How to Celebrate First Birthday Without a Party

There is a lot of pressure on moms to throw the perfect pinterest-worthy first birthday party, but a huge birthday bash is not always the best option for all families. If you fall in this category, you may be wondering how to celebrate first birthday without a party and still make it feel special.

First birthdays are unique and distinct in their own amazing way and are certainly a reason for celebration. You’ve all survived the newborn phase, sleep regressions, teething, so much crying, and all of the many ups and downs of raising babies.

BUT a big first birthday party is not the only way to celebrate either. 

Here are a few quick reasons you may want to skip the first birthday party:

  • Baby won’t remember it. 
  • Baby may not enjoy it, especially if your baby is in a separation anxiety or shy phase. You know your baby’s temperament best.
  • Parties can be a lot of stress for mom. This totally depends on whether or not you enjoy hosting. For some this is fun, for others it feels like work.
  • The cost. A big birthday party can easily come with a big price tag.

Best ways to celebrate a first birthday without a huge party!If you’re on the fence about whether or not to host a party, Jo and I have a whole post debating the merits of small and big birthdays.

Generally, a big first birthday party is more for the parents than the baby. And honestly, mom and dad deserve a party, if that’s how they want to celebrate.

Parents who have to or choose to forgo the party should not feel guilty. Their baby is just as loved and there are plenty of other ways to honor their big day.

For my first, circumstances pretty much dictated that we have a very small first birthday celebration. I felt really bad about not going all out with a huge party. I felt like a bad mom. Who doesn’t throw a birthday party for their baby???

The thing is, my guilt aside, we all really enjoyed the intimate celebration. So for my second, we chose a small celebration again.

We have continued to do relatively small birthday celebrations instead of big parties and I expect that we will until they request otherwise. We still make a big deal out of birthdays in other ways. Here I wrote about 10 traditions to make your child feel special on their birthday. Most of those ideas are better for older kids, but a few can still work for babies. 

Since the first birthday is such a special milestone and babies are so different, they require some more ideas tailored specifically to babies in particular. 

If you’re wondering what to do instead of having a birthday party, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with the best baby centered ways to celebrate.

Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links.  See our disclosure policy for more details.

Here Are Some Fun and Festive Alternatives to a First Birthday Party:

How to Make Baby's First Birthday Special Without a Party

1 |  First Birthday Cake

Just because you skip the party, doesn’t mean you have to skip the cake. 

Babies eating cake are one of the best, most adorable messes ever, hence the popularity of the smash cake phenomenon. 

So whether you cut them a slice, opt of cupcakes, or go the smash cake route, make sure you have your camera ready. Some parents go with a healthier substitute like muffins or other healthy cake-like options.

2 |  Family “Party”

Wondering how to celebrate the first birthday at home? Throw a super small mini-party with just your immediate family. 

Maybe even invited a few extended family members, but in some families this can quickly make the guest list explode.

You don’t have to invite a bunch of people, go crazy with decorations, or even have a coordinated theme. It is still a party if you call it one.

Your usual family dinner can absolutely be the party. You can serve your baby’s favorite foods, blow out the candle, and open a few gifts. All of the fun on a small scale.

How to Celebrate First Birthday Without a Party

3 |  Special Birthday Outfit

A first birthday outfit is a fun way to dress up your little one on their big day. 

There are some adorable outfits out there! Check out this one for girls and this one for boys.

And of course, you absolutely need to get a special birthday bib to protect it.

4 |  First Birthday Photo Shoot

Commemorate the big day with some great pictures! You and your baby will probably love having photos from their first birthday to look back at for years to come.

You can’t really go wrong with professional photos, but if the budget is too tight (and I know sometimes it is) you can still get some amazing shots with your phone.

I love to have a few props for pictures, like a giant one, balloons, or the cake! Your baby will likely do something adorable with whatever you have on hand. 

Another cute idea is using a birthday chalkboard (this one is a super cute option) that you can pull out every year and update!

How to Celebrate First Birthday Without a Party

5 |  Small Play Date

A play date with a friend or two, can be a fun and simple party alternative.

This way you can keep it small, give baby the chance to interact with their “friends” and share the day with people you care about.

As an added bonus, a small play date is easy to plan outside of your home so no worries about cleaning up before and after. Parks and indoor play areas make perfect spots for a lowkey play date. You can pack a picnic lunch or stop in your favorite baby friendly restaurant too.

6 |  Take a Vacation

Ok, so this may not be the most cost effective party alternative, but it can still be a fun way to celebrate and make memories. 

The first year with a new baby can be rough, so really you all deserve the vacation! There are plenty of baby friendly destinations, like the beach, where you can relax (as much as parents ever do) and spend quality time together as a family.

If you want to get away on a small budget, camping can be a great escape from the daily grind and your baby will probably love getting so much time outside!

Another fun option is to visit grandparents! They will likely be thrilled to share in baby’s birthday celebration and that time together is priceless.

How to Celebrate First Birthday Without a Party

7 |  Visit the Zoo or Aquarium

Most babies love seeing the animals and fish at zoos and aquariums. 

While being super easy for parents, this can be an exciting outing for your little one to make their day extra special!

Point to the animals, make the noises, and be sure to snap a pic of baby with their favorite exhibit to show them when they’re older!

8 |  Local & Seasonal Events

Check your area for fun baby friendly events, you might be surprised what you find.

Look for events in your area, from food and music festivals to farmer’s markets. 

Depending on the time of year, you may be able to celebrate your little one’s birthday with a trip to the apple orchard, pumpkin patch, or touring Christmas lights.

I may have been the last mom on earth to learn about, but if you aren’t familiar check the site out. They share tons of local events for kids so it’s a great place to start if you’re looking for something fun to do with your baby.

Don’t feel bad if you don’t throw a big first birthday party! Celebrate this milestone in whatever way makes you and baby most happy!

DId any other moms skip the first birthday party? How did you celebrate instead?

Best ways to celebrate a first birthday without a huge party!

About Author


Hey, I’m Rachel.

I have three awesome sons and an amazing husband. I left my professional career to be a stay-at-home-mom and love it. Since then I spend most of my time chasing my wild boys and trying to keep the house from looking like a complete disaster.

Occasionally, I get to read a cheesy romance novel, attempt crafty things, or binge Netflix. But when I’m not doing that, you can find me here trying to help you figure out the easiest ways to feed your family, live on one income, or make some of the millions of decisions moms tackle every day.


  1. jen says:

    indeed.. Good ideas!👍

    1. Jo says:

      Thank you!

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