The 1st and 2nd birthdays for my kids we had themes just for the party where we invited a lot, as in 30+, family and friends…..and stress. The birthday child seemed to get kind of lost in the mix. We were so busy hosting, we didn’t enjoy it as much as we should. Thus, we have organically gravitated into a new breed of celebration where the birthday child is (mostly) in charge. More time with a theme, less people. She/he picks a theme or idea about a month out to which we all obsess over with a variety of activities/learning that lead up to a big culminating activity for his/her birthday….involving some normal traditions like cake, balloons, gifts, and also some wild ideas. We strive for an intimate celebratory experience. We only invite a few family & very close friends, sometimes just one set of grandparents…but not everyone, and sometimes it’s just the 5 of us and it’s fantastic! A couple of times we’ve held playdates close to the birthday, but not called it a party…no gifts, no party favors, just a special playtime. The money we would have spent on the party itself, we can spend on the child’s special day. We take it a year at a time per kid, but looking back at 20 celebrations, I’d say we’ve found a way to have our birthday cake and eat it too.