My first and only, Baby A, turned two a little over two months ago. After his second birthday I went back through old photos to reminisce over the past 365 days of our time together. When I came across his first birthday photos, I had a wonderful time remembering his party. We had a blast planning it and I was reminded of the feelings and emotions of preparing for the huge (in my mind) celebration of navigating our first year as first time parents.
Planning a first birthday party for the first time gave me so much joy and sorrow. I felt almost cheated when I realized how quickly the time went and I was in complete “awe” of everything he had learned in just one short year. How could our son enter our world as a 7lb 11oz newborn and learn to sit, crawl, walk, talk, sign, eat, giggle, play, love, and so much more in just a year’s time? I was grateful for the blessing we had been given in the form of our first child and mournful to leave such a year behind.
Preparing for his celebration also gave me a huge reality check! I fully understood that my son’s first birthday party was more for me than for him but I didn’t realize that my party planning imagination would run away with me! During this time, I experienced the same emotions as I presume most moms do. With the looming milestone that would eventually mark his first year of life, I wanted to spend thousands of dollars to throw the most fabulous first birthday, ever! It was important to me that the gathering would reflect our pride, joy, and love for him. My rationale eventually took hold and I remembered that the size or type of party wasn’t how we would show him love or honor. We had already done so (and continue to) in our commitment to remain present, provide, protect, and support him. So, I had a great time creating a “do it yourself” party for our handsome one-year-old.
My husband and I picked “Very Hungry Caterpillar” as the theme. This was a book we both read to him while he was in utero and countless times since his birth. (It was often my “go to” during nursing time, even, because I had it memorized!) It quickly became one of our family favorites and we still regularly read the story to him, only now he does the counting parts. We thought we were so creative and original with our book idea until we took the time to “Google” party props and food. As you can imagine, Pinterest and hundreds of other sites quickly squashed our thoughts of being one-of-a-kind super parents! None-the-less, we went to work finding the projects that best fit our needs for his party. We were able to create an adorable first birthday party within a reasonable budget. Here are most of the projects we completed for the party:
We have our cakes made by Cakes of Distinction each year. The owner made our wedding cake, as well, and we love ordering from her whenever we have a reason. She created an adorable cake in the flavor of our choice and placed “the warm sun” on top as a smash cake. For Baby A’s first birthday, his cake table was the first thing guests saw as they arrived. We placed his baby book out for signatures and messages from his party guests. I also had ordered some Very Hungry Caterpillar fabric for his bib and birthday shirt. I used the left over material to decorate this table, the favor table, and the food table.
Making Baby A’s birthday shirt was incredibly simple. I purchased a white t-shirt in his size. I didn’t use a pattern for the tie, but instead took the Very Hungry Caterpillar fabric I had ordered and cut out the shape I desired. I created two pieces: the top “knot” and the long bottom tie. On the bottom of the loose tie portion, I hemmed the fabric. Then, I pinned the long bottom to the white t-shirt and gave it a quick, one line stitch. After, I pinned the top knot part of the tie to the t-shirt, tucking and folding where needed. My trusty, basic sewing machine took care of the rest as I followed the edges of the material!
The food table was incredibly fun and rather easy to create. It did take some solid pre-planning, however. Jell-O caterpillars were made in mini parfait cups. The faces were created with construction paper and hot glued to straws. I made different signs on my computer using lines right out of the Very Hungry Caterpillar book from the fruit pages. I glued them to bright construction paper for a nice boarder and then fastened them to red plastic knifes. After, I stuck them in the food that was held in Eric Carlisle paper-ware I had ordered. Kerstin built caterpillar skewers out of grapes and I was able to find butterfly shaped crackers for a cheese, meat, and pickle tray. We also served green caterpillar rolls, watermelon, and muffins. We left the book on the table as the “menu” for our guests.
Daddy D gets full credit for the huge caterpillar that hung in our entryway. He used the colored sphere lanterns found in any craft store. After creating the eyes, antennas, and legs for our Very Hungry Caterpillar out of card stalk, he fastened the balls to fishing line and hung them from the ceiling with push tacks. It was adorable and our son loved it!
No party is a party without balloons…especially when you are a toddler and have toddler friends! There were a few items I ordered specially for Baby A’s Very Hungry Caterpillar party. Eric Carlisle balloons were one such item…and they were a hit with N and almost all of the other children!
I had a blast creating the favor table using albums from Baby A’s photo shoots over the past year. We invested in a year long package with BOKA and had pictures taken every three months starting with my maternity photos. I still cherish them and it was fun for guests to flip through and see his transformation from a newborn to a toddler. I also used Eric Carlisle fabric that I had hemmed on this table. For the kiddo favors I found adorable bug nets at our local dollar store. I filled a coordinating bucket with other themed toys including some Very Hungry Caterpillar lacing cards and “wiggly” crazy straws.
Construction paper and rubber cement were my best friends with this quick, easy and cute party decoration. I went ahead and did free-hand leaves and stems using different shades of green and brown construction paper. A hole punch helped the leaves look as if they had been eaten by the Very Hungry Caterpillar himself. These could be scaled down…or up…to make an easy garland or table spread, as well.
This may seem silly, but don’t forget a family photo at your kiddo’s first birthday! I was so busy running around that I almost forgot to enjoy the party and take a quick photo. These are the moments and photos that are irreplaceable, so be sure to take the time for them.
This is another Pinterest idea I took and adapted. Again, rubber cement and construction paper made this cute caterpillar possible. I cut the big circles out of two different sizes of plates that I had traced in different colors. I took the free hand approach with the eyes, nose, antennas, and legs. I printed the letters on color pastel paper from my home printer and cut out the letters before gluing them on. I simply used hidden duct tape to fasten the decoration. It was adorable for pictures and held up nicely.
We decided to offer a “kid’s craft” at the party, as well. We saved and painted toilet paper rolls ahead of time. We cut out the eyes, noses, and heads out of foam that already had a sticky back. We also used black pipe cleaners for the legs and we prepped them ahead of time, as well, by measuring and cutting them. Our craft table was placed outside and was available whenever the kids were ready to build their own caterpillar.
We enjoyed a wonderful day with excellent moments caught on camera. Our friends and family were there to celebrate our precious Baby A and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” was a fun, brightly colored theme. I’ll always remember Baby A’s first birthday and lovingly share these (and 100 other) images with him. I’ve decided that I don’t have to spend the money it will require to “keep up with the Joneses’” in order to show our son how much we love and cherish him. I hope our time, energy, effort and best intentions will always be enough especially with how quickly time flies!