April Masini is author of the critically acclaimed advice column AskApril, as well as the best-selling author of four books. April took the time to offer our readers some great advice on baby birthday parties.
How many guests should a one to three year old baby have for his or her party?
My rule of thumb is one friend for each year the baby is. For example, if your baby is one year old, allow one friend. If the baby is two years old, two friends, etc.
This rule keeps the focus on the baby and the celebration instead of on any competition or pressure parents feel to keep up with the Jones' when it comes to party throwing, and throwing parties that are so extravagant, they become about the party and not about the baby and his or her birthday.
How long should the party last?
One to two hours.
Parents should NOT be afraid to put an ending time on their invitations. There is nothing rude about inviting people from, say, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., for cake and celebration, In fact, putting an end time really helps everyone understand the parameters and the tone of the party.
When people say come at 2 p.m. and there's no end time, it really invites miscommunication and scheduling problems. Clarity is very important in all relationships.
What time of day should the party be held?
Make the party work for the baby and the parents. If the baby is notoriously cranky in the morning, don't host a morning party. If the parents are notoriously cranky at 5 p.m., don't host a supper party!
Make the time work for mom, dad and baby -- or, if the party is just mom and baby and other moms and babies, then make sure it works for them.
The time is less important than the ease with which the time slot works for the hosting family.
What are some party theme ideas for this age?
How about no theme? People get too involved in the party and forget the traditional values and reasons for the party. A birthday party for a one to three year old is about celebrating this special time in the baby's life. There will be plenty of time when your child is appropriately more involved in the party planning, and will want a theme. This is an organic way to invoke a theme for the party because your child, whose birthday the party is celebrating, will help plan the party.
For now, keep it simple, and make the focus be about the candles on the cake and the love that the family and friends have for the baby and the baby's family at this time.
What kinds of foods should be served for a baby's birthday party?
Again, keep it simple. Cake and ice cream are traditional, but there's a lactose intolerant crowd who has invoked Tofutti Cuties and other soy based dairy alternatives. Some modern moms don't allow their kids to have sugar at all. So incorporate your family's' traditions and your own new spin on the party food.
Some ideas are:
- Plenty of drinks for parents -- especially nursing parents. Water is great. Sodas are great. Juice is great. Hot drinks around babies and toddlers can be safety hazards, so veer away from anything hot. It is fine to serve wine and beer to adults at the party -- and champagne to celebrate is fine, too. Juice boxes and little water bottles for kids work fine, too.
- Cake-Cake is a great idea and a tradition. Cupcakes are in vogue now, so consider them. A homemade cake or a store bought cake are equally fine.
- Non-sugar foods-Non-sugar food is always a great idea to balance the cake and soda or juice, but keep it simple. For the kids with teeth, pizza, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grilled cheese, hot dogs, plain pasta and other such foods work just fine. Cut them into small toddler hand-sized pieces.
Veggies, chips and fruit are always good, but stay away from anything that kids can choke on like fruit with seeds, pits, or small fruits like grapes that little kids do choke on.
What are some good gift suggestions for a one to three year old?
- Keep it small. A one year old is not going to appreciate toys or clothes, so give a gift that will make the parents' lives easier -- a savings bond, clothing or a car seat or umbrella stroller or something more extravagant.
- A two year old will appreciate something that is just for them. Puzzles, books, music, stuffed animals, clothing -- keep it all about the child for this year.
- Three is not much different from two -- make the gift all about the child, not the parent.
What precautions should be taken before, during, and after the party?
- Dogs and pools should be secured.
- Lock up all poisonous and electric items that can be harmful to kids.
- Keep small things that kids can choke on out of sight.
- Remove anything that will break or that is valuable.
- If your house is all white, don't serve grape juice and red wine and marinara sauce -- unless you're married to a dry cleaner.
What other advice or information would you like to share with our readers?
Be fair to both sides of the family -- if you invite one grandparent, invite the grandparent from the other side, too. Keep the theme good will, in the best interest of the child, and this is one of many birthday parties to come. Keep it simple and DON'T forget to take photographs. You WILL regret not taking shots of the event if you don't do it. And if you don't have a camera, ask a family member or friend to take lots of photos for you as their gift.