Hire a kid-friendly musician or a musically inclined friend to prepare some songs for your little one’s first. Want to make it a play-along? Hand out kid-sized tambourines, harmonicas, shakers, and mini guitars.

The little ones can dance along, learn about music, and play an instrument of their own. They may not stay on beat, but their joyful singing will be music to your ears. 


— Blow and catch bubbles – This activity is great for babies, especially ones who recently learned to walk. Look online for easy soap bubble recipes and try making giant bubbles with rope or an empty paper towel roll. 

You can also hand out small bubble wands to everyone at the party for an explosion of rainbows. It’s an inexpensive way to let children explore and run around. You’ll watch them put the “toddle” in “toddler”.


— Share storytime – Gather all the little ones around to read your baby’s favorite book. Make sure you put on your best character voices and make every word count. If the kids are old enough, everyone can take a turn reading and acting out the story. 

You’ll bring an exciting read to the table, and turn your baby’s favorite book into a fun memory for everyone.


— Make a summertime splash – If your baby’s birthday is in the summer, you’re in luck for some great summer party themes! There are so many options to keep little ones refreshed and entertained. 

Consider buying a kiddie pool so babies can safely splash around and cool off. It also makes for a super cute photo opportunity. Or, just turn on the sprinklers in the backyard and let them run in and out.

Did somebody say, water balloon fight? For older kids, fill water balloons in advance and hand a few to each kid. Water balloons are sure to make this birthday a summer blast. You can also provide mini-water guns for a fun game of tag with easy refills.


— Visit a petting zoo – There’s nothing cuter in this world than baby humans encountering baby animals. Make your baby’s first birthday extra special by scheduling a visit to your local petting zoo. 

Children can feed baby goats, llamas, chickens, pigs, and whatever else your petting zoo may have in store. It’ll fit perfectly with any animal- or cowboy-themed party. Some petting zoos may even be able to arrange a home visit and bring the farm to your door. 

A perfect first birthday with Paperless Post

“Elephant Party” Flyer

Elephant Party” 1st birthday Flyer


Every great party starts with the perfect invitation. But in our modern world, card invitations can be expensive, lost in the mail, or stashed in a drawer out of sight. 

That’s where Paperless Post comes in to save the day. 

No more lamenting about a lack of stamps, trips to the post office, or long walks through the card aisle. Instead, consolidate your 1st birthday baby invitations into one simple place online. You’ll rest easy knowing you can shoot over your invitations instantly, and charm your guests long before they arrive at your door.

Happy first, little one! Here’s to many more.


Browse 1st Birthday Invitations