When both of my kids approached their first birthdays, I found myself unable to make it through one of our favorite bedtime books, On the Night You Were Born, without crying. I began saving every piece of artwork sent home from daycare—even the ones I knew neither they nor I would ever want. I frantically printed pictures to fill their beautiful, silk-ribbon-bound, custom-monogrammed baby books (that still aren’t completed), and I prayed that I would never, ever forget the way their chubby fingers felt wrapped around mine, or the feel of their warm, soft heads against my chest.
And then I wondered, what would I do to make their first birthday party—something neither would ever remember—extra special and meaningful? I settled on starting a new tradition of getting them birthday cards and writing letters to them about that past year and all my hopes and dreams for their future. Now, I do it every year, and I look forward to the day when we read them together.
Family traditions can be old or new, but starting them early is one way to strengthen family bonds, celebrate across generations, and create lasting memories to reminisce about in the future. So, what better time to start than baby’s first birthday?
Read on for nine ideas to start first birthday traditions.
1. Create a Birthday Time Capsule
Find an old shoebox or jar and fill it with meaningful objects from this moment in time. Our printable time capsule for kids is one way to record your little one’s favorite things of the moment. Fill the capsule with other mementos that your baby will find fun to reminisce on in years to come.
2. Glimpse Into Their Future
A tradition in some Polish families for their little one’s first birthday is to place a coin (sometimes a silver dollar), shot glass, and rosary on the birthday boy or girl’s high chair and see what baby picks. The shot glass is supposed to symbolize that they’re outgoing, social, and people-oriented. The coin symbolizes prosperity, that they’re ambitious and driven. The rosary symbolizes religion and that they’re spiritual and awareness-oriented. Beyond the Polish tradition, many first birthday celebrations can include cultural elements meaningful to your family.
3. Save a Special Outfit
Pick a special first birthday outfit to pass down from child to child or even generation to generation. If you happen to have an outfit from your own baby years that you can use, even better. Monogram the bottom of the inside of the hem with their name and the date of their first birthday. When you pass it on to the next child, monogram their name and special date as well.
4. Remember Them Small
Find a spot on the wall to mark their height or to take their picture starting at their first birthday and each year following. Not going to be in the same house the whole time? Make it portable with a personalized life-size ruler to mark on. You could also do something similar with a canvas and their handprints.
5. Plant Something
Whether you have the outdoor space for a tree or shrub or something smaller like some flowers, let your little one dig into the dirt with you to plant something that will be a great photo op for years to come. And for winter birthdays? Pick something smaller that you can keep indoors until it can be transplanted outside. And if outdoor space isn’t in the cards for you just yet, consider an indoor plant safe for kids and pets.
6. Write a First Birthday Letter
While they won’t be able to read or appreciate it just yet, having a handwritten note from their parents detailing favorite memories from their first year and hopes for the future will be a treasured keepsake down the line.
7. Create a Photo Memory Book
Ask loved ones to bring a photo of the birthday boy or girl along with one of their favorite memories with them or things about them written on the back. Save all the photos in a keepsake book to read when they’re older.
8. Donate on Their Behalf
While there’s nothing wrong with getting new toys to celebrate a first birthday, many parents find themselves already overwhelmed by a house taken over by baby things. One alternative is to ask for everyone to bring a package of diapers, a children’s book, or another item to be donated to a local charity for moms and kids.
9. Commission a Personalized Illustration of Them
While your little one won’t be able to appreciate it just yet, a personalized illustration is timeless for you or for them. We love the idea of freezing this special age in time when we all know the years go by too fast.