Today’s Hint: 7 Affordable Activity Ideas for First Birthday Parties

While I was tempted rent a bouncy house and hire professional singers for my daughter’s first birthday party, I knew her and her little friends wouldn’t appreciate such entertainment enough to make it worth the money.

So that’s why I instead went with a more practical entertainment option: Bubbles. As Heloise says, “action is the name of the game at a birthday party” and “give everybody something to do,” so it’s important to have activities for all guests. However, Heloise’s suggestion of decorating place mats or paper plates wouldn’t work for kids who would eat the art supplies. So here’s my list of seven ideas for affordable and easy (i.e. not much crafty-work required) first birthday party activities (bubbles included), and a bonus is that many are useable for older kids’ parties as well.

IMG_19961.)  Bubbles. My daughter loves hanging out in our backyard watching her dad and me blow bubbles, and she enjoys just sitting on a step on our deck holding a jar of bubbles. So making bubbles the activity (and theme) at her first birthday party was an obvious choice. For roughly less than $50, I bought a ton of bubble solution, a couple packages of different-shaped bubble wands (which, along with bubble jars, make great favors) and a bubble machine, and set up a bubble station in our backyard (see more photos from my daughter’s bubble-themed party on Pinterest). The activity seems to have been a hit (there was lots of bubble blowing going on during the whole party) and I could have done it even cheaper by making my own bubble solution with this handy recipe from

2.) Books. Put a bunch of books (board books for the little ones) out and encourage the kids and parents to read books together. You also could designate an adult as the “storyteller” who reads a book or two to the whole crowd.  The theme of this party could be “library,” as Michelle Horton suggests at, offering this creative idea for gifts: “You could have guests bring their favorite childhood book to help build your baby’s collection.” And Tip Junkie offers some inspirational ideas for book-themed party cakes and décor. (While I like this activity idea, my husband had this reaction: “that sounds like a boring party.”)

3.) Balls. Another easy activity is to have a bunch of balls (whether foam balls, beach balls or bouncy balls) that the kids can play with. You can put them in a play yard like I did at my daughter’s party (I thought balls fit with the bubble theme) or fill up a baby pool with them  and make a do-it-yourself ball pit.

4.) Mirrors. Little kids love looking in mirrors so another idea is to have a bunch of child-safe mirrors around for kids to look at and make funny faces at, or follow an idea shared on Moppy Poppins and have a giant child-safe mirror that all the kids can play with. (“Like a fun house,” is how I described this idea to my husband. “That sounds scary,” was his response.)

5.)  Your kid’s toy collection. Keep it simple and just make your kid’s toy collection the activity. Here’s how it could work: As suggests, “baby-proof a play zone filled with age-appropriate toys for your little guests. Set chairs around the zone for parents to relax and watch.”

6.) Vintage party games is an activity idea I like that Simple Mom suggests. The gist: just have the kids and adults play the sort of games you remember from your childhood that don’t require any props — think Ring Around the Rosie, tag and Duck, Duck, Goose. As Simple Mom writes, “don’t buy a single thing for any of the party’s activities” and instead “turn everyone loose outside for freeze tag.”

7.) Dancing. Just gather children’s tunes from your music collection and play them for the guests when it’s activity time. You could even add in a couple of rounds of freeze dance, and consult this musical theme Pinterest board for inspiration.

And if you’re still not inspired (and if you share my husband’s reaction to some of these ideas), check out some other easy and affordable activity ideas I came across at The Simple Dollar and Simple Kids. Let me know if you have better activity suggestions – or just thoughts on the subject in general — in the comments section below.

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