Tips for a Stress-Free Toddler Birthday Party & A Tractor Birthday Party

I love throwing a good party! Last year when my son turned one, I began planning his birthday party when he turned six months old. I was really excited at the thought of being able to throw my child a birthday party especially since he is my first baby. So I began the planning process very early. I searched on Pinterest for the perfect theme and then once I found that, I began looking at different DIY décor ideas and planning the menu, games, and party favors.

It was all going well until about a month before he turned one. I began realizing that I didn’t have much time left for all the projects I wanted to complete.
That last month I remember being stressed out and at one point wanted the party to just come and be over already so I could stop working on projects for it.

Just to be clear, I did enjoy his party and I love how everything turned out, but both my husband and I agreed we would do things differently the next year. You can see his first birthday party here.

Growing up, I remember in our family having a “big” birthday one year and then doing something with just family and a close friend or two the next year. I feel like it probably helped my mom’s sanity, haha (right mom?) That's what I was thinking I wanted to do for my son as well. Last year we had over 50 people at his first birthday. It was so fun and he seemed like he had a blast! But this year, I wanted low key.

But, the party planner in me couldn't just throw up a happy birthday banner and call it a day. I still wanted to have a theme (his little personality began to shine through during that year so I chose something that he loves). I found something that was simple and stuck with that. First, here are a few photos from his simple and stress-free tractor party.

Steps for a Stress Free Birthday Party:

  1. Decide on a theme that your child will love.

Ok, so this sounds like it can be stressful. Honestly, I saw a picture of a birthday cake with little tractors on it and my son had recently begun showing an interest in tractors. So when my parents got him a toy set for Christmas that came with these little tractors, I knew that the theme was perfect!

Also, please know that by “theme” I was just thinking for the cake decor. That was all that I had planned to decorate. Your theme could be as simple as “Happy Birthday”; gather a few banners, some balloons, and some party hats and your toddler will thinks it’s amazing!

  1. Keep the number of guests small.

This year, I really wanted to have his party in our new apartment, so we were limited to only a certain amount. Since my son didn’t have any little toddler friends at the time, we just stuck with my husband’s and my parents and our siblings and their families. This year we had about 20 people and my son had just as much fun!

  1. Ask for help

I asked about 4 different people to help with bringing food. We served fun little snacks and then followed that up with cake and ice cream. It took a lot of stress off of me not having to have a full meal planned for everyone (We had the party at 3 so it worked with my son’s naptime and it was not around a regular meal time.) I was then able to spend the morning of his party setting up and not stressing about cutting up veggies or making dip. On that note, is the next step.

  1. Have a simple menu

I’ll admit, there are a ton of super cute ideas for party snacks/meals on Pinterest that can be hard for a party-planning lover like myself to resist. However, we just went with a fruit platter, a vegetable tray with ranch dip, chips and pretzels, and of course, cake.

  1. Set up a fun table

This really can make your simple party look much more planned out! It’s super easy too! All you need is a table, and something to create height. I used a crate that we already had. You can really use anything! I think for my son’s first birthday, we used a cardboard box and then wrapped an extra plastic tablecloth over it to cover it up. You can see that here!

I really hadn’t planned to use the toy dump truck for the chips, but I knew my son would love seeing it up there, we already had the dump truck, and it took about 2 minutes to wash it and set it up so it wasn’t really that big of a deal. Plus it just makes the table look much more planned out! Am I right? ;)

  1. Keep the décor simple

I didn’t even put much thought into the décor until about the day before the party. And the best part? Everything I used is something we already had. The birthday banners and ribbons we already bought for his first birthday party and I just kept them in a storage box so we can reuse them every year. We also blew up a few balloons and just scattered them in the living room, and my mom bought him the other balloons pictured above (you can never have too many balloons! ;) )

  1. Keep the cake simple or ask someone else

I love baking and decorating cakes, but honestly, I’m not very good at it. I knew that if I wanted to bake my son’s cake myself, I would have to do something simple. For his cake, all I did was frost it, place the tractors where I wanted them, and then added crumbled Oreos and rock candy in piles around the tractors. So easy, right!? We did actually write on it and I had my mom do that part because she is really good at it.

There are so many simple options that still look amazing if you really want to do the cake yourself. Or if that is not your thing, don’t feel bad about asking a friend or going to your local bakery or grocery store to get one.

  1. Remember to have fun and what you are celebrating

You are celebrating the day you first met that adorable little one. Not how well you decorate, plan, or cook. Not on how many games you have planned or if you baked your own cake. Remember what you are celebrating and enjoy the day. Enjoy your little one’s excitement and joy. Enjoy the sugar rush that is sure to happen after eating the cake. Enjoy your child playing with his family. Enjoy the laughter and chatter from your loved ones.

It doesn’t have to be Pinterest perfect to be one of your little one’s favorite memories. So give yourself some grace, mama, and enjoy that stress free party!



  1. I will definitely have to put these tips to work next fall. Your little guy is so cute!!

  2. These are such great tips! My daughter's party is next month, so this is helpful!

  3. I love these ideas, Sheila! I can totally relate to starting planning your son's 1st birthday party when he was 6 months (that's TOTALLY me!!). It's easy to spiral out of control with all those Pinterest ideas so I love this post to keep it reasonable, but still so fun and cute!

    PS - the pasta dump truck is amazing!

  4. A cake covered in toys and crushed oreos sounds like a winner for a toddler birthday party! The snacks in the truck was a cute idea, too!

  5. Such A great party idea! I love the tractor theme!

  6. This was such a cute party and you shared some awesome tips! I LOVED the cake and the dump truck! Too cute.

  7. Thank you! It was so fun and he loved the dump truck full of snacks! haha

  8. Haha, right!? He seemed to think so as well! ;)

  9. It is so easy to get carried away with all the fun things on Pinterest. They are cute, but it gets to be too much at a certain point.

  10. I'm so glad to help!

  11. Thank you! I hope they help :)

  12. I love everything about this party. I love the idea of rotating between big and small party too.

  13. Thank you! Yeah, it's nice to have a little break from a large party ;)

  14. Simple is fine - especially with real little kids; they don't know any better! It's just fun for them. I like that you used the dump truck; what a fun idea. And your cake is adorable.


  15. I have a couple parties to plan in the next couple months so I need all these tips!

  16. Looks like it was such a wonderful party!!! <3 I'm glad your little one enjoyed it!

  17. Great tips!! I loved the cake!!!