Free First Birthday Party Checklist (For An Easy, Fun 1st Birthday)

Your baby’s first birthday is such a special occasion for so many reasons. As a parent, you’ve just made it through a joyful but difficult and often sleep deprived time. It’s becoming more common these days to throw a big celebration when your baby turns one. Keeping track of all the details can seem overwhelming! That’s why I’ve made this free first birthday party checklist for you to use when you’re planning the big day. Having a checklist is a good idea to keep track of all the details so you can plan the perfect party for your baby’s first birthday.

If you go to the bottom of this article, you will be able to download your free printable first birthday party checklist. Keep track of things on your phone or tablet, or print it off and keep it around the house so you can cross things off. For more help with your baby’s first birthday, check out this article next to learn about making your own Baby’s First Birthday Time Capsule!

1st birthday balloon, baby and dad

First Birthday Traditions

What makes a first birthday so special anyways? There are a couple things you can do for your baby’s first birthday that are unique to celebrating this first year of life. You’ll definitely want to add these two traditions to your first birthday party checklist. 

Display Your Monthly Milestone Photos

If you took monthly milestone photos, your baby’s first birthday is the perfect time to show them off. Everyone loves looking at a sweet display of how much your baby has grown and changed throughout their first year. There are a couple great ways to display your milestone photos; decide which one is the best fit for your party and add it to your first birthday checklist. 

You could use photo frames to display each month on their own and line them up together. Alternatively, you could put them in one special frame together. These photo frames also make a fantastic keepsake to display in your house on your family photo wall, too. Lastly, you could display your baby’s monthly milestone photos with a fun monthly milestone banner. I got mine from Amazon and printed out each month’s photo at my local print shop. 

Cake Smash

Is there anything more cute than watching a baby dig into a little cake made just for them on their birthday? You could book a cake smash photography session just before your baby turns one and then display the cute photos at their birthday party. Or photograph it at home yourself! You could even plan to do a cake smash as part of your party events so your guests can watch it with you. Decide if and when you’d like to have a cake smash for your little one and add it to your checklist for baby’s first birthday. Here’s a cute easy DIY smash cake that’s shaped like a bear. Here’s another of our recipes for a rainbow smash cake!

first birthday cake smash

First Birthday Party Checklist

Here’s a great big list of all the details you might want to keep track of, leading up to your baby’s first birthday party. Keep in mind, you might not need all of these details depending on how big or how small your baby’s first birthday party is going to be. It’s better to start with a big list and narrow things down than it is to forget a detail that might be important. In other words, make this list your own and adapt it to fit your first birthday event. There is also a free first birthday party printable checklist at the bottom of this article you can jump to if you’d like to print one off and save it for later. 

4-8 Weeks Before First Birthday Checklist:

  • Set your budget
    • The first thing you’ll want to decide on is your budget. Decide – will it be family members only? Are you also inviting close friends? Or is this a big party with a large number of guests? Start off your planning process by coming up with a budget for your party to fit into.
  • Decide on theme
    • Deciding on your first birthday party theme early will ensure there is enough time to order themed party decorations and other creative elements in time.
  • Create guest list
    • You need to know who’s invited to celebrate your baby’s first year. Is it immediate family only? Are there lots of your friends invited too?
  • Send out invitations
    • Once your guest list is created, you’ve booked your venue and planned the start time of the party, send out invitations for your child’s first birthday party so those special people can mark their calendars to help celebrate your first year of parenthood.
  • Plan your menu
    • good company needs good food! Plan your menu and decide if you’re choosing to make some food at home or if hiring a caterer is the better option. Decide if you’re going with some finger foods or a full meal. Make sure you have some food options for your adult guests as well as your young guests.
  • Pick your baby’s party outfit
    • It can be so much fun to pick a cute outfit for your baby to wear on his or her first birthday. You can often get an outfit that matches the theme of your party too.
  • Book a venue
    • Although many people host their baby’s first birthday party at home, sometimes booking a venue can be the best way to celebrate the special day. A local hall, restaurant, zoo, or museum might be a fun choice for your adult guests and older kids to have a bit more space to celebrate.
  • Book photographer (cake smash session)
    • Hiring a professional photographer can be a great way to get some beautiful memories of your baby’s first birthday. You could also book a photographer for a professional cake smash session leading up to your baby’s first birthday. There are so many cute smash cake ideas to choose from. You could make something at home or order one from your local bakery.
  • Book entertainment
    • If you’re going to have quite a few small children at this birthday party, it can be a great idea to plan some party activities, such as a scavenger hunt or book entertainment like a bounce house or a children’s entertainer. This can really help take the pressure off you on your child’s first birthday to help entertain your little guests.
  • Purchase decorations
    • Some birthday decorations will be easy to find (like plates and cups) but if you want different options that specifically match the theme of your party, you may want to order these important details the month before your party to ensure they arrive in time.

Final Days Before First Birthday Checklist:

  • Create a music playlist
    • You can pick music your baby likes from your music library, or pick something age and theme-appropriate from a music streaming site to add some background music to your party.
  • Decide on the order of events: e.g. Food at 12:30, Games at 1:30, Cake at 2:00, presents to follow
    • To make sure your baby’s first birthday goes smoothly, try planning things around their nap schedule as best as you can. Birthday parties can be overwhelming, and it can help prevent a meltdown if your baby has had a good nap before the party begins.
  • Purchase & wrap gifts
  • Decorate venue
    • If the venue is your home, you can start setting up as early as you’d like. If you’re booking a private venue, sometimes you get access to it to decorate the day before or the day of your event. 
  • Put treat bags/party favors together
    • Party favors and or party bags can be a fun way to end your baby’s first birthday party. It can be fun for little kids to have a small treat or an item to take with them to remember the day. You can find a small toy or treat that fits your theme and pack it up as a cute take-away item. For example, I put together some gummy bears when I planned a ‘Bear-y First Birthday’ themed party for guests to take home.
  • Wash baby’s clothes/special outfit
    • If you’ve purchased something special for your baby to wear on his or her first birthday, don’t forget to wash it and try it on in advance. Take my advice and put it on your baby just before the party starts so it doesn’t get messy.
1st birthday cake and decorations

Food & Catering Supplies Checklist for First Birthday

On top of planning your menu for your baby’s bash, you’ll need to have some supplies like plates and napkins. If you’re going with a catering company, they will likely have a package of supplies available for you to use. It’s still a good idea to go over all the details if there is something special you want them to provide, like a serving knife for your birthday cake, or a cake stand.

If you’re hosting the party without a caterer, then it’s even more important to go over the supplies you think you’ll need since you’ll be purchasing them yourself. Decide how many guests you need supplies for, if you want your plates and napkins to match your theme, and what type of food you’ll be serving. These factors will help you figure out exactly what you’ll need. Here are some ideas to get you started in the right direction.

  • Birthday cake for guests
  • Smash cake
  • Cutlery
  • Napkins
  • Plates & bowls
  • Dessert plates
  • Table cloths
  • Serving knife for cake
  • Serving utensils for food
  • Cups
  • Straws

Decorations for First Birthday Checklist

Birthday party decorations can be so much fun! The decorations really help create your party theme no matter how wild or subtle it may be. Some decorations are specially designed for your baby’s first birthday –  like a high chair banner or a monthly milestone banner. You can have as many or as few decorations as you like. Here are some options you might want to consider to get things going.

  • Balloons
  • Printables
  • Table cloths
  • Center pieces
  • High chair banner
  • Monthly milestone photo display

Printable First Birthday Party Checklist

Download your own copy of my free printable first birthday party checklist here:

free printable 1st birthday checklist


I hope you’ve liked these helpful tips to get you started with your first birthday party planning. A good first birthday party checklist can really help you stay organized and give you some ideas for what you may like your baby’s first birthday to look like. There can be a lot of things to keep track of, and having a list can help alleviate some of the stress that comes along with party planning.

For more great party ideas, check out these articles from Mama’s Buzz:

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