Your child’s first birthday is worthy of a celebration––for parents and baby alike. Your little one went from a tiny newborn to a curious crawling (or perhaps even walking!) toddler, full of personality. Mom and Dad managed to survive all of those sleepless nights, too. Make your baby’s first birthday party especially memorable by planning a few games and activities that will engage kids and adults alike. Check out these fun first birthday party games as you plan your event.
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#1 Balloon Races
Nothing says “happy birthday” quite like a bunch of colorful balloons scattered around the house. Transform these decorations into a fun and simple party game perfect for your youngest guests. Line up balloons on one end of a room or your backyard. Then, challenge toddlers to crawl or run to find a balloon and then race it back to their parents. Since little ones won’t even know who won or lost, everyone will be happy with a new balloon in hand. Chances are the balloons will provide even more entertainment throughout the party.
#2 Bubble Catcher
There’s nothing toddlers love more than bubbles. If you haven’t yet invested in a bubble machine, consider adding it to your toddler’s birthday wishlist, and break it out for some party fun. Handheld or standalone bubble machines do all the work for Mom and Dad-–no blowing required. Turn the machine on, and watch as hundreds of bubbles shoot out to the delight of your 1-year-old. If you have young guests at the party, encourage them, along with the guest of honor, to chase the bubbles and catch them before they touch the ground. The kids will burn off plenty of energy with this easy-to-execute party game.
#3 Dress Up
By age 1, many toddlers are starting to show interest in pretend play and dress-up games. If you already have a stockpile of dress-up clothes and accessories, pull them out to let your birthday party guests have some dress-up fun. Halloween costumes and accessories like sunglasses, hats, and headbands add some fun to the mix. Once the kids are dressed up, they can parade through the crowd and show off their new looks with their parents cheering them on.
#4 Building Station
When you’re thinking about what games your 1-year-old will love, consider the toys they play with daily. If your little one loves to build with blocks, then incorporate them into the first birthday celebration. Create a building station where your child and their guests can get creative and have fun. Wooden blocks and magnetic blocks give kids plenty of options to build. Throw in some empty boxes, plastic cups and paper towel tubes that allow kids to get creative. Fill an empty table with these items and encourage kids to start building.
#5 Dance Party
Does your child love to move? Then, turn on their favorite tunes and transform their first birthday party into a kid-friendly dance party. If needed, rearrange your furniture to open up plenty of space for a toddler dance floor. Then, design a playlist inspired by your little one’s favorite nursery rhymes. Need some inspiration? Check out this list of Top 100 kids’ songs. To make this extra special, pick up a disco-style dance light that can add some extra festivity to your toddler’s dance party. Just be prepared––your birthday boy or girl may expect Mom and Dad to join in on the fun, too.
#6 Cupcake Making
While a baking birthday party theme might be best reserved for when your child is a bit older, you can still have some faux baking fun at a first birthday party. Whip up a batch of homemade playdough, which is simple to make and can be made in big batches. Then grab some silicone cupcake liners, pipe cleaners, glitter, and sequins. Encourage kids to create playdough cupcakes by filling the silicone liners with their playdough color of choice and decorating it. Add glitter to a salt shaker to minimize the mess. Kids will love showing off their playdough creations, and this activity will require some focus and concentration for little ones who may be a bit overwhelmed at a big celebration.
#7 Group Painting
If you have an outdoor space for the celebration, then plan some messy painting fun that toddlers will love. A roll of butcher paper, a large white canvas, or even a white sheet is all you need to create a birthday masterpiece with little painters. Pick up some washable paint and paint brushes, and let the kids create a colorful work of art. Get creative when choosing painting tools. Fill paint with a bit of water in a spray bottle and let kids spray the canvas. Use old kitchen utensils like a potato masher or spatula, which kids can dip into the paint to create unique designs. Sponges are another easy way for toddlers to paint. Have plenty of baby wipes on hand to clean up after the messy fun.
#8 Treasure Hunt
Let your 1-year-old lead their friends on a hunt to dig for buried treasure. Fill a sandbox or plastic baby pool with play sand––or try making sand dough, which requires just three ingredients. Hide a variety of treasures like faux gold coins, necklaces and rings, and small plastic animals in it. Allow kids to dig for buried treasure one at a time with a small shovel. Make sure you stock the sandbox with plenty of treasures for every guest because chances are the kids are going to want to dig again and again.
#9 Obstacle Course
Create a toddler-friendly obstacle course to keep kids active and engaged during the birthday party. Consider your toddler’s mobility, along with the ages of your guests, when designing the course. Chances are it’s going to have to be pretty simple to accommodate your child who is newly navigating being mobile. But, it can still be fun. Have them crawl or walk around cones or hop across a gymnastics mat. Then, add a favorite riding toy or push toy for them to use. Bouncy balls or a foam balance beam add fun to the obstacle course as well.
#10 Ball Pit Basketball
Create a birthday party ball pit where little ones can play and engage in a little friendly competition. You can purchase inflatable ball pits or fill an inexpensive plastic baby pool with balls to create a spot where newly mobile toddlers can crawl and explore. DIY ball pits are relatively easy to make as well. Put a kid-sized basketball hoop just outside the ball pit so that kids can practice shooting hoops––and maybe score a few baskets, too.
#11 Water Games
If your child has a summer birthday or you live in a year-round warm climate, then water games can deliver plenty of fun for your birthday boy or girl and their guests. Plus, you probably already have enough on hand to throw this together with ease. Set up some water stations where toddlers can safely explore in water. A bin filled with water and a smaller empty bin, when paired with scoops, pitchers and shovels, creates a fun pouring station for youngsters. Turn on the sprinkler and let kids run wild through it. A water table with pool toys floating in it is another fun option when water play is a part of your little one’s special day.
#12 Go Fish
Everyone goes home a winner with a fun Go Fish game that youngsters will enjoy. Decorate a three-sided project board like the ocean, complete with blue paint and fish and other sea life. Place it on the table, and sit behind it while the kids fish. They’ll toss their fishing line over the board, where you can attach a small prize to it. Kids will be delighted by this easy-to-create game.
#13 Sensory Table Play
Create sensory tables or bins that can serve as stations where kids can explore with their hands while getting creative. Fill one with colorful rice, which kids can scoop and pour. Another station filled with soapy water serves as a spot where kids can wash and dry plastic toys or dishes. Add ice cubes to water dyed with food coloring and challenge kids to scoop the cubes before they melt. These sensory activities are perfect for toddlers and will keep them engaged during the birthday party.
An inexpensive bowling set or a DIY version of one can be a fun game that even newly mobile toddlers can do. All you need is a ball and something to knock down––either plastic bowling pins or plastic cups or empty plastic water bottles. Demonstrate how to roll the ball to knock the pins over, and then give each child a turn to do it. Kids will be proud when they hit the pins and watch them tumble.
#15 Relay Races
Toddler relay races might not be the fastest race you’ve ever seen––but there’s no doubt they will be the cutest. Line up the kids in the backyard and get them moving. On “go,” have toddlers run, toddle or crawl to their parents on the other side of the yard. Match up toddlers who have similar mobility––crawlers versus crawlers and walkers versus walkers––to ensure a fair race.
Are you ready to plan an unforgettable first birthday party for your toddler? These creative and engaging games will set the tone for your party and ensure the special birthday boy or girl, along with their guests, have a fun time. If you try one of these party games or have another kid-friendly game you love, please share it in the comments!