1st Birthday Party Activity Ideas

Sat, 10/13/2012 - 12:20pm -- Jessica Baudin-...

1st Birthdays are a huge milestone for birthday child and parents like! I often (half) joke with my clients that the 1st Birthday party is really a chance for parents to say "Hooray! We survived!". Whether you are planning a small gathering or a large fiesta for your extended circle of friends and family here are some fun activity ideas that can be enjoyed by guests of all ages!

Baby Safe Finger Painting (recipe via Tinkerlab

Finger painting is a wonderfully fun sensory activity perfect for children between the ages of 6 months- 6 years! However, until around age 3 children are exploring their world through all their senses, including their mouths so it is important to present them with materials that are safe if ingested. To make your own baby safe finger paints you will need:

  • Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Food coloring
  • Small mixing bowls
  • Paint brushes
  • Tea spoons for mixing
  • Card stock or other heavy paper for painting on
  • A plastic table cloth or tarp as a painting station

Mix a few tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk with a few drops of food coloring until you achieve your desired colors. Paints can be applied to paper with fingers. For older children or children who do not enjoy the sticky feeling of the paint you can provide paintbrushes.

I usually set up a painting station on the floor by taping down a plastic tablecloth from the dollar store. A floor space allows babies under the age of 1 to work side by side with older children without th worry of high chairs or booster seats.

A nice feature of finger paints made with sweetened condensed milk when they dry the finish is very glossy and shinny. You will want to do this activity early in the party as depending how epically your little artists apply their paint it can take some time to dry. 

Personalize it! Have a theme? Pre cut out paper into shapes that match your party theme. You can also print out a frame template (like the one found here) and type in each child's name on the bottom. Voila! A perfect piece for each child to take home!

Does the idea of sticky paint and babies in your house make you a bit twitchy? Mess free finger painting may be a better match for you! Remember stress and birthday parties don't mix well. 

Sensory Bags and Bottles

Little ones love to explore through touching, squishing, shaking and rolling! Sensory bags and bottles again will appeal to a wide variety of ages from babies through early elementary. 

Sensory bags are made by mixing hair gel and visually appealing trinkets (avoid anything with pointy or sharp sides) in heavy-duty ziplock bags. I also recommend reinforcing the sides with duct tape. You can find my tutorial on how to create your own here. 

Even babies under a year old enjoy discovering items by poking and pushing them around the bags. Again no need for tables and high chairs, this activity is great for tummy time!

Older children in attendance? They can get in on the sensory fun as well! Make your sensory bags an I Spy game by creating picture cards of all the items found in the bag. Provide the older children with a bingo dabber to mark off when they find an object. Once they have found all the objects they can claim a small prize. 

Personalize it! Look for trinkets that match the theme of your party to place in the bags. Color coordinate! Add a few drops of food coloring to clean hair gel in your ziplock bag prior to adding the trinkets and squish the gel around to mix in the food coloring. Start with only a few drops of food coloring to ensure your hair gel remains translucent.  

Sensory bottles provide another fun version of this activity using either liquids or rice. Here are a few blogs with tutorials:

The Honorable Mention Preschool Blog

Metamora Community Preschool Blog

Tunnel and Pillow Fun!

One year olds are explorers who enjoy climbing over, under and through their world! Set up your own baby-tot friendly obstacle course using tunnels (often available for sale at large toy stores in the spring/summer months) and oversized pillows. Pillows can be stacked in different formations or heights providing instant variations and soft landings for little ones still mastering body awareness. 

Don't have a tunnel? Visit your local recycling depot and pick up a few large cardboard boxes opening the tops and bottoms and securing them from end to end. Dress them up a bit by wrapping them in gift-wrap. Cut windows throughout so parents and little ones can play peek-a-boo and to avoid separation anxiety. 

Ball Pit Play

A popular feature at many children's play centers is the ball pit. Young children love the sensation of swimming through, handling, throwing, and rolling the balls, as well as covering/uncovering their bodies. At home ball pits are available for sale at many large children's toy stores, however, you can easily make one yourself for a fraction of the price.

At the end of summer purchase a small inflatable pool on sale for between $2-$10. Also purchase a large bag of ball per pool. These range in price from about $25-$35 (watch for sales). Inflate your pool and add the balls. Voila! Instant ball pit that can also be repurposed as a wadding pool in the summer months!

Can't find balls? Cut up pool noodles into small pieces and throw these in your pool! Again look for pool noodles on sale at the end of summer clearance sales. I bought a bunch a few years ago for $0.05 each! 

Super Bubbles are the BEST!

Children of all ages LOVE bubbles! For younger children they support vision development, hand eye coordination, and motivation to move! I love super bubbles (high glycerin bubble solution) because the bubbles float for a very long time (until a little one pops them). Adding glycerin strengthens the bubbles so they don't evaporate (aka pop) as quickly. Click here to learn how to make your own super bubbles. 

Bubbles are one of the MOST popular activities in our IntellidanceTM Babies and Tykes programs!

Parachute Play

The bright colors, the movement, the feeling of the breeze from the waves, parachutes provide a sensory paradise for little ones. Depending on the size of your party you can order a small or large parachute. Turn on some music, get the adults moving the parachute and watch the little ones squeal with delight!

Under the parachute:

Over the parachute:

  • Makes waves while little ones crawl all over parachute (we recommend crawling as the parachute can be slippery for little ones still working on balance).
  • Blow bubbles on top of parachute.
  • With little ones sitting in the center, slowly walk parachute in a circle like a merry-go-round.
  • Put small foam balls on the parachute and make waves. Watch the balls pop around the parachute like popcorn.


Dance Party!

From the very young to the very old, everyone loves a dance party! Turn on some kid friendly, adult approved tunes with a good beat (we recommend the Putumayo Playground CDs) and get your groove on!

Take your dance party to the next level with:

  • Lights: Rent a disco ball or jellydome light from a local AV company. This can cost as little as $10/day!
  • Glow sticks: Lower the lights and watch you little ones enjoy moving their glowing sticks to the beat (adult supervision recommended, do not leave children under the age of 3 with glow sticks unsupervised).
  • Shakers: Small baby safe shakers (like our IntelliShakersTM) allow even the littlest dancer to play along to the beat. They also make a wonderful parting gift for your guests!
  • Scarves: Children love to swish and wiggle their scarves as they dance and move.

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