Behold the big kid! Only a year ago he was a blanketed bundle in your arms, and now he’s laughing, sparkling, and ready to plunge right into that slice of cake. There’s much to celebrate, but keeping it simple is key. The following info shows you how, with customized invitations, cupcake topper, and sweet traditions to make the party a success and preserve all those delicious memories.
Ensure your child’s bash is a hit with these simple tips:
Keep It Small
Toddlers can be overwhelmed by a crowd of guests and remember that some parents will likely stay for the duration of the party.
Time It Right
As best as you can, avoid naptime and peak meltdown times, such as late afternoon. A morning gathering often works best at this age, as does a celebration that winds down after a game or two and some cake before little revelers deteriorate.
Set Up a Tot Spot
Ease any transition jitters by creating a space where the arriving guests can play. A floor full of plastic farm animals, a dress-up area, or a large basket of toys can do the trick.
Consider hiring a teenager or two to assist you with the party. They can corral kids into games and activities, pour juice, and help with cleanup when the guests have all gone home.
Count-Me-In Party Invite
Ages: 12 months and up
Give your little kid an oversized number cut from stiff colored paper, and he can tell the whole world how old he’s turning. Then snap a few photos, and you’ve got a peekaboo party invitation that’s graphic, numerical, and easily multiplied. Oh, and did we mention cute?
Begin by drawing and then cutting out a large version of the number your child is turning, or download and print out ready-made 9 1/2-inch numbers.
Now take a few pictures of your child with the number. Have him hold it or tape it to a nearby wall or chair.
Once you’ve got a shot you like, make as many copies as you need plus an extra for a template at a photo or copy shop, or using your color printer. To fit our picture on a standard 4- by 6-inch folded card, we used Microsoft Word to shrink our image to 3 by 5 inches and printed 4 images per page.
Next, make a template for cutting the hole in just the right spot. To do so, glue a photo to the top of a spare card or a piece of scrap paper cut to the same size. Use a craft knife to cut a rectangle around the number. Place this template on your other cards so you know where to cut (open each card first so you don’t slice through the back of the invitation).
Now glue the photos inside each one so the number is clearly visible through the window. Write a message on the front of the card (“Somebody you know is turning”) and the party information on the inside.
Ages: 12 months and up
Nothing says “Hooray!” like a flag, and these mini cupcake toppers offer an unusual twist. Twirl the two-sided keepsake to watch the birthday kid change from little to big right before your eyes.
Select 2 photos that show how your child has grown as a baby and a one-year-old, say, or as a one-year-old and a two-year-old.
Download or scan the images into your computer, then crop each into a square, 1 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches. Add text if you like, such as “one day”/”one year” or “big kid”/”little kid.”
Using thick paper, print as many squares as you’ll have guests. (Alternately, reproduce and crop the photos at a copy shop. It’ll run you about $15 for a dozen sets.)
For each flag, cut out one of each picture and glue them together, sandwiching them around a flat toothpick as you go.
Fun Food: Let Them Eat Cake
Toddlers with cake are like bear cubs with honey. And these ideas make eating it particularly sweet:
Give It Shape
Use a cookie cutter to make favorite shapes such as a heart, star, or animal from slices of pound cake. Insert a candle, and you’re done.
“Do It Myself”
For older toddlers, set out edible decorations (sprinkles, edible glitter, tubes of decorating icing) along with plain frosted cupcakes so they can customize their own.
Mix Up Some Magic
Bake two round layer cakes, one chocolate, one vanilla. Cut each in half, then carefully pile each half on top of its mate. Press the pairs of stacked halves together and frost with one color of frosting, making a little mark where the halves meet. At the party, ask each child if she’d like vanilla or chocolate cake. When she gets the right flavor, it will seem like a magic trick!
Make It Healthy
Those little ones won’t know the difference, so why not make a cake that incorporates vitamin-rich ingredients like bananas, zucchini, or carrots? Even wholesome muffins with frosting get rave reviews from toddlers.
Each of your child’s birthdays is a special occasion. So why not capture the magic of those days with a memento you can present to her when she’s older.
Bottle of Wishes
At the party, ask each guest to write a wish for your child on a scrap of paper. Have them date and sign their wishes, then fold them up and place them in a jar. Add to it every year, and give it to your child when she or he turns 13.
Pictorial Growth Chart
Now’s the time to start a growth chart, but make it extra special by incorporating pictures of your child. To do so, snap her photo on each birthday, then glue it to the chart next to the corresponding mark. Miniature frames are available in the scrapbooking section of many craft stores.
Start a special scrapbook devoted just to your child’s birthdays. Each year, include snapshots from the party, cards, the invitation, and even the list of guests and gifts received.