Party planning tips from a seasoned party planner for a first birthday party

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Jake’s favorite toy is a simple black and white panda from Ikea. He has many fancy toys, but somehow Panda is his favorite.

The one toy he hugs to sleep and carries around the house, his one true love.

For his first birthday we decided to throw a panda party, as that was something he could probably relate to.

After three very elaborate parties for big brother, and realizing that Tyler remembered nothing from those parties, I decided on a DIY party for Jake. It’s not so very difficult once you set a theme, to build a party around it.

We started with the dessert table. Once you have the cake and dessert table sorted out, that’s probably 50% of the job done! We got ours from Little House of Dreams. I found clippings of inspirations and ideas that I liked (just google your theme), sent those to the folks of LHOD and they turned out the gorgeous table that was the centrepiece of our Panda Party!

Vanilla cupcakes

Cake pops in mini cones

Panda donuts

The cake!

Voila! On my request, we added silver foil balloons spelling out his name and black and white pom poms – and the effect was exactly what I hoped for!

I do have one party-planning tip though: The dessert table only contained sweets, and I did expect that some of my guests might want savories. To keep within a budget, I simply ordered savory mini tarts and a selection of mini croissants from Delifrance they have a little catering menu which is extremely affordable. I recommend that you re-plate them though. See how fabulous they look on simple wooden boards, square plates and cake stands! You can find most of these styles of boards and plates at IKEA.

Just have them collected an hour before the party starts, and with the help of a friend (or two), everything can be beautifully plated within 15 minutes! If you don’t know how many to order, just estimate that each adult guest could eat about four canapés, and that would be a safe number to order (eg 30 guests x 4 = 120 mini tarts).

Last note on F&B: Don’t forget pretty plates and matching napkins! It’s important to pay attention to details. These were also from Little House of Dreams.

 Next up – I love scattering gifts around the party for guests, almost like a little treasure hunt, which makes the event fun and engaging and carries the theme through.  I ordered black and white bibs, panda socks and panda hats, and even panda iPhone covers for the mums and dads- through Up Bub and Away. You can see some of the panda items in their Panda-themed gift set. They are also able to source according to specific requested themes if you contact them at least 8 weeks ahead.


A big tip for kids’ party-planning, try to keep it age-specific; you can’t really have a party that caters from one to twelve years old. Kids at these ages enjoy different activities, and big kids in the same bouncy castle or ball-pit as small ones can over-run them.

As this was a party for a one year old, I capped the guest list to kids two and below. I did plan an activity table to occupy their older siblings (more on that later), but I decided that our party should focus on babies and activities that they would enjoy.

Another major success tip: The venue is all-important. An outdoor venue can leave your with hot, cranky toddlers and babies!

We booked the Kids Atelier at Trehaus. The space has high ceilings and is filled with natural sunlight. They have affordable weekend rental packages, which can include  drinks and catering.

I ordered six black & white baby walkers online, which work fabulously for babies who aren’t quite walking yet. The black and white walkers fit in perfectly with the monochromatic party scheme.

Little guests totally enjoying the walkers!

Then I made a DIY ballpit with an inflatable float from ToysR’Us and filled it with ELC balls that I bought Mothercare (it takes about 5 bags of balls to fill a circular ballpit about 5 feet wide).

As for making the guests feel at home, I rented black and white bean bags from Doob. They’re actually an awesome bean bag retailer, but they do also rent out bean bags for parties and events.

As many of the little guests aren’t actually walking yet, and many are still crawling in fact. I decided to make this a no-shoes party to keep the floor clean for them (hence all the gift socks above… Aaaaah, now you see!), and the soft, plush and cosy bean bags were perfect for this occasion (and spill-proof)!

To complement my all black and white theme, Doob threw in some Topiary bean bags which I absolutely love!

Next up, the Panda adoption station. We bought a bunch of pandas from Ikea, identical to his favorite panda and others we ordered from Up Bub & Away.

We bought ribbons from Jalan Sultan and index cards from Daiso and created personalized name tags for all the pandas!  We let big brother Bubu get involved by naming all the pandas, so many of them ended up wth rather eccentric names – Hoony, Teacup and Dudu among others.

Mayhem the night before, where Bubu wants to unroll all my ribbons and Jake is a little overwhelmed to see so many pandas!

The finished result, our Panda Adoption station where all our little black and white friends found new homes!

Now we know I’m big into personalization, as that’s what people really remember. I created personalized Panda gift tags for all the kids, which doubled up as Luggage/ School Bag tags.

I ordered mine from Lugo Co which are a cool little business I discovered on Instagram. You can DM or drop them a Line and they made all my Panda tags within about 10 days.

Loved these! They turned out so well! Now to fill these gorgeous goodie bags with something memorable… I worked with Carda to create personalized stationary for all the little guests. Each guest received their own custom note cards (which came with elegant envelopes, which are perfect as Thank You and Birthday Gift note cards that are sure to impress!

As for party entertainment, I decided to forego the usual magic show and balloon-twister as the kids are really too young to appreciate these. Instead, I ordered Panda walking balloons for each kid to take home as a fun souvenir.

These worked really great, because the kids loved them so much they dragged them out to play right away, and filled the space with much happiness  and laughter.

 The other main activity was the sensory table we booked with Tickle Your Senses. The awesome ladies there created a custom panda themed station for is, where kids got to create their own Panda on a mountain with real bamboo leaves, using hand-made play-dough, and play with black and white water beads.

This activity station was a huge hit, and best of all, kept the bigger kids occupied for the whole two hours!

Who doesn’t love beautiful photos of their kids? Tempting as it is to have daddy shoot it all on his iPhone or point-and-shoot camera, this was the one thing I didn’t cut costs on, because the photos are all that your one year old is going to have, to remember his first ever party by. Make sure the photos are good. A dedicated photographer can also help you work the room and make sure all your guests are captured.

No stress, so daddy can also hang out with his friends!


I booked both an event photographer and photo station (which they can design to your theme) from Instangraphy. They took most of the lovely photo I used here, as well as family portraits for my guests, against a black and white striped background.


I thought the stripes worked well as opposed to a cutesie panda backdrop because you still want these to be photos your guests can keep as family portraits, and not just as party favors.

Lastly, I’m a fan of dress codes as that can give you great party pictures!  With a panda theme, this one was easy – Black and White, of course! Here’s a wonderful photograph below of all our guests and their little ones dressed in theme!

That about sums up everything we did for Jake’s first birthday party!

Perhaps I’ll leave you with a final tip! We booked a Cake Smash and photo shoot for Jake. I think it’s a lovely “new tradition” (oxymoron?)! It’s a great opportunity to capture the historic milestone of Jake’s first birthday, and create keepsakes to cherish and share with him when he’s older. We booked ours with Little House of Dreams and Studio Loft who have a Cake x Studio Shoot package available.

We also used the cake smash image as a birthday party reminder, using a simple design/layout app to add the text (I used Rhonna on this one).


And that’s all folks! Happy planning – enjoy every minute! It was a fair amount of work, but also so much fun! I’ve begun planning for his next birthday already 😉

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Tjin Lee is one of the co-founders of Trehaus and is a superwoman in her own right with 11 businesses under her belt. She’s also the founder of Mercury Marketing and Communications and co-founder of CRIB, a social enterprise that encourages women to become successful entrepreneurs. She calls herself a dreamer and is a doting mother to three-year-old Bubu and one-year-old Jake.