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For a 1st birthday party, you'll likely have many more adults there than children. You'll want to serve foods that adults will enjoy yet which are still easy and cheap to set up, and which at least some will appeal to any other young children there. This can seem like a daunting set of requirements at first! Don't worry, here are plenty of easy and affordable 1st birthday party food ideas which will go over well with all your guests.
Your main strategy for a 1st birthday food menu
Whether you're doing a brunch, lunch or afternoon party, you'll want to serve foods that don't require utensils. That's right, your strategy here is to go for finger foods. If you think your situation differs, yes there are some 1st birthday setups where a sit down meal with knife and fork is going to work out better, and I cover this towards the end. But unless you have a reason to do a knife and fork meal, I strongly suggest finger foods. Dessert will be the birthday cake and will be eaten with a fork - other than that you should serve finger foods.
The reason for finger foods is that it's much easier if you have a large crowd and you're worried about space. In that situation people can mingle and easily eat informally for example sitting on the sofa if you don't have enough chairs. You never have to worry about how much space you have. By contrast, it's very hard to eat on the sofa with your plate on your lap while handling utensils! So be kind to your guests and to yourself and serve finger foods.
The other reason you'll want finger foods is that it's easier for you to prepare and easier for people to serve themselves buffet-style when it comes to finger foods than for things which require knife and fork.
P.S. if you haven't yet thought about what outfit your child should wear for his or her first birthday, I recommend Little English for gorgeous traditionally styled clothing with embroidery or smocking. For something a more contemporary (yet still dressy), I recommend Gymboree for a budget-friendly option, or if you're looking for an excuse to splurge, then Janie and Jack.
Finger food ideas for a first birthday party
Here are first birthday food ideas depending on whether you're doing a lunch, an afternoon party, or a dinner party. These foods work well for many people's tastes, and best of all you have leeway to make these options as traditional or as sophisticated as you like.
1st birthday lunch menu ideas
If you're doing a lunch party, simply pick 2 - 4 of the following and set it out buffet style:
- sandwiches (either pre-make these or set out ingredients for people to fix their own)
- cheese and crackers
- vege tray
- chicken nuggets (just fix a couple of large batches of chicken nuggets in the oven) - this is ideal if you have picky eaters coming, for example other children
That's more than enough choice for everyone to have something they enjoy.
For an afternoon party
If you've opted for an afternoon birthday party, pick 2 of the lunch party ideas from the lunch section above. I'd recommend avoiding chicken nuggets or sandwiches if you can reasonably expect people would have eaten lunch beforehand (e.g. if you have a 2pm party). Remember, you'll still be serving birthday cake at the party.
First birthday dinner ideas
Set up various hot and cold appetizers and/or pizza. Yup, it's that easy.
It makes it a lot easier on you and your guests at dinner, especially when you have a crowd, for people to mingle, eat and help themselves to seconds when it's finger foods.
The exception to serving finger foods
If you have the correct amount of space at the table for all the guests to sit down and if you're happy to host a sit-down meal, then it would be perfectly fine to provide a sit down meal with knife and fork.
We did this for my youngest son's first birthday - we had a breakfast style brunch meal with sausages, pancakes, and so on. This was because we had only 6 guests besides our core family, 2 of which were grandparents staying with us. It was therefore simply easier once I thought of it as adding the other 4 guests into a brunch meal that we'd be having anyway. I'd just make bigger quantities. This turned out to be a big hit with all the guests - they all thought I'd gone to a ton of effort. But in reality it was actually the easier option compared with serving a weekend brunch to the house guests and then doing a separate afternoon party for everyone. We simply opened gifts after eating the brunch, and then did birthday cake.
Other tips for a successful first birthday party
Now that you've got the 1st birthday party food list organized, you might want to look at my the easy guide to setting up everything else for a fun first birthday. It takes you each step of the way and covers invitations, decorations and more. If you're on a budget and looking for cheap solutions, that's perfect - I cover something for every price point.
Remember, no matter how you set it up, everyone is happy to be there to celebrate baby's first birthday, so keep the main thing the main thing! As long as there is food of some sort, no-one is going to get hung up on exactly which foods you have chosen to provide. Enjoy the occasion and take photos - baby is going to want to see these later when he or she is a bit older.
It's easier than you think to set up food for a first birthday party with adults and kids - and as I've shown, it's quite easy and affordable to do.