What Time is Best for a 1st Birthday Party? A Planning Guide

what time is best for 1st birthday party

Your little bundle of joy is about to hit a major milestone—the big O-N-E!  As you’re juggling sippy cups and considering cake options (smash cake, anyone?), there’s one big question dancing in your mind: “When is the best time of day to throw first birthday parties?”

You know your little one’s schedule better than anyone—the naps, the happy hours (not the kind with half-priced appetizers, unfortunately), and those occasional cranky moments. So, let’s dive into the party planning pool together and find that sweet spot that’ll have your baby smiling, your family members and close friends delighted, and your heart just bursting with pride.

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Now, when you’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on those party details, keep in mind that your guests will appreciate a heads-up on timing. Your baby’s first birthday party doesn’t need to be an all-day affair. It’s a good idea to plan a two-hour window that gives everyone ample time to enjoy the celebration without overtiring the guest of honor. A mid-morning start around 10 a.m. or a late afternoon kickoff at around 4 p.m. is both safe bets – just enough time for games, cake, and plenty of adorable photos.

But don’t stress the clock too much. The most important thing is that you and your little one have a blast celebrating this huge milestone. After all, they won’t turn one every day! So whether you opt for a cozy morning gathering or a lively afternoon soiree, your bub’s first birthday party is sure to be a heartwarming affair filled with love, laughter, and a whole heap of cherished memories.

Setting the Date and Time

When planning your little one’s first birthday bash, choosing the right date and good time is crucial! It’s all about nailing that sweet spot when your baby is at their happiest, and your guests can join the celebration without a hitch.

Understanding Baby’s Schedule

First up, let’s talk about your baby’s routine. Nap times are sacred! You’ll want to schedule the party when you know your baby will be wide-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Ideal Party Time:

  • Mid-Morning: After the 1st nap (if your baby wakes up happy and energized).
  • Late-Afternoon: Post-lunch, pre-nap (avoiding the midday slump). Can also be a good time to accommodate older children who do not nap and may attend school. 

Remember, a well-rested baby equals a happy party star! Parents of other young guests will also appreciate planning the party with nap times in mind. 

Accommodating Guests

Now, think about your guests. You’ve got adults, parents, and possibly older kids to consider as well.

  • Weekends are usually a safe bet, as most people have more flexible schedules.
  • Time Frame: A 2 to 3-hour window is enough to celebrate without overtiring the little ones.
Guest TypePreferred Timing
AdultsLate morning or mid-afternoon
ParentsAround their kids’ nap schedule
Older KidsAvoid early mornings

Keeping everyone’s schedule in mind for the big day makes for a full, happy house!

Other Things to Consider

Sometimes it’s the little details that make a big difference. Here are a couple more things to keep in mind:

  • Venue: If you’re not partying at home, book your venue well in advance.
  • Weather: For outdoor events, check the forecast. A sunny afternoon is fabulous, but have a backup plan just in case before you send out those 1st birthday party invitations.

Planning around these factors ensures a smooth and joyous celebration for your munchkin’s milestone. 

What is the Best Time?

Throwing the perfect 1st birthday party for your little one is all about timing. You’ll want to consider when your munchkin is at their happiest and how the time fits with nap schedules to craft a memorable bash.



  • Your baby is likely to be in high spirits, having just woken up from a good night’s sleep.
  • Guests may find it easier to pop by, especially if they have plans later in the day.


  • Time may clash with morning naps which can lead to a less-than-cheery birthday baby.
  • Lunchtime preparation can be a rush if the party extends beyond a couple of hours.

Mid-morning is a parent’s ally, falling neatly between wake-up routines and the much-needed afternoon nap. It’s a time when everyone, from toddlers to grandparents, can rally without the day’s wear and tear setting in. Plus, you’ve got the advantage of serving up a simple, crowd-pleasing spread. A selection of brunch-style bites can be both adorable and adult-friendly without the need to plan an elaborate meal.

By wrapping up the festivities before naptime, you’re not just the hero of the day, you’re the guardian of the peace, ensuring that those little party animals (and their parents) can stick to the sacred nap routine without a hitch.

Late Afternoon


  • It’s post-nap, so you’re betting on a recharged and chirpy birthday kiddo.
  • It gives you ample time to prep, meaning less morning hustle and more glitter and cake!


  • Evening routines could be disrupted, possibly leading to an overtired baby.
  • Guests might have to leave early if they have young children or early nights themselves.

There’s something about that 4 PM slot that just might be the secret ingredient for a fabulous first birthday party. By late afternoon, you’ve navigated past the treacherous terrain of morning routines and midday meltdowns. Your little star has likely had their nap and is now recharged, ready to be the charming center of attention. And let’s not forget about the other tiny guests who, post-nap, are also more likely to be in a sociable mood rather than on the brink of a sleep-deprived protest.

For the adults, 4 PM is a sweet spot that doesn’t hijack their entire day. They can run their errands, attend their soccer matches, or simply enjoy a lazy morning before they transition into party mode. It’s a considerate nod to their weekend time that says, “Hey, I value your Saturday, too!”

The late afternoon light is perfect for those candid, cake-smashing photos that you’ll treasure forever. Plus, the temperature is starting to cool down, making it ideal for any outdoor activities or a comfortable indoor setting.

Snack-wise, you’re in the delightful territory of pre-dinner appetizers. A spread of light snacks and finger foods can keep things simple and satisfying without spoiling dinner plans. It’s the perfect time to serve a mix of savory and sweet treats that’ll tide everyone over until their next meal. You can serve birthday cake in slightly smaller pieces. 

And as the sun begins to dip, you’ll be sending your guests off into the evening with a heart full of memories and a goody bag in hand, just in time for their dinner and a well-timed bedtime routine.

Choosing Party Menu Based on Start Time

When you’re planning your little one’s first birthday bash, the time of day you start your party can really influence your menu options. You want your guests, both big and small, to enjoy the treats, so let’s get into some yummy ideas tailored to your party’s kickoff hour!

Finger Foods and Snacks for All Ages

Starting at any time of day, finger foods and snacks are essential for keeping things mess-free and satisfying hunger pangs for all your guests. Here’s a quick nibble list for you:

  • Fruit Salad & Berries: Fresh, bite-sized, and perfect for little fingers. Mix up some watermelon cubes, strawberries, and blueberries for a colorful display.
  • Veggie Tray & Dip: Carrot sticks, cucumber, and little cherry tomatoes paired with a kiddo-friendly dressing.
  • Cheese and Crackers: Cubes or slices of mild cheese alongside crackers provide an easy snack for any time of day. Animal crackers are also a fun option!
  • Mini Sandwiches: Think small – cucumber, cream cheese, or turkey on whole grain bread, trimmed to tiny squares or fun shapes.

Special Treats for the Birthday Baby

The birthday child deserves some special treats that are just for them, especially when it’s time to celebrate with a sweet little smash!

  • Smash Cake: It’s the classic choice—a small cake just for baby to squish, smash, and, if you’re lucky, take a few bites of!
  • Cupcakes: Easier to serve and just as fun, cupcakes can be decorated to match the party theme.
  • Cookies: Soft-baked and in playful shapes, these can match the bigger desserts or even serve as adorable party favors.
  • Doughnuts: A tower of doughnuts with pastel icing and sprinkles can be a whimsical alternative to a traditional cake. Plus, they’re just right for tiny hands.

Remember to include options like yogurt or cooled steamed carrots for the youngest attendees. These are simple yet nutritious additions that cater to babies navigating new tastes and textures. And there you go, you’re all set to create a menu that’s just as festive as your little one’s first milestone!

First Birthday Party Schedule of Events

When you’re planning your little one’s first birthday bash, timing is everything! You’ll want to work around nap times to keep the birthday star happy. Here’s a suggested schedule that’s been a hit for tons of tots!

10:00 AMGuest Arrival
Kick things off mid-morning. It’s after breakfast, which means your tiny guests won’t be too hungry or too sleepy.

10:30 AMPlaytime! 

Get the kiddos giggling with some simple age-appropriate games or a play mat filled with toys.

11:15 AMSnack Time 

Serve up some light snacks. Think finger foods and tiny treats that are easy for little hands to handle.

11:45 AMHappy Birthday Song and Cake

It’s the moment everyone’s waiting for – cake time! Sing a hearty “Happy Birthday,” and let your kiddo make a wish (with a little help from you, of course)!

12:15 PMOpen Presents Your little one might need assistance, but this is a sweet moment for guests to see their gifts being enjoyed.

12:45 PMWind-Down with a Story

 As the party comes to a close, settle down the excitement with a beloved storybook.

1:00 PMGoodbye Hugs

Time to say goodbye! Hand out party favors as your guests leave with smiles.

This loose schedule gives you and your guests plenty of time to mingle, take photos, and enjoy the party. Remember, the day is about celebrating your little one’s first year, so keep it light, keep it fun, and follow your baby’s lead! If you’ve hired a professional photographer, be sure to give them a copy of this list for baby’s special day. 

Other Party Planning Considerations

When planning your munchkin’s first birthday bash, remember to weave in a personal touch with your chosen location and theme and keep the little guests engaged with delightful activities and entertainment.

Location and Theme

The place you pick sets the stage for the day, so choose somewhere safe and comfortable that matches your chosen theme

Choosing the perfect venue for your little one’s first birthday can be as exciting as it is daunting. You want a place that’s not only fun and engaging but also safe and suitable for a range of ages. Here are some popular first birthday party locations that might just make your decision a piece of cake:

  1. Your Home or Backyard: Comfortable and convenient, your own home or backyard provides a familiar environment for your baby and is the easiest to childproof. It also gives you full control over the party’s setup, decorations, and duration.
  2. Local Park: A local park offers plenty of space for kids to run around and play. Many parks have pavilions or picnic areas you can reserve, often complete with tables and grills. Just remember to have a backup plan in case of bad weather. Parks are an excellent option for a larger group. 
  3. Community Center: Many community centers have rooms available for rent that are perfect for parties. They’re often equipped with kitchen facilities and plenty of space for kids to play.
  4. Children’s Museum: A children’s museum is an educational and interactive option for a first birthday party. These venues often offer private party rooms and packages that include access to the museum’s exhibits.
  5. Indoor Play Center: Indoor play centers with a soft play area or inflatable bounce houses are ideal for little ones to explore safely. They’re especially great for keeping young guests entertained and active.
  6. Petting Zoo or Farm: If your baby loves animals, a petting zoo or local farm can be a fantastic party venue. Kids can interact with animals and learn about farm life, making for a unique and memorable experience.
  7. Family-Friendly Restaurant: Some family-friendly restaurants offer party rooms and packages that include food, drinks, and sometimes entertainment. This option can be a stress-free choice since the restaurant takes care of most of the logistics.
  8. Aquarium: Celebrate your baby’s big day under the sea! An aquarium provides a visually stimulating backdrop and offers educational entertainment for guests of all ages.
  9. Botanical Garden: A botanical garden is a beautiful, serene setting for a party. The lush surroundings make for great photos, and open spaces are perfect for setting up tables and games.
  10. Art Studio: For a creative twist, consider an art studio that offers classes for young children. Some studios provide space for parties and guide kids in making their own artwork.

Remember, the best location for your baby’s first birthday will depend on factors like the number of guests, time of year, your budget, and your child’s temperament. No matter where you choose to celebrate, the key is to create a warm and inviting atmosphere that makes the day special and enjoyable for all.

Popular 1st Birthday Party Themes include:

  • Unicorns: Transform your space with pastel balloons and glittering unicorn decorations.
  • Safari Adventure: Use animal prints, plush safari animals, and a touch of greenery for a wild vibe.
  • Princess or Superheroes: Deck out an area with capes and crowns for little guests to feel royally super!

We have more unique first birthday party ideas here. 

Activities and Entertainment

Keep the kiddos giggling with simple, age-appropriate fun. Consider these ideas:

  • Bubble Station: Because who doesn’t love bubbles?
  • Music and Movement: A little sing-along or dance-off, maybe with an elephant or dinosaur twist, could be a big hit.
  • Truck or Mermaid Play Zone: A corner with themed toys can keep tiny hands busy.
  • Water Table: Perfect for keeping the little kids cool in the summertime. 

Remember, you want everyone to have a blast without the frills and fuss. Keep it light, keep it joyous, and create a celebration that’s perfect for your little one’s first-ever trip around the sun!