Fun + Memorable Birthday Traditions to Start at 1

It’s almost here – your baby’s first birthday – and If you’re wanting to commemorate this year and all the many more to come but aren’t quite sure how to start the perfect birthday tradition, I’m happy to share with you all the best birthday traditions to start at 1.

Of course the standard birthday traditions like cake and candles, games and presents come to mind, but if you want something a little more special and out of the ordinary, this list is for you.

There are so many adorable and heart-warming ideas or ways to capture the memories of each passing year and celebrate that special day – choose your favorites!


Why You Should Start a Fun Birthday Tradition at One

Your baby’s first birthday is a special milestone.

It’s a time to celebrate everything that your little one has accomplished in their first year of life.

The first year is usually a bit of a blur of sleepless nights full of sweet gurgles, messy memories, and countless firsts. It deserves to be remembered and celebrated in lots of special ways.

But 1st birthday traditions and celebrations don’t have to be huge or expensive to be super meaningful. A small gathering of family members and a small birthday cake with some special decorations will brighten any one-year-olds day.

But what’s great about the first birthday is that it’s also a time that you can start creating new traditions that you and your family will enjoy and look forward to for years to come. There’s no better time to start special birthday traditions than on the very first birthday!

There are so many fun big and small traditions that you can choose from to make a memorable part of your family’s life year after year.

Fun Birthday Tradition Ideas to Start at Baby’s First Birthday

Here are some of the best fun birthday traditions to start when your child turns one.

From birthday breakfasts to favorite song playlists, these ideas are sure to make your little one’s first birthday extra special. So pick one (or two, or three of these great ideas!) and get started celebrating today.

Make a Smash Cake

birthday traditions to start at 1 - smash cake

This isn’t going to be a birthday tradition that you repeat each year – those are my favorite and we discuss those ideas below!

A cake smash is one of those “love it” or “hate it” birthday tradition ideas – but it’s actually a very popular one.

Set up a special station and let your baby get messy!

Making a second cake especially for the birthday child to play with and make a huge mess can be a great way to let your little one enjoy their birthday celebrations.

Not many kids turning 1 are too keen on using a fork and spoon yet so allowing them to smash into a cake freely can help them to enjoy it and fully immerse themselves in the wonderfully messy sensory experience even more than eating a piece of cake the traditional way.

Most people use the 1-year-old cake-smashing tradition as a photo op. Set up a special backdrop, birthday banner, or balloon arch etc. and document the whole messy thing! You can do it at the child’s first birthday party or even just in a private photo session event for mom and dad.

If cake smashing totally gives you anxiety about the inevitable mess don’t worry! There are lots of other great birthday traditions to start at 1 on this list, and the rest of these can be repeated every year – you and your kiddo will start to look forward to these special birthday traditions!

Special Birthday Breakfast

birthday traditions to start at 1 - special birthday breakfast

Making your child the same special birthday breakfast every year is another excellent birthday tradition you can start this year.

Even if you switch up what you are serving at the special breakfast as the years go by as your child’s tastes change, this is still a really great tradition idea that you can carry through the years.

Here’s some ideas for special birthday breakfasts (don’t worry about the sugar load, this is once per year LOL):

  • pancakes in the shape of your child’s age or initials
  • fresh cinnamon rolls with a birthday candle on top
  • waffles with a scoop of ice cream
  • fairy bread
  • Pop Tarts with “Happy Birthday” written on them in icing

You can make their birthday breakfast tradition even more special by having a “birthday plate” that you bring out every year just for that special meal to serve it on.

They Pick the Dinner

Nothing makes the birthday kid feel more important and more grown up than letting them pick what’s for dinner for the whole family.

Let your little one pick out the birthday meal for their special occasion every year – WHATEVER THEY WANT.

This might leave you with some funny dinners when they are younger while their favorite foods are goldfish and cheese, but it’s a really big deal for older kids. When your child is still super young just make sure their pick is still a big part of the meal.

Decorate Their Bedroom Door

Decorating your child’s bedroom door while they sleep is an easy way to brighten their day almost immediately on their birthday morning. It can be a really fun birthday tradition to start at 1 and carry on through the years.

  • You can wrap the entire door in wrapping paper and tie it up with a giant bow.
  • You can cover it in drawings and special memories from the past year.
  • You can twist and tape steamers back and forth across the door.
  • You can cover the whole door with balloons.
  • You could cover the door with decorations of their favorite cartoons or activities.
  • You can fill the doorway itself with many strands of streamers or curling ribbon
  • Or any combination of these ideas or anything else that you can think of to make a door that is special and unique to celebrate your little one.

Conduct a Birthday Interview

This is one of my favorite family traditions to do for my child’s birthday. Interviewing the birthday boy or girl on their big day is such a fun way to remember your child at just that point in time.

You can either write down their answers and save them in a baby book or time capsule, or you can go the super simple route that I lean towards and whip out your phone to take a quick video. You can ask your little birthday person anything you want but some fun ideas that you can watch their answers to grow through the years are:

  • How old are you?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What is your favorite drink?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • Who is your best friend?
  • What is your favorite movie/tv show?
  • What is your favorite thing to play?
  • Where is your favorite place to go?
  • What’s the best thing that happened since your last birthday?
  • What does it mean to be __? (Whatever age they are)
  • What can you do now that you’re __? (Whatever age they are)
  • Here’s over 100 fun questions to ask kids!

Take a Picture in the Same Location Each Year

This can be a fun way to document each birthday – and it’s so great to be able to look back on your babies and see how they’ve changed as the years go by!

I’ve also seen “nested” pictures as a fun tradition – take a picture of the child holding the picture from the year before.

Make a Time Capsule

I really love this idea to celebrate your kid’s birthdays. There’s just something so special about creating time capsules, even if you only store them in the back of the closet and aren’t burying them in the backyard. There are two options for how to approach this fun tradition.

You can either create a new time capsule for every year and give them to your child on their 18th birthday. Or you can make one larger time capsule and add to it year after year. I will say as a mom with multiple kids now myself, I think the second option is a lot more realistic to keep up with. Once you add in a second kid (or a third or a fourth I’m sure too) keeping up with things like a baby book or a time capsule becomes quite a challenge.

Each year add in a handful of things unique to that year like:

  • the birthday interview (from above)
  • a print of the birthday picture (from above)
  • written memories of special moments from over the past year
  • a list of their current favorite things
  • something they’ve drawn or written
  • some favorite old toys (That they are totally over and done with of course. Or there could be a major meltdown in the offing.)
  • and maybe some of their absolute favorite clothes that they have outgrown.

Related: What to Put in Baby’s Time Capsule

Make EVERYTHING Their Favorite Color

birthday traditions to start at 1 - make everything their favorite color

Does your child deeply love a certain color? You can start this tradition by decorating their bedroom door with their favorite color to tie in a birthday tradition idea we’ve already mentioned.

Cover the house in streamers and balloons of their favorite color.

Have everyone in the family wear that color.

If you aren’t opposed to using food coloring dye their food their favorite color (or if you are you can find foods and drinks that are naturally that color, that also works). Get festive accessories like tablecloths and cutlery in that color for the day too.

It’s tough not to know whose birthday you are celebrating when your day is inundated by their color of choice. This is extra fun for younger kids because learning colors and expressing themselves through their favorite colors is such a big part of their world.

Make a Playlist / CD of Their Favorite Songs

Do people even make CDs anymore? If you are past that just make a playlist that you add to annually (but if you are a little bit old school you can still burn a birthday CD each year) of all your kid’s favorite songs.

It will be so much fun for them to go back year after year and listen to what was special to them at that time. Music can bring memories out for anyone, and many years from now they will love to remember all the songs that filled each year of their life.

Make a Treasure Hunt to Their Presents

The idea of this easy birthday tradition is to create a birthday scavenger hunt where the present (or presents) is the prize.

You can set this up while your child is sleeping or while they are in the backyard playing or just otherwise occupied where you are out of eyesight.

You leave a set of clues hidden around the house leading them all over to their presents.

You can either do a scavenger hunt to lead them to one big present, have it lead them to all of their presents in one location, or hide a present along with each clue. Picking up some fun and affordable first birthday gifts is really helpful if you want to hide presents along the way.

You will have to tailor your treasure hunt to your child’s age and make it a bit more difficult each year. Consider beginning this tradition by hiding all the clues in just the living room or in just their bedroom for a toddler. As your child gets older you can expand the scavenger hunt to eventually include the entire house. You should also start a young child off with just a few clues and gradually increase the number of clues as they get older.

Add to Their Baby Book

birthday traditions to start at 1 - add to their baby book

When you first have your baby you are probably totally excited to start recording all of their firsts in their baby book. Taping in clippings of hair, tiny footprints, and more almost every week. Logging every first gurgle and gummy smile. But somewhere along the line you kind of stop. At least most of us do. Whether life just gets busy, another baby comes along, or any number of things that can happen for one reason or another the baby books often get cast aside for months or years at a time.

Why not add on a first birthday tradition that you carry through their entire childhood of sitting down together and recording special things from the past year in their baby book? I mean, they won’t be much help adding ideas that first year or two, but if you begin the tradition NOW there is a better chance that you will carry it on throughout their childhood.

Design a Birthday Banner

Making your birthday child a special happy birthday sign each year can be a delightful way to wake up each birthday morning. If decorating their door isn’t quite your thing, why not try designing a birthday banner?

You can make it in their favorite color, add photos of them throughout the year, or add images of their current favorite things or characters.

Just make the birthday banner something special that represents your child at exactly that moment of their life. Take a picture of them with the banner to capture who they are at this birthday.

Build a Birthday Tree

What is a birthday tree you might be asking?

Basically, it’s a Christmas tree decorated for their birthday.

Birthday trees are most typically used for those November and December birthdays that kind of get overshadowed by all the major holidays around that time, but it would be fun to have one any time of the year! For summer birthdays, you could decorate a tree in your yard.

If it’s an idea you love, you could pull out a small fake Christmas tree any time of year and decorate it to make an extra special day.

Birthday tree decorations are not like your typical Christmas ornaments and tinsel. They are simple, big, and festive. Think streamer and balloons, ribbons, and birthday banners and signs – with maybe a birthday hat on top.

Share Your Birthday Traditions to Start at 1 With Me!

If you have other birthday traditions ideas to start at baby’s first birthday, share them in the comments!

Your child’s first birthday is a special milestone that marks the start of so many amazing years to come.

One amazing way to celebrate and commemorate that day is by starting new traditions that your family will enjoy together for years to come such as enjoying special meals together, hanging up memorable decorations, and interviewing your child. Not only are these activities fun and memorable but they also help capture precious moments of your little one growing up.

So don’t forget to document it all so you can look back on them in years to come! Do you have a birthday tradition of your own I didn’t mention? Please share it with me below.

Now go and start creating those lasting memories today. Have fun!

You might also like: 

Fun Family Christmas Traditions To Start This Year

little girl on first birthday - text overly say birthday traditions to start at one

birthday traditions to start at 1

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