Planning Bitsy’s first birthday was exciting and enjoyable. Selecting a theme is the best place to start, and so fun for me because I love themed events! Once I selected the theme I came up with so many ideas, some from others and some of my own. One of the hardest parts of planning, especially for me, is narrowing down big visions and choosing which ideas to leave out to make room for what will work best. Here’s what worked for us:
As I started thinking about Bitsy’s then-approaching first birthday party a couple months before the date, I considered a couple other themes, like Alice in Wonderland (“One”derland) and some cute trendy ones like unicorns and flamingos. Once I thought of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, my mind was made up! I knew it would be the perfect theme for Bitsy. I stream for her on Netflix The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories, a half-hour program from 1993 featuring animated versions of classic Eric Carle books. She really focuses and interacts with it. The music and animation are beautiful. It’s calm, quiet, and soothing, unlike a lot of new cartoons. While we don’t want to encourage too much screen time for babies and toddlers, this is a short and educational program I highly recommend and my own little one really loves. If you don’t have Netflix, the dvd is available at Amazon. I read to her every day, and Eric Carle’s books are some of our favorites. We have the board book editions of several of them, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Since so many kids enjoy this story (read about its popularity and a delightful interview with the author here), Bitsy’s guests could all appreciate the theme. I think it fits so well with a first birthday, too, because it celebrates someone very small growing up.
One of the most fun things about this theme is the food. The menu creates itself! Party guests eat the foods the eponymous caterpillar eats. Label the foods with the lines from the story, and guests essentially read the story as they help their plates. Of course, the caterpillar eats lots of foods, many of them sweets. You have to make decisions about how to serve the foods from the book without serving way too much and having more sweet than sustenance. The party started at 10 am, so heavy hors d’oeuvres were appropriate (and so were the super-popular mimosas for the adults!). I had deviled eggs plated on Romaine lettuce to represent the little egg on a leaf at the beginning of the story. For cherry pie, I made a no-bake cherry cheese cake and cut it into petits fours. Instead of full slices of chocolate cake, I served mini-brownies. You could also make the birthday cake chocolate or change the language on the label to “one slice of birthday cake” instead of chocolate cake. Even though I love baking from scratch, I used boxed mixes and packaged snacks in this instance to free up my time for decorating and setting up party activities. The slices of Swiss cheese and salami were plated together with butterfly-shaped crackers. The best thing about this menu is it includes a lot of fruit!
So, I love baking cakes and don’t mind trying out elaborate recipes, but I don’t have the skills or tools for the kind of cake decorating I wanted. There are some really cute, easy-to-execute ideas for this theme which I considered and may work well for you. For instance, a caterpillar can be made from the smash cake and cupcakes, with the smash cake as the caterpillar’s head in red icing and green cupcakes for the guests make up the caterpillar’s body. Some great examples can be found here.
I allowed myself to splurge a little on the cake after browsing some of the beautiful creations made on the theme. I chose the same local bakery that made my delicious wedding cake. You only have your first birthday once and–I’m not ashamed to say–I teared up a little bit at first sight of this beautiful cake when I picked it up from the bakery. I saved in other areas of the party and don’t regret this splurge at all.
One mistake I made: turning on the light above the dessert table too soon, which caused the caterpillar’s head and one of the sun rays to wilt a little bit, as you can see in the picture. But, hey, the cake was still beautiful and Bitsy had a great time digging into her smash cake.
Smash cakes are a pretty new tradition, which you may not feel the need to include in your baby’s first birthday party. I’m glad I had one for Bitsy, though. Bitsy enjoyed digging into her cake, it provided a few minutes of entertainment for the guests, and made a great video to share with family who couldn’t attend the party. Bitsy’s approach to her smash cake was a little confused and hesitant at first, but she finally leaned in and took a bite. She bit straight off the cake a few times before getting her spoon and hands in there. It was so cute and made such a happy memory!
This post contains a few links to items I used and/or recommend from Amazon. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. In the next post, I’ll talk a little about decorations and wrap up the topic of the first birthday party.