Birthday Parties for 1 and 2 Year Olds

Parent Q&A

2-year old birthday venue Sep 10, 2019 (14 responses below)
  • 2-year old birthday venue

    (14 replies)

    hi parents,

    I’m starting to think about my son’s second birthday (early January).  Our house is not big enough to host, and I’m thinking it will need to be inside since January. I could do an Airbnb and make activities, but wondering if there are good options for really young toddlers where a decent amount of adults could attend and only a few kids. He really loves animals, but the zoo birthday seems a little pricey for only a few kids. 

    Any other ideas?


    RE: 2-year old birthday venue ()

    Hi Mhward! We faced the same dilemma with my son's 2 year-old birthday last winter. I read a suggestion to rent a room at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists on BPN. We ended up renting the Connie Barbour room at BFUU and it was perfect! The room has big windows on each side, a kitchen, and is a large room for hanging out. We hosted around 30 people, about 20 adults and 10 kids, and just had pizza and donuts and music. It was also much more affordable than other room rental options-$45/an hour. They also have a playground outside (it was raining during our party). It wouldn't work for animals, though. Good luck with the party planning!

    RE: 2-year old birthday venue ()

    We just went to Little Farm for a birthday for my son's classmate.

    Open park, farm animals, small play structure, and free!

    Grab a couple picnic tables and bring some food. Also, bring celery and lettuce to feed the animals.

    RE: 2-year old birthday venue ()

    Jungle Gym is a fun place in Concord I think they are located in the new Veranda mall. Lots of cool things you can do although he won't remember. :)

  • Hi all!

    Any suggestions on the best places to have a 2 year old birthday party in the late afternoon, in May? I know a lot of great, outdoor spots but most are only available on reserve. I think I’m too late in the game for that since my daughter’s birthday is in less than a month. Any suggestions on less well-known spots that could be fun? Thanks!!

    Not outdoors but check out Habitot.  Had my 2 year old's birthday there last year and it was a blast. 

    The Rec Room on Adeline in Berkeley

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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2010 - 2012 Recommendations

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

2yr old Birthday Party Venues

Sept 2009

We're looking for an affordable venue for a 2nd Birthday party. We will have 8 little ones and about 20 or so adults. The B-day is in November, so something with an indoor option is needed, other than that we are open to ideas. Hoping to find something in Berkeley or Albany, but anything in the East Bay is cool. Many thanks BPN members! lori

If you want a great place for a party for a 2 year old, Habitot in downtown Berkeley is very popular with that age group. Kendra
A really inexpensive facility is the parent center in Pt. Richmond. There are tons of toys, an indoor and outdoor space and it is only about $75. for a few hours. A secret bargain! go to
Hi! We have birthday parties at the Berkeley YMCA. We have kindergym parties (perfect for 2 year olds) and splash parties as well. Parties serve up to 20 children and include one hour in the kindergym or pool followed by time in a party room. We supply the table settings and ice water, and a party host. All you need to worry about is the food. Please feel free to contact me directly for details at 665-3238 or email below. Or look on our website to see about specific openings through our online registration. Eden

1yr old indoor b-day party

Dec 2007

I am looking for good indoor ideas for my son's 1st birthday party. It is going to be in mid-January so I have a feeling it will be pretty cold so I am looking for something to do indoors that isn't too expensive. If you have any ideas I would love to hear them as our house cannot accomodate that many children and parents. There will be around 15 kids and possibly up to 30-40 adults if everyone can make it. Thanks : )

We had my one-year-old's birthday party at the Albany YMCA. They set up the gym with kindergym equipment, and there's another room for food and an outdoor play space. A staff person leads activities and/or helps with childcare. It was much cheaper than other indoor options, and the kids had a wonderful time! I highly recommmend the Y! Rachel
We saw the first birthday party as the last child party that is really for the adults. We had some kids, but it was warm and we had it indoors/outdoors in a huge space, so the children did well. We had a sign language lady come and give a sign language lesson for free in exchange for the publicity, and the same with a portrait photographer. He actually set up a little portrait studio in a corner of the rec room. We had lovely food that was more adult than we did in subsequent years because the 1-year-olds seem to eat everything and not yet have aversions. (salad with persimmons and manchego, roast chicken, homemade cake, fruit, drinks) We carefully scheduled it in the morning before midday nap so our child would hold up. We rented a helium tank and blew up 150 balloons (doesn't matter to the 1-year-olds at all), and bought mini inflatable beachballs from Oriental Trading to play with during the party and use as favors. It worked well.

In contrast my cousin just threw the first birthday party for her daughter and she had 15 kids and 15 moms, indoors, in a smaller space and there was so much crying and melting down that it was not that much fun.

So, I would say have at least two adults per child, the right time of day (morning), and too much space so families can get away from any noise. At 1, no pressure or games or gift- opening in front of the group.

Now that my kid is 3, we limited the party to 3 same-aged guests, and my aunt (grandmother of the 1-year-old in prior paragraph) said it was the best child birthday party she had ever attended. Good luck! Party Mom

It sounds like you are planning a party more for you than for the 1-year-old, who probably couldn't care less about a big party. How about having a small family party at home, then have the big party at a park when the little one turns 1.5? -- been through many kid parties
Sorry to be a naysayer, but are you crazy? 47 to 57 people all focused on your child, and also in a small house? The first b-day (and a few thereafter) should be rather small, just a few people, to prevent overwhelm.

I suggest keeping it simple: finger foods, instead of a typical deeply sugared cake, try a spice cake (it's still sweet, and if you really want, you can put gooey frosting on top). Sing Happy Birthday, open a couple presents, and kids free play for 30 minutes. Then everyone leaves. State a start time and end time on your invites, like 2-3:30pm. Relaxed, joyful times

I missed the specific question, but to me, the first birthday is really a party for the parents. The child, of course, doesn't understand. So invite your friends and celebrate your survival of the first year! Give the baby a little piece of cake, take some pictures, and then put them down for a nap. Bryan

Nice birthday place for 1st birthday

June 2007

Does anybody know a nice place around Lake Merrit,Grand,Lakeshore or Piedmont where we can celebrate our baby girl 1st birthday?Parks or inside places?Please let me know. Thanks nikolett

Children's Fairyland in Oakland is great for birthday parties for young children. ItbOct 2005s a small amusement for children under 8. They have a small animal area and rides (though I think you might have to be 2 to ride on some of them). I know they do birthday parties there, and they also have a big picnic area if you wanted to organize it yourself. Good luck planning your party! Claudia
Hi, I'd recommend Gymboree, it's a fun & safe place for the little ones that are starting to walk. I particularly like the one in Concord better than El Cerrito. Martha

Baby's 1st Birthday

April 2007

hello...was wondering if anyone can give me a cute venue to have baby's 1st year party. we're not going to have a lot of people, definitely not more then 20. any ideas? thanks! dianna

Happy first birthday! We just had our son's first birthday party at temescal park in Oakland with about 30 people and it was so much fun. We had envisioned taking one of the bigger picnic sites (Big Rock) because it was large, flat and close to a big grassy area for lots of crawling and toys, kicking balls around etc. but once we got there it was already taken by another group. You can opt to reserve picnic sites, but you have to pay to reserve and then they only reserve it till 10.30am, then it is first come first serve- so it might be a good idea to have your party early, like 11am or so. Cost of reservation depends on the capacity of the picnic site. Big Rock cost $83 to reserve, so we thought we would take a chance on it (rather spend that $ on good food for everyone). We did get another alternate picnic site right near the lake, but with less grassy space, but still had an amazing time and our 1 year old loved it! To reserve or get more info about all the parks go to Its always a good idea to visit a couple parks and scope out the picnic sites to see what u might like. park lovin mama

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Trolley for son's 2nd birthday

March 2006

I'm planning my son's 2nd birthday party and would like to charter a trolley. due to the number of people invited, i plan to have it at a local park in alameda. ideally i would have liked to rent a ride-on train that the kids could ride on, but i haven't found one company that does this in the bay area. if you know of one, please let me know! so as an alternative, i thought i'd rent a trolley and take the kids for a ride. the problem i've encountered with renting a trolley is that all of the places i have called charter for a minimum of 3 hours (at a pretty hefty price). since my son, and all his buddies, are only 2, i really only need a trolley for about an hour. i figure it could pick the kids up and take them into town and back, about a half hour ride. i don't think they could handle any longer. does anyone know of a trolley company that charters by the hour or does anyone have any other recommendations to make his train/trolley party really fun? OR if anyone has a homemade train or something like it, can i rent it from you?! nicole

Don't know if you would consider changing the location of your party, but I think I saw a trolley one day at the park area at Lake Merritt outside Fairlyland. May be owned by Fairyland. Might give them a call for more info. Good luck. anon
The Golden Gate Railroad Museum in SF used to provide rides on their steam engine for children's birthdays, but unfortunately, they are not currently open to visitors. There is the Tilden Steam Train, and AMTRAC or BART of course (any ride great for kids of course), but there aren't any opportunities for riding trains in the Bay Area that I've found either. With my train- obsessed son, I've noted that he's never been much impressed with riding or seeing real steam trains (Skunk Train, the one at the California State Railroad Museum, even the Thomas Steam Engine at Roaring Camp). But he loves the steam engine at Tilden, trips in real trains with the family, his play trains and track, and all books about trains. IOW, you may find that your son may not be much interested in, even a little scared, of a big sized moving machine, like a trolley. Your liability concerns are extreme also, with other small children. Your son should be really happy if all the kids just got to wear engineeer hats and eat birthday cake with a train on it - even if he was much older, 4 or 5.

What to do for baby's FIRST birthday party

Oct 2005

My little boy will be one year old this November. I have NO clue what to do for his birthday celebration. I know he won't remember it really, so can't decide if I should have a party - have it with just me, him & dad - go somewhere, etc. I was hoping someone had a great experience celebrating their child's #1, and could share that with me to help give ideas!!! Thanks!! Elizabeth

A baby's first birthday is really for the parents for surviving the first year. Yeah! We had our first birthday at Gymboree. It worked well for a few reasons: it wasn't at home so we didn't have to worry about the house getting trashed, it lasts about 90 minutes, which is just about right, we had kids ranging in age from under one to 5 and they all can have fun.

Some friends are having an informal lunch at their house for the first birthday for their kid. That's an option, too.

I have a 2 month old daughter, and cannot wait until her first birthday. Her grandmother, (my mother-in-law), keeps telling me that when she turns a year old, that I HAVE TO dress her in white, and let her have her own piece of chocolate cake (letting her feed herself), then take photos of the after- mess. My mother-in-law has photos of each of her 4 children on their first birthdays, in a chocolate mess! Just a fun suggestion! rsylv
I have been following the advice of a parenting magazine that suggested the younger children are, the harder it is to control them in a ''party'' setting. Therefore, it is best to invite the number of children based on your child's age. So if your child is one, you should invite only one other child -- and the family, of course -- or, if your child is two, then invite two children, etc. Last year for my son's first birthday, I invited over a boy his own age and his parents. It worked out beautifully. We ordered in pizza and ate birthday cake. The boys played together in my son's room while the parents drank beer and watched TV. We all had a great time. This year, I am going to have a barbecue and invite two children and their parents. It's a great way to ensure that everyone has a good time and not feel like they are going crazy, chasing after toddlers. Elisa
Have a party - for your sake AND his. You gave birth to him a year ago - that's pretty special. And, he'll probably love looking at the pictures when he's about 3 or 4. (Mine does.) Invite family or a couple of his ''friends'' and their parents. Serve bagels and spreads, etc and a cake. Let him get his hands and face all ''caked up'' - you can find organic cake mixes or make pumpkin muffins or something else not too sugary. It's a sweet memory for your family. Celebrations rock!
How you celebrate your child's first birthday is completely up to you and your family's style. There is no right way to celebrate-- as long as you mark the occasion in a way that feels special to you! I will say that for the first birthday, there is often pressure to have a big celebration, especially if you have a lot of family who want to participate. We did a big picnic celebration for our son't 1st birthday party at a park (Totland, Tilden, Temescal, Oakland zoo are popular parks for birthdays) and brought a cake, and ordered snack and mini- sandwich trays from Safeway to keep it easy. This was a nice setting for the adults and also provided play space for other tots, but this could be hard with possible rain in November. If you want to do an indoors thing but don't want to host in your home (esp. to cut down on prep/cleaning) consider Play Cafe on Keller Ave. (they have a private room and can provide food/ tot activity). I would not recommend an adult restaurant unless there won't be many toddlers, who will not sit for more than a few minutes, meaning your guests will be running around most of the time. By the way, for our son's second birthday, we went small-- my husband, my son, and I spent the whole day together hanging out at the beach then had our favorite mint-chocolate chip ice cream cake. It was low-key, full of love, and perfect. debC
We recently celebrated my son's first birthday and had a great day. For us, it was about celebrating the fact that we made it through the first year, and acknowledging the great support network that made that possible. So we invited just a handful of our closest friends; two couples who have babysat for us frequently throughout the year, and our excellent childcare provider and her son, who is our son's best buddy. We had no planned activities other than eating, opening a couple of presents, and watching the birthday boy attack the cake. We also had a champagne toast to thank our posse for their incredible support in helping us through the year. The whole thing lasted just over two hours, and (this was key for me) prep and clean up were easy.

I have also known families to have a great time opening their home to ALL their family and friends on baby's first birthday, and have certainly had fun attending those kinds of bashes myself, but we wanted something more low-key and intimate. It was a lovely way to mark the milestone without overdoing it, either for us or the birthday boy. Katie

I went through the same dilemma and decided the best thing to do that best suited my baby and me and my husband as well was to throw a big party (well, it wasn't HUGE but all our friends and family were invited). I have to say that we had a really good time. It was outdoors so we had water balloons, a football, and pinata. The adults started a game of football, the kids played with the water balloons and pinata and everyone else was playing with the baby. I feel like having all the hoopla made the day really special and although she won't remember it, my daughter had a really good time, she played with everyone and never got cranky even without an afternoon nap. I think all the people and things going on really entertained her and distracted her from being cranky. I guess you have to decide if your son likes being around other people and kids or not. I think it's a great reason to throw a celebration. Also, I didn't worry about decoration or themes. Since it was mostly adults I just spent the money on good food. good Luck and have fun! party mama
For our daughter's 1st birthday we did a Time Capsule that she will be able to open on her 16th birthday. We had only family present and a couple of VERY close friends as we figured those same people would be around for her 16th birthday (but that was about 30 people), and in lieu of gifts, asked everyone to bring something for the time capsule. It was great because everyone interpreted it a little differently. We put things in her capsule that were important to her in her first year (favorite books, toys, etc.) some people brought things that were popular for 16 y.o. girls right now ie music cd's like brittney spears or magazines, clothes that were in style for 16 y.o. at the time. Some people brought stuff that they thought WOULD be important to a 16 y.o. in the future. Some people gave serious gifts to put in it (an inherited ring from grandma, and some beautiful birthstone earrings) It was really great. We did the invites like time capsules. it was a ''blast.''

I'd be happy to give you more details, if you want to email me. anne marie

I was pretty clueless about baby birthdays. Actually, I was clueless about babies in general until I had one. Around April of this year (my son was 1 in May) I kept getting a lot of ''what's your THEME?'' questions. Theme? My son didn't have a great passion towards anything besides sippy cups and empty boxes, so... since those don't make great themes, I opted for the only thing he really liked that was commercial, which was Baby Einstein. I just went and bought all of the crap they sell at the party supply store and made adults wear hats and use little plates and napkins that were all part of the ''theme''. I got a cake with the characters on it... It was basically one huge bbq for my friends and family to celebrate my son. He liked the attention, he got toys and clothes. I got to see my family and friends and eat good food. It was a lot of fun... even the party supply shopping. I moved away from my family's town soon after, so it was also a great last hurrah.

So, basically, it's a party for you and the fact that you made it through a year. Do what you like to do... let the baby smash a small cake-like object (I made mine with apple juice and stuff) and take pics, and focus the rest of the attention on a fun day for you. Sarah

As I recall, we got a nice cake(chocolate decadence)and took a picture of us and baby with the cake. We all went out to dinner with some friends, came home, put the baby to bed and the adults ate great cake. I always feel that the first year anniversary is much more about the journey the parents have made. . .Enjoy! Bonnie
I think, for baby's first birthday, you need to decide what's important vis. your expectations. Do you want to do something quiet? Do you want a party? Because it's true, your baby won't remember much. (Though, they might ask to see pics someday!)

For me, I really wanted a full-blown party so we could celebrate, take pictures, etc. (Plus, the first birthday felt like a real milestone for us as parents, as well!) We decided to have it at Gymboree, which was terrific. They ran the party, it was totally toddler/baby friendly, and we didn't need to organize anything or clean up.

But I think anything that makes you comfortable as a family is fine. Happy Birthday Mama

It's the pictures that matter later. I have friends who filled a room with balloons and made a huge cake. They sat the baby in front of the cake, sang happy b-day (a few of us came over - but no other small children) and started clicking away. The baby had a riot with the balloons and the cake, ohh the cake. He ended up sitting in the middle of the cake after having taken it appart. He was covered in it (did I mention they laid out a plastic sheet underneath?) He didn't really eat much of it. We all really enjoyed it and laughed which delighted him as did being the center of so much adult attention. In all of the pictures he looks so happy.

I wish I'd done that with my son. Parties always caused him stress and yet we kept having them because it was the thing to do. In my son's first b-day pictures he looks dazed and confused. Warm and cozy.

I think the first birthday is for the PARENTS, much more than for the child. The baby may just sleep through the whole thing! What we did was throw a party for the baby, but invited OUR friends, some of whom had kids, some not. We had adult foods, along with a big cake -- we have great pictures of our tiny little girl eyeing that giant cake. She had fun, being surrounded by friends and family, and playing with the wrapping paper that her gifts came wrapped in. We and our friends had fun too, drinking wine and eating BBQ and other simple, adult fare (we did also have age-appropriate foods for the few youngsters who attended). Celebrate SURVIVING this first year (!), but do it YOUR way. Soon enough, your little boy will be wanting a super-heroes themed party, or dinosaurs, or Thomas the Train...this year is for YOU. Have fun!

Activities for 2-year-old birthday party

Aug 2005

We are getting ready to have a birthday party for our two year old son. We are having it at our house. Hopefully we'll have good weather and we can all hang out in the back yard with the play houses, slide, little pool, etc... We have invited about 6 kids from 20 months to three years, all kids he knows and has played with. We're having the festivities from 11-2 so as to somewhat preserve nap time. We are planning little, kid friendly foods like raisin boxes, goldfish crackers, cheese pizza squares, fruit, etc.. I don't think we should do formal present opening since I think they're all too young to sit and attend to that but we do have goodie bags for the birthday boy and guests. I'd love for those who have been there to comment on the above. In addition, what kind of activities, if any can I plan. Should I just let them free play for 3 hours or plan simple elective activities like dance time, follow directions (everybody touch your nose, moo like a cow, etc...), playdough time, musical instruments with music, etc... I'd love any feedback regarding any ideas. S.W.

I would say no organized activities, and give goody bags as the guest arrive. Have the goody bags, play-doh, stickers, pens, paper, chalk, water squirt bottles available, and then allow free play and have enough supplies to let the guests take some home. My daughter is four and her parties have been fun unstructured time with her best friends. We just went to a super-structured birthday party (dance time, story time, treasure hunt time) and the kids were polite but they seemed bored, and you can't even expect two year olds to be polite. LC
We just had a 2 year old birthday party in a park. The two hits were:
- spraybottles with water in it (adjust them so they make mist)
- a popup firetruck (to walk in), a tent or a tunnel would h! ave done the same job
If you want to have a moment where they all do something together, just play ''Ring around the rosie'' or ''Hokey pokey'' or such. My daughter enjoyed the long afternoon of party well into the evening. One expection was the moment where everyone's attention suddenly centered on her: the cake and candles. Have fun, Julia

Outdoor activities for kids and adults at 1st birthday party

March 2005

We're having our sons first birthday at the park in a months time. The invitees range from age 5 to age 75. I would like to play some fun, easy park games like Egg-in-the-spoon Race, maybe 3-legged-race. Can anyone recommend any other games that would be appropriate? Thanks, Mom of a spring-chicken

A few suggestions: Obstacle course (can do as a relay race or non-competitively) red light/green light treasure hunt or scavenger hunt freeze dance Simon says duck duck goose the Limbo other ideas at the following sites: --Have fun!

What works best for 2nd birthady parties?

March 2004

As my daughter's 2nd birthday approaches, I'm wondering what kinds of parties people have found most fun for kids and adults at this age. Most of the 1st birthdays we went to were large, fun, chaotic parties with lots of kids, lot of adults, lots to eat and drink,and little by way of structure. Does this work with a group of 2 year olds too, or do they have more fun when the party is organized around some simple activities? If so, what kinds of things have people found most successful with a gaggle of toddlers? How about ideal size? thanks. Katie

2nd Birthday parties can be so much fun. I found that at this age, the children are mostly happy to just be able to play.

We went to Ruby's Tumbling in Alameda for my daughter's 2nd Birthday. It was wonderful: the kids could run and play (in a safe and confined space), and it was a bit different from their normal activies.

For slightly older children, however, more structurec activities can also be wonderful. As part of my What's Cooking business, I teach cooking classes for children. This is popular for birthday parties, too.

Visit my website for more information:

Happy Birthday! Michelle

When our older daughter turned two, I made a ton of homemade playdough in different colors, some with sparkles. Then I had a huge low coffee table covered in butcher paper and laid out the play-dough with a lot of kitchen utensils (garlic press, pastry trimmers, etc) and many plastic cookie cutters. The kids had a great time. The adults sat around and shmoozed. There was cake and presents. Done! When our 2nd daughter turned two, we had a big inflatable wading pool (it was a hot day) and lots of bubble-making implements. The kids got wet and splashed, the parents sat around and shmoozed. Cake and presents. Done! Keep it Simple
For our daughter's 2nd I made cupcakes, and then gave each of the kids (we kept is small-ish, about 7 kids total) a plain cupcake and an individual bowl of whipped cream (seemed healthier than the usual frosting), and placed several bowls of sprinkles on the table. Frosting their own cupcakes kept the kids occupied for a long time, and they were very excited about it! Paper table cloth and plates made the clean-up easy. Parents ate simple brunch food, coffee and mimosas, stood around chatting, ready to help little hands when needed - but really, the kids were very motivated to be self-sufficient with this activity! I highly recommend it. believer in low-stress b-day parties
We just celebrated my son's second birthday. I really wanted to keep things simple in order to avoid inflating birthday party expectations too early and it make things easier on myself (I'm 8 months pregnant).

We had 6 kids over plus the family members that are in the area. We didn't have any structured games, just free play time inside and outside. We had very kid-friendly food (peanut butter sandwiches, cheese, crackers, juice boxes) and the obligatory birthday cake. We actually asked for no presents (we really don't need any more trucks around here), so opening presents wasn't a part of the party.

My son and his guests had a terrific time! In fact, my son keeps asking to have his friends over again for another birthday party. And the format kept the stress level, expense, and clean- up to a minimum. You'll have plenty of time for fancy birthday parties later, when your kid starts asking for one! Keep it simple!

My son turned 2 in feb and we just wanted something very small (not because big is bad just because it would be easier.) We still ended up having 6 kids (mostly around 2 yrs.) Plus a mom and dad for each child. So in the end this small party was fairly big, but I enjoyed it and so did my son and the other kids I think mainly because it was casual. A piniata (pull string, not bash style -filled with little rubber balls, little cars, other trinket toys but somewaht durable- and gave the kids little gift bags to collect the toys in) and the cake cutting were the only formal activities, and I also got a ton of play dough (cheap and very fun), and some extra bouncy balls (like 1$ each at longs). We opened the presents without fanfare one here and there, and even had some of the other kids open the presents as my son really didn't care much. I actually wanted no gifts, but decided to request something used or a toy/book they had laying around the house they no longer use, because everyone seemed to brush off the no gift rule and I didn't want someone to be embarressed that they were the one that actually listened to my request. We scheduled our party for 11am, to avoid nap issues, but if I could do it again I think I would have scheduled it for late afternoon say 3 or 4. Anyway that was our experience I think you need to think about what kind of party you are up for giving: small and intimate or large, and if you want small invite no more than 6 families because mine seemed big with that many. (Don't count on some not coming, I invited 6 and everyone came).Good luck, you'll have a blast.
The large, chaotic parties you describe for 1-year-olds will also work fine for 2-year-olds, but a 2-year-old may have some ideas of her own for a party theme or activities, which you should incorporate if you can. Don't try the classic party games that involve lots of rules, turn-taking, or winners and losers (e.g., pin-the-something-on-the-something), but 1- to 6- year-olds will enjoy arts/crafts activities (younger kids can scribble while older ones create more elaborate works of art) and semi-structured games like hunting for ''prizes'' you scatter around your yard (just make sure you let the smaller kids start before any older ones, and that there are more than enough prizes to go around). One or two such activites, plus plenty of ''free play'' time, plus cake and presents, will make for a very satisfying party.

The size of the party is really up to you, though of course you have to take into account the size of your home (or other party location). If the idea of a horde of 2-year-olds running around your house scares you, limit the party to 3 or 4 kids and their parents. But if you're a ''the more the merrier'' type, invite everyone you know with a child between the ages of 6 months and 6 years. Only you know which type you and your daughter would enjoy more. Have fun! Holly

2003 & Earlier

Ideas for February party for extended family

Jan. 2003

My sons first birthday is in Feb. Does anyone have any good advice for his party. I was planing on having something at home. My extended family is big. I was hoping for something that can appease everyone. The last thing I want to do is spend hours in the kitchen. Markel

Markel: Just keep in mind that it is your baby's birthday and you should do what is most comfortable for you and him. Remember that at this age they do not understand much about the occassion so you should keep it simple. My third child is about to turn one in February as well and I have learned that we must keep it as simple as possible is we want it to be sane. So something in the house with a few of his playmates if he has any and your extended family. If you do not want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen ask family members to bring things. With a young child your hands are full and I am sure they would understand and be willing to help out. But above all, if you do not want an overexhausted child and parents in the end, keep it nice and simple. You are allowed to be selfish on this front. Enjoy! Skay
We had our daughter's party at home. 10 adults and 6 children attended and that seemed to be plenty. More would have been overwhelming for her and for me. We kept the party to 2 hours (4:30 - 6:30), which isn't easy to do if you want to visit/play, eat, and open presents. We ordered pizza and I made salad and cake. That way I could attend to our daughter and our guests without worrying about the food. Someone said they had never seen a one-year-old have such a good time at his/her own party, which tells me we did something right! I would try not to worry about appeasing guests. It is a party for you and your son. Liz
We just had a birthday party for our two year old and it was simple! We had the party from 11-1PM, invited 6 kids (and their folks - so, it was kind of big) and served brunch. The brunch consisted of Noah's bagels, lox, cream cheese, veggie additions, a fruit salad - everything but the bagels purchased at Berkeley Bowl. And we made a cake and served it afterwards. The party was a snap - unlike last year. We even have a friend who says she is duplicating our party this weekend because it was so good and easy! Good luck. Signed, Easy-Way-Out Mama
Make it easy by going to Safeway and getting a free birthday cake for you 1 year old baby. I did it and they seriously give you a birthday cake for free. Order it a few days before. For my sons 1st birthday I invited some of our close friends to a local pizza parlor for pizza and soda. It was easy because I didn't have to clean up. I was alone, my husband was out fo town, so this made it easy. I fed everyone for under $100, had leftover pizza and got the baby home in time for a nap! anon
I really think the 1st birthday is more for the adults than the child, since they've never had a birthday before, have no idea what it's all about and won't remember it. That's fine, but I still thought I'd not have any parties for my children until they were old enough to remember them. mother insisted that we have a 1st birthday party for my daughter at her house. Considering the adult factor, it was a BBQ of chicken, hot dogs and some fish, both non- and alcoholic beverages and pot-luck side dishes. Considering the birthday girl and any other children who came, we got 1st birthday party decorations and serveware and of course personalized birthday cake. My daughter played, ate and opened her presents (with help). We socialized, ate, drank and took pictures. We had a good time and our daughter seemed to as well. But perhaps the reason it was this way for us is because we don't know a lot of small children. If you do, it would obviously be much easier to have a child- centered party. Bottom line is that I think you should do whatever you want for your child's first birthday! And have fun! Jennifer

Rainy day birthday party

Nov. 2002

Hello, My son is turning 2 the 23rd of this month and I wanted to make him a little party. My husband and I had thought about doing it in a park. Something simple: wine, cheese and bread for the adults; healthy cake, juice and fruit for the kids. But the rain is almost here and I don't think the park is a good idea anymore. I would love to have it in the house but we ran out of money with the remodeling and we don't have dinning room or living room furniture yet! Could you give me some guidance please? Anonymous

Our son turned 2 in May, and we decided to have a small party at our very small house, planning to set up an inflatable pool outside (one of his bday presents). Believe it or not, it POURED down torrential rain all day!! This possibility had never even crossed our minds at the end of May! Thankfully, we had only invited one other kid (also 2), and several adult friends, so we could all fit comfortably inside. We decided on only one kid guest for several reasons: A) our house is tiny, B) we are on a tight budget, C) the options were to either invite every single kid in his daycare (which most of the other parents do who have outdoor parties) or only 1 non-daycare friend, and D) we realized that, at 2, he really didn't understand the whole birthday party thing yet (even tho he'd been to several big ones and enjoyed them), but at 3 he would understand it much better and therefore this would be the last year we'd be able to ''get away with'' having a 1-kid party. Well, in spite of the rain and the small guest list, he had the time of his life! What really made it special for him, I think, was that we decorated the house and made a really big deal of the whole thing. My husband took him out in the morning while I put up streamers and ballons and set the table (Blue's Clues theme), and when my husband brought him back we all made a big fuss over all the exciting decorations, and how it was his Blue's Clues birthday party, and told him all the people who were coming over, and I think the fact that it was in our house also made it special because he obviously sees our house every day, but on that day the house was transformed! We actually took about a week to remove (gradually) all the decorations, and every morning he'd wake up and get excited all over again when he'd see a remnant of a streamer from the party! He talked about it for months, and he could not have had a better time if we'd had 15 kids and rented out an amusement park. Another nice thing was that the emphasis was not on presents, because there weren't all that many. And because he had only one little friend over, they really got to play together and just have fun being with each other. I have no regrets--I know I'll have to get more creative (and spend more money) next year, so I am really glad that we did what we did this year. Honestly, at 2, what's important to them is that the day seems special and exciting, and that doesn't have to mean a lot of people or a big budget. Plus, you will enjoy yourself more if you are not stressed out planning a big to-do. Save your stress and money for next year, and savor the pure fun of the day this year! anonymous
We had my daughter's 1 year birthday at Wee Play on lower Solano ... Ave in Albany, which was excellent! We set up the front area for adults...with food and drinks....and 9 children played happily in the play area. The adults took turns playing with the children while others ate and chatted. In fact, the party must have looked fun because folks just passing by stopped to ask what was going on and wanted to join in! Amy
Actually, your house with its empty dining room and living room sound absolutely great for a rainy day party. The best parties I've been to have been in vast, empty rooms. Borrow or rent folding tables & chairs if you need to for a little seating, but most people stand during parties anyway, and all that elbow room would be really great, especially for active, pent-up kids.

Low-key entertainment for 2nd birthday?

Feb. 2000

Does anyone have suggestions for a clown or other low key entertainment for several kids for a two year old's birthday party?

It was my impression that kids this young get pretty overwhelmed when you try to entertain them at a party. The thing my daughter and her day-care cronies loved at her 3-year-party was simply the songs we sang. Why not just whip out a guitar, pass out the cupcakes, and sing lots of favorite songs? Do the hokey-pokey, that sort of thing. Save the clowns for five year olds. Good luck!

Ideas for First B'day Party

Nov 1999

I am looking for some suggestions on planning a 1 year old birthday party. My daughter will be one in February and I want to get a jump on planning it (I work full time and if I wait till the last minute it will never happen).

Our son turned one last February. He only had a few neighborhood pals and he wasn't walking yet, so it didn't seem like quite the time for a full-on party with kids.

Instead, we invited both sets of grandparents and the two aunties to a very lavish breakfast at Greens Restaurant in SF. We went early so we could get a window table, brought our video camera, and a nice cake. Everyone talked and laughed and ate, and we filmed the whole thing for posterity. It was a really magical party and seemed to suit everyone, including the birthday boy (who tried his first eggs that day!). The family felt very, very special to be celebrating the first birthday and the amount of time and activity was just right for a one-year-old. And we felt that it was affordable enough and there was no mess to clean up. (I'm a working mom, too.) I think this idea could be translated to any restaurant that you like and that is kid-friendly.

Although this year we will have the children's party at our house, I thought last year's get-together was pretty neat-o. I'm sure that anything you plan will be swell, though. If you have a party at your house, just remember to go with paper plates and have people help! Have a nice time and congrats!

We had a very informal celebration in a park with our close friends (many of whom who have young children). Having a lot of wide open play space was great for our son who is very active. (We're a little envious of the family who had their child's first birthday party at Greens--never would have worked for our child!). For a winter season party I'd definitely want a small group since it's likely you'll be indoors--I'd include family if they are near by and a few close friends, in an environment (possibly your home or a friend/familiy members) where your child and other little ones can crawl and toddle and explore safely and happily. A time for each person to offer thoughts about the child and his/her presence in the world, community and their future would be nice. I think keeping it simple, sweet and in tune with your child's personality and needs is the best approach (of course time it around naps so your child will be rested and really try to facilitate the child's regular nap schedule on the big day). Have fun!!!
Since one year old's have no concept of birthday, but their parents do, for both of our daughters we celebrated their first birthdays with a cocktail party! Our children had not been baptised or had any other ritual welcoming them to the world in view of family and friends, and we wanted to do something that was public, involved our adult friends and family, and acknowledged this first year as a rite of passage not just for our child, but for us as parents. So we had a big open house with adults and kids of all ages running around, and a cake for our little ones. It was enjoyed by all. For second birthdays, we've had low-key parties with two or three little friends - a ride on the Steam Trains at Tilden for one, a tea party for the other. Same thing, more or less, for the 3 year old parties - no more than 3 guests, and low-key. I've seen too many little kids overwhelmed and crying at big parties with lots of kids, clowns, pinatas, etc. By 4 years old the kids really look forward to their birthdays and will want to help plan it, choose a theme, and perhaps invite more friends. But till then, I'd recommend taking it easy on yourself and your child, and do something that the whole family will enjoy.

Memorable First on a Budget

August 1999

Our son is turning 1-year old in a week (!), and we'll be having a party to celebrate. We're urgently seeking advice (what worked for you/ what didn't), and ideas to help us create a fun and perhaps memorable celebration. We're on a budget, and expect a modest number of guests, the majority of whom will be adults. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

I have gone through two first birthday parties with my two daughters and the main thing is that at one year of age the party is not for the birthday child. The party is really for you, and your friends and familiy. You made it through the first year!!!! My older daughter slept through her first birthday party, but it was still a good time, and my second daughter had a good time with some other kids we invited to her first birthday but the party was mostly an excuse to get a bunch of relatives and friends together and eat. So have a party that you will have fun at. Starting next year or at age three your child will be more involved. Congratulations!!!
We had a modest 1st bday party with mostly adults. The few kids were somewhat older, and we let them help open presents, serve others, etc. I don't think we had any real plan or theme. Just put out some food and drinks and let people socialize and play with the baby. We made a cake for adults, and the guest of honor got one made of mashed bananas and some other stuff he liked at the time (I didn't want to start on the sugar til I had to. Took a bunch of pictures. Had a great time. It wasn't exactly child-centered, but it was enough of an occasion for my son to be happy with people, food, wrapping paper. Two of his best presents, by the way: a box of kleenex all his own, the pull-out kind. And his very favorite truck, all wrapped up for him to find and love all over again.

Theme Party for the First?

Sept 1998

My son is about to experience his first birthday, and although I realize this is more for parents than for children, I would like to make it a milestone. I have tried to find some good ideas for parties witha theme or just different and fun, but I've found that most suggestions are for older children. My son has about 12 children his age that we spend time with regularaly and I'd like to have them all come, but what could we play with them. Does anyone have any good ideas for themes, games, fun decorations or traditions you've enjoyed? I'd love you hear some ideas from you! Thanks! Eric

The first birthday is a special milestone, *especially* for the parent(s). A small gathering is best for this celebration. I have read more than a few childhood specialists that recommend limiting the number of children invited to the number of the birthday child's age, i.e., if the child is 5 years old, invite 5 children. I believe this is very good advice.

In the case of a one-year-old I think it's OK to invite more than one child, but 12 children would create an excess of stimulation, noise and confusion. For each child there would be at least one parent....

Babies of this age are too young for any organized games and really don't do a lot of interactive playing. They are just observing and beginning to learn (with their parents' help) how to relate to others in a social setting.

Every year before my child's birthday came, I went to the library and checked out Ames & Ilg's Your X-Year-Old (which they have written for each age up to 12, at least, and perhaps into the teen years). These books are wonderful in helping a parent to know what to expect in the coming year. As I recall, each book has a chapter on what to do for a child's birthday at that particular age. Linnea

My mom's group has a group birthday party each year (our kids just turned 3 in April/May). A couple of things to consider for a one year old group:

Location: I remember the first year very well because we had it in Montclair Park. Not all that great of a location because at 1 year of age the kids had a tough time walking around in the picnic area because it isn't level, there are lots of rocks and it's not enclosed. The play area of course was great. Try to visualize the area where you'll have the party and how 12 kids will be able to move around at their will and stay safe while parents are trying to have conversations that last more than 1 minute.

Activities: We didn't plan any. Getting a group picture was the most challenging activity that day. They move around too much to expect any type of organized play. Having plenty of toys to play with and bubbles seemed to keep everyone entertained.

Activities: We didn't plan any. Getting a group picture was the most challenging activity that day. They move around too much to expect any type of organized play. Having plenty of toys to play with and bubbles seemed to keep everyone entertained.

Party favors: one of the mom's made FruitLoop necklaces with string. The necklace was really long so it could easily be eaten while worn around the neck. The kids really enjoyed this.

Presents: we exchanged gifts at this party so it was easy. I've been to other parties and seen different styles of gift opening. I personally find the one big event where the birthday kid sits down and everyone watches to be tedious and difficult for the non-birthday kids to sit through (my experience has only been with pre-schoolers and younger, this probably works better when the kids are older). At one year of age the kids don't yet understand that the presents and toys aren't for them. I attended another party where the birthday kid opened gifts as each guest arrived so it was more of a one to one exchange. This is the best method I've seen. The Harlan Family