This was a special one. She’s our third and probably last baby. I remember when we found out her due date – which was the same month as my other daughter – one of my first thoughts (embarrassingly) was how daunting it would be to have to plan two birthday parties in the same month. Yet when the time came, it wasn’t daunting at all. It came easily, for the planning process and making it special for her was just was a natural expression of my heart!
While every birthday is special, the 1st is unique in that it is a marker of such a meaningful milestone in our lives. It is the first full cycle around the sun, the first full course through all the seasons, the first full year of getting to know our baby; the only year she is a baby. We get to pause in gratitude for the immense joy she has added to our family and celebrate this little person that we’ve gotten to know – who she is and who she’s becoming.
With each of my kids, I wanted their 1st birthday party to reflect an element of who they were. For my son, it was his big personality and his love for music. For my other daughter, it was the light she brought and how she reflected the sunshine. For this precious one, I wanted to reflect her sincerity, her sweetness, and for lack of a better word, her cuteness.
While she was still in utero, the kids had begun calling her “Jellybean”. The name stuck, and we expanded on it as we got to know her. Her sweet nature lent itself to many nicknames along the way, including “Pumpkin,” “Little Strawberry”, “Baby Bear,” “Josiebear,” and more. As I thought about how to bring this to life, the concept of a dessert bar that reflected her sweetness as well as her many names came about. And since one of her primary nicknames was “Josiebear” due to her cute, round, pudgy self, I decided to wrap the whole theme around teddy bears.
I started by browsing some inspiration online from all the usual sources. However, teddy bears wasn’t as common of a theme relative to the more widely used “woodland” theme for bears. When teddy bears were used, it was typically for little boys. I decided to make the color scheme tie to her nursery colors, which was a mint sage and dusty blush, while weaving in some colors to tie to the concept of bears.
Images from some of her custom nursery decor, which include sage, blush, and gold
One thing I also like to do sometimes is repurpose some party decorations as actual decor pieces for my kid’s room or for the house, so keeping it consistent with her nursery colors makes that seamless.
To keep with the general feel of the more natural muted green tones, I wanted the decor to feel feminine, a bit organic and natural, and also tie to the teddy bear theme. I landed on a mix of incorporating the cuteness and fun with an elegant feel.
As I mentioned, a key element of the party would be the dessert bar inspired by all of her nicknames. This was a fun challenge, as there were so many discrete nicknames to bring together and somehow still tie in with the overall theme. Here is how it turned out!
For the food area, this was harder to keep themed as I wanted to make sure folks were fed. The only little touch I made here was to incorporate a couple of items that felt woodland “camp” related – namely a teddy bear trail mix as well as hot dogs on a stick (which were really just corn dogs).
All of this set the scene for the party, so next was ensuring there was a flow to the party that would keep our guests (especially the kids) engaged. Since our baby is a lot younger than our other kids, one interesting challenge was that we had quite the range of ages in attendance, with some kids as young as 18-24 months all the way up to kids who were 12 years old.
I started off with a craft that I hoped kids of all ages could enjoy. I set up a painting project where the kids could paint a wood round. They could paint their own design, use stencils, or they could use paint markers. It turned out that guests of all ages really did enjoy this, as we even had some adults join in!
Once the kids got settled in, I had an entertainer arrive. It was not easy to find someone who could tie to a teddy bear theme. The closest I got was this Safari Ranger that I told the kids was a “park ranger.” I had her engage the kids with some fun magic tricks before she sat them down to read a book. I selected a heartfelt story about a boy who shares the love of his bear called The Teddy Bear. She then transitioned to making balloon bears and bunnies for the kids (although in most cases, it ended up being swords).
Finally it was time for the birthday song and cake! We gathered the kids around the kids table to sing for our guest of honor. I had purchased this adorable little hat from Etsy to go with her theme.
Lastly, as a token to take home, I put together these themed goody bags which contained a teddy bear keychain, a honey bear jar of gummy bears, these organic bear fruit snacks, and some teddy bear vinyl stickers.
So there you have it! We pulled together our last first birthday party for our sweet precious baby bear. It truly was such a sweet day. Many people may never understand, but for me, these moments that commemorate, celebrate, and seal such seasons of significance create such beautiful memories for our family that will last us a lifetime – and in turn, are so worth it.