Advice from Chicago experts on throwing baby's first birthday party

As your little one approaches his or her first birthday, you've no doubt got celebrating on your mind. Whether you are considering a big over-the-top bash or a small, intimate affair, it's a milestone you'll want to cherish and remember.

Here are some tips and advice from Chicago moms-in-the-know on how to make this milestone memorable.

 
 

Debi Lilly

Chief eventeur at A Perfect Event and mom of two

Perfect 1st birthday gift: We've been doing Oprah Winfrey's gifts for years, and she taught me how to design the ultimate first birthday gift. Her thoughtful gift that I get to help create for every celebrity is a collection of favorite classic children's books, all presented in a big oversize galvanized tub and personalized with the baby's first name. There truly is no better gift than a book.

Food and dessert: A first birthday party is really all about the adults having fun. Setting a fun, interactive tasting bar in advance allows you as the hostess to focus on spending time with your guests and enjoying yourself, instead of being stuck in the kitchen. I love creating a custom, colorful theme, even for the cake, to dress up the party. The cake is the centerpiece and a smaller smash cake for the baby provides for great photos to cherish for years to come. For food, I love everything in miniature, just like the birthday baby!

Theme and venue: Always choose a theme that your child currently loves. Storybooks, characters, sports, travel or hobbies, any of these creates the perfect, personal party theme. For a Cinderella party, we served mini fruit "wands," "princess and the pea" chopped salad, star PB&Js, waffle cones filled with custom sweets and snacks, and princess punch. For a racing party, the kids went wild for mini sliders with racing flags, mini mac and cheese cups, and tiny grilled ham and cheese.

Top tips: Plan a menu with drinks, small savory bites and sweets that all can be premade in advance and set out at room temperature during the party. Make sure to focus on your child at the party.

 
 

Sasha Adler

Design director at Nate Berkus Associates and mom of one with a new baby on the way

Perfect 1st birthday gift: I usually give something that my daughter loved at that age, such as an instrument set that comes in a drum, a set of wooden alphabet blocks or a little tea set for a girl.

Food and dessert: I think a first birthday party is definitely more about the adults, so I try to select a menu that appeals to them with options for the kids. Last year we had Big Star Taco cater our daughter's birthday party and it was a lot of fun. I am a huge Dairy Queen fan, so I also ordered individual cups of soft serve and had a topping bar for everyone to make their own sundae.

Theme and venue: A theme definitely makes it a little easier to hone in on the décor. It could really be anything from something your child loves (a favorite character, book or song) to something less specific, such as a color scheme or concept. We had a Mexican fiesta-themed party for our last birthday party that started off with a handmade invitation to set the tone. I also love to have something for the guests to put on right away to get in the spirit, so I had sombreros and maracas waiting at the front door.

Top tips: Hire or assign a photographer. Your child definitely won't remember their first birthday party, so I think it's important to capture the occasion. Plan the timing of the event around your child's schedule. A well-rested child is key.

 
 

Lindsay Pinchuk

Founder of Bump Club and Beyond and mom of one

Perfect 1st birthday gift: I have a few go-to's depending on the price range, like the Boppin' To the Beatz Headphone Hoodie from Psychobaby ($40), Name Train Letters from Sprout San Francisco ($4.95 per letter), and Land of Nod Beanbag Chair ($99). And I always love something personalized!

Food and dessert: Keep it simple. Most of the babies won't be able to eat the adult food at a first birthday party. Do pizza if it's in the afternoon or bagels or brunch food if it's in the morning. Make sure to have pouches, fruit and other nibbles for the babies. Everyone loves a good birthday cake, so this is where I would spend my budget if I had to make a choice.

Theme and venue: Make it something that you will have fun planning because likely the only memory your little one will have is from the pictures! The first birthday party is unique in that it is a party for the parents, too. I am a big proponent for making it something everyone will enjoy. I love the upstairs at two of my favorite pizzerias, Roots Pizza and Pizzeria Serio. They have TVs, great food, drinks and a great open space.

Top tips: Don't break the bank. You can have a nice party and have fun with your friends without getting caught up in the moment. It's easy to feel pressure, but don't! Just remember that all of your friends with kids are just going to be excited to celebrate with you and have a fun way to spend their time between naps.

 
 

Melissa McGurren

Radio personality on WTMX's "Eric & Kathy" and mom of one

Perfect 1st birthday gift: Babies turning 1 are still trying to understand how a lot of toys work, so keep it simple. Toys to help practice their motor skills are great and balls are always a big hit, especially if they've started walking.

Food and dessert: A candle on the cake was an important part for me. I loved having the pictures for my son Porter to look at when he gets older.

Theme and venue: If you want a theme, then I say go for it, but don't feel pressure. If you're tight on money, keeping it small and at home is your best bet. If you want to splurge a bit for the special day, there are lots of indoor play places, like Kid City in West Town, where you can rent space for a couple of hours. This allows you to invite more people and not let your house become trashed.

Top tips: Don't forget to enjoy the moment and the very special day. Invite the people who are important to you, but especially important to the birthday boy or girl. Having your loved ones there to share in the special day with lots of pictures will give great memories for your little one.

 
 

12 organic baby items worth splurging on

Between the crib, the toys, the clothing and the diapers, it's easy to spend thousands of dollars preparing for your little bundle's arrival. And when that bundle arrives?

You'll need more diapers, more clothing, food, sunscreen, shampoo. The list can go on for pages.

Unless you won that mega-million lottery, you may find it difficult to afford the organic mattress, the organic clothing, the chemical-free lotions and shampoos and the chemical-free furniture.

And just like the dirty dozen for fruits and veggies, we decided that there should be a dirty dozen for baby products. These are the items that pediatricians and other experts suggest you splurge on if you can. The stuff not on this list? Not so bad for your baby.

 
 
 







 
 
 
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