Guide to Throwing a Modern Baby Shower
Traditions are evolving and modern ways of celebrating new births are emerging. In the words of Bob Dylan, times, they are a-changin’. This guide is a collection of the latest, freshest ideas for throwing a modern-day baby shower. Each section begins with a description of the traditional take on an element – invitations, themes, games, food, gift ideas, favors—and then ends with the latest and greatest spin.
The table below offers a quick look at what’s inside:
Baby Shower Element
||Kid-friendly and co-ed|
||Host's home or restaurant
||On the web|
||Blue for boys and pink for girls
||Green for eco-friendly|
||Printed on baby-themed stationary
||Invite on a customized cholocate bar |
||Candle lighting ceremony|
||Cake in shape of diaper
||The Baby Bunch, of course!|
||Donation to children-centered charity|
With talk of global warming, our society is becoming increasingly earth-conscious. Consequently, many of the modern baby shower trends have an eco-friendly bent. Time will only tell how much this trend continues to play out.
The spirit of the guide is not to applaud the new and poopoo the old. In fact, just because we are writing about a new practice doesn’t mean we prefer it! The most important thing about throwing a baby shower—whether in the 21st century or the 210th—is that it is revolves around the likes and dislikes of the expecting mother. This is a time to celebrate, honor and indulge the new mom and the new life to come.
Have fun! And be sure to join The Baby Bunch online community for a continued discussion of all things baby!
And if you have any feedback or other unique baby shower ideas, please email us. We'd love to hear from you!
Baby Shower History
Before describing baby shower trends in the 21st century, let’s look back at its origins!
Unsurprisingly, the celebration of a new child has been popular for time immemorial. Through the years, it has always been tradition for friends and family to bring handmade gifts to the new family. However, until the middle of this century, this usually occurred about a month after the baby’s birth, coinciding with his or her christening or other debut, depending on the family’s religious background.
In the late 19th century, Victorian women began hosting tea parties (of course!) for expecting mothers. This is how the umbrella became symbolic at showers; it was tradition to carry an umbrella to these afternoon affairs.
Baby showers as we know them today—punch-drinking, bingo-playing, gift-giving gatherings—gained momentum after World War II with the baby boom. The label of a “shower” corresponds with the “showering” of a bride before her marriage. Initially only women were invited to these celebrations. This is still tradition; however, co-ed showers are an increasingly acceptable option for an expecting couple.
Key elements to today’s baby celebrations include a themed party for the expecting mother, hosted by a close family member or friend, with games, food and the opening of gifts. As we will detail in this guide, the traditions surrounding baby showers continue to morph and evolve as years go by.
Baby Shower Themes
Themes are a fun way to make the whole party come together, from the invitations to food served and gifts given. The number of themes for baby showers is endless. Some of the most common are color (blue for boy, pink for girl), nursery (help fill the new baby’s nursery or nursery rhyme-themed), clothesline (hang baby clothes for decoration, gift and game) and diapers (guests bring different sized diapers and/or make a diaper cake). Noah’s Ark is a fun theme for twins, where guests bring gifts for the expecting mom “two by two” and decorations and the cake are animals. It is thoughtful for the baby shower organizer to choose a theme that somehow reflects the mother-to-be’s style, interests or needs.
Green is the new pink or blue for baby showers. With a growing focus on protecting our planet, more moms-to-be are bringing up their babies in an eco-friendly manner. And baby showers are beginning to show this trend. Here is a list of ideas on how to throw a green baby shower:
- Send recycled-paper or Evite invitations. Be sure to include a sentence that describes the green theme. There are even invitations with recycled paper that grows into wildflowers when planted – a very cool, eco-friendly idea that themes well with new life!
- Use real plates and cloth napkins at the celebration instead of the go-to paper and plastic. Along the same line, swap the balloons and streamers for flowers or plants guests can take home as favors.
- Choose environmentally-friendly baby gifts. There are a variety of organic baby products on the market. The Baby Bunch’s line of organic baby gifts includes 100% organic cotton baby clothes, recycled paper and wood rosebuds and leaves. Guests can also pool together on large ticket gifts like car seats, strollers, etc to decrease the volume of gifts.
Another emerging theme related to eco-friendly showers is a Baby Blessing or a Mother Blessing. Traditionally, there is less emphasis on gifts and games with Blessings and more emphasis on spending quality time with the expecting mother. Blessings are frequently chosen for women expecting their second or third child because they already have much of the necessary baby gear. Baby Bunch community member Michelle Franco, from Bend, Oregon, describes the bead necklace ceremony at her Baby Blessing:
Each person brought a bead and, after visiting for a while, we sat in a circle while each person took out their bead and told me why they chose that bead: rose quartz represents the heart... or these beads were on my mother's necklace when I was a baby... or we got these in Nepal and they are signs of strength...Then each person sent wishes for a great birth into the beads. The idea is that you bring those strands to your birth and they remind you of the support, strength and love of your female friends. It was a beautiful ceremony that really made me feel supported and loved.
A “sip and see” party is another popular option for second or third child showers. This is an informal, drop-in event where guests come, “sip” some drinks, and meet the new baby.
Modern Baby Shower Themes
Sip and See Parties
Baby Shower Locations
The home of the host or a close friend or family member is a typical place to have a baby shower. This venue easily sets the stage for the games, gift opening and other festivities. Restaurants, church nurseries or public parks are other common alternatives.
It’s not uncommon today for expecting mothers to be living far away from family and close friends. One option, of course, when planning the shower is to fly the mom-to-be to the party location. But when that’s not doable, throwing a baby shower online is now a possibility. There is a company that offers web baby showers where friends and family can have a “live chat,” post videos, photos — even play baby shower games. A customized website is created for each shower and can be printed once the baby is born as a keepsake.
Another version of the long distance shower is when friends and family gather together for a typical shower –play the games, share a meal – only the mom-to-be is not in attendance! You can then video tape special messages for the expecting couple and send it along with the presents.
Spas are an increasingly popular location for a modern baby shower, especially in the last few months of an expecting mother’s pregnancy. Most spas offer prenatal massages; other options for the mom-to-be are facials, body treatments or manicure and pedicure. Many spas also give discounts for groups.
We threw a baby shower at a local spa last year for a friend where we all got pedicures in one room while we had a somewhat traditional style "tea party" with delicious teas, scones with Devonshire cream and lemon curd, tea sandwiches and flourless chocolate decadence.
Modern Baby Shower Locations
On the Web
Baby Shower Invitations
There are loads of fun, baby-themed invitations on the market today – with images of storks, teddy bears, rubber duckies, rattles, baby carriages, silhouettes of an expecting mother, and more. Several online businesses and stationery stores will custom-print the invitations for the shower, or another option is to hand print the invitation on similarly-themed stationery.
It is still very much the trend to send invitations like the ones described above. However, the traditional invitation has gotten a 21st century face lift in recent years, with much more stylish, boldly-colored designs.
We’ve already “given away” some of the latest trends in baby shower invitations in our discussion of green baby showers, including recycled paper invitations or paper that can be planted to grow into wildflowers. Email invitations are becoming a popular choice when all the shower guests are computer savvy. They are both a cost-effective (many websites offer their email invitation service for free) and eco-friendly (no trees are cut down for paper) choice.
When I threw a shower for my sister last January, I used Evites. But you have to be sensitive to the non-computer savvy. To do this, I called all the people I knew were not computer people. In the future, I'd also maybe make a few cutesy ones for the parents and grandparents-to-be to get in the mail to keep for scrap booking or as a memento.
Customized chocolate bars are another modern baby shower invitation option. Several companies personalize candy bar wrappers with the who, what and where’s of the party. These invites are both edible and functional!
Modern Baby Shower Invitations
Recycled or Plantable Paper
Customized Candy Bars
Baby Shower Games
Games make great ice breakers at baby showers, as guests often come from different aspects of the mom-to-be’s life (family, work, college friends) and need to get to know one another. Here’s a list of some classic baby shower games:
- Baby Bingo: Number each present. As the guest of honor opens them, she calls out the number for people to mark on their bingo card. First person to bingo wins a prize.
- Never Say Baby!: When guests arrive, give them each a clothes peg. If someone says the word “baby,” that person gives up their peg to the person who caught them. Whoever has the most pegs at the end wins.
- Measure the Tummy: Each guest cuts a piece of ribbon or yarn to the estimated size of the mom-to-be’s belly. Everyone compares their length to her actual tummy – whoever is the closest wins!
For the not-so-shy moms-to-be, belly casting is an increasingly popular baby shower activity. Guests help apply plaster strips and warm water over the expecting mother’s torso. Once the plaster has set, the casting holds the beautiful shape of how the mom-to-be looked during her pregnancy. The sculpture can then be decorated (or left natural) and hung in the baby’s nursery. Some fun decorating ideas we have seen are:
-Brightly colored with a nursery rhyme excerpt written across it
-Dressed up as a ballerina, tutu and all!
-Textured with silk flowers to match a floral-themed nursery
Because the mom-to-be is baring her body, belly casting works best for smaller, more intimate showers. Several companies sell belly casting kits online or you can gather the materials – plaster tape and petroleum jelly – and create your own.
Another crafty baby shower activity is the creation of personalized one-pieces by the guests. One-pieces are one of the most useful items of baby clothing, as babies dirty them quickly and often. You’ll need several one-pieces (in different sizes so that the baby can wear them as he or she grows), as well as a variety of non-toxic fabric paints or markers. Each guest can decorate their own or guests can work as a team if you have a bigger group. Give your guests a half hour to complete the one-pieces and leave them on display for everyone to admire as they dry. Set up a clothesline to hang each decorated one-piece. Give the mommy-to-be the one-pieces once they are dry and she will be reminded of her special shower day every time she dresses her baby.
By far, my favorite shower gifts were the one-pieces and burp clothes my friends decorated at my first baby shower. Some wrote sayings, like “Can’t wait to meet you!” Others painted images like ducks or a car. One of my more clever friends decorated the bottom of an one-piece. I loved thinking of my friends every time I grabbed a burp cloth or put on my little girl’s decked out one-pieces.
Candle lighting ceremonies are another thoughtful, fashionable option for mothers planning a home birth. Each guest brings a candle to the shower. During the party, the guests light their candles and say well-wishes for the birth. Then when the candles are lit during the birth, the mom is essentially surrounded in her friends and family’s love and support.
Modern Baby Shower Games
Personalized One-piece Crafting Activity
Candle Lighting Ceremony
Baby Shower Food
Finger foods are often the fare of choice for baby showers, particularly when the shower takes place at the host’s home. Sandwiches, chips and dip, fruit salad and cut vegetables are staples. Finger foods are easy to prepare in advance and make for better mingling than a sit-down meal. They also tie back to the origins of baby showers where Victorian women hosted tea parties for expecting women. For drinks, punch is a favorite, as well as tea and other non-alcoholic drinks (out of respect for the abstaining guest of honor).
The highlight of baby shower food is frequently dessert. Baking and decorating a cake to look like a diaper, pregnant belly or baby’s bottom is classic.
Most likely because of its mingling power, finger foods remain popular for baby showers. The type of food served has varied—bruschetta or dumplings make a much trendier option than chips and dip, for instance. Here are some more ideas:
- Wraps instead of sandwiches
- Veggie sushi over veggie plates
- Edible Arrangements (fresh fruit resembling floral arrangements) replacing the fruit salad
Keeping with the finger food-theme, cupcakes have become all the rage for dessert. Perhaps it was when Sarah Jessica Parker bit into one on the successful TV show Sex and the City?
Regardless, decadently-decorated, gourmet cupcakes are a huge hit right now at showers. Here’s a recipe from the Baby Bunch’s home kitchen:
Zingy Strawberry Cupcakes
¼ lb. (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups fresh strawberries, sliced
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest
½ tsp salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Insert cupcake cases into a cupcake pan.
2. In a large bowl mix together the butter and sugar until creamy (an electric mixer makes this process easier on the arms). Then add the eggs one at a time. Beat the mixture well after each addition.
3. In a separate bowl combine the flower, baking powder and salt.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk. Mix together for 2-3 minutes. Then gently fold in the vanilla, strawberries and lemon zest to the mixture.
5. Fill the cupcake liners approximately ½ to ¾ full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly before serving.
Makes 9-12 cupcakes
If the shower is a themed-party, then serving food to match is a clever idea. For instance, one theme growing in popularity is a “pickles and ice cream” baby shower, a take-off on the fabled cravings of expecting mothers. Several companies are selling pickles and ice cream-themed invitations, napkins, plates and other decorations. To tie the theme in with the food, you could prepare a spread of deli sandwich mixings – breads, meats, cheese and (naturally) pickles! For dessert, you could set up an ice cream bar with toppings and different flavored ice cream.
Modern Baby Shower Food
Gourmet Finger Foods
Ice Cream Bar
Baby Shower Gifts
When a couple is expecting their first child, a long list begins to form of various items they will need. What a relief and joy it is to have their friends and family pool together to help build up their supply of baby garb and goods.
Baby shower gifts can range from playful to very practical and economical to expensive. Here’s a list of common baby shower gifts:
- Clothing: one-pieces, outfits, pajamas, pants, sweaters, booties and socks, coats, snowsuits
- Toys: rattles, dolls, toy chests, books, blocks, stacking and sorting toys, baby walkers
- Nursery Items: crib, changing table, rocking chair, blankets, dresser, bassinet, mobiles
- Feeding: bottles, bottle cleaners, bibs, burp cloths, dishes, training cups, high chairs
- Tubby Time: hooded towels, washcloths, special soap and shampoo, tub for sink
- Keepsakes: baby books, albums, piggy bank, growth chart
Often, a number of guests will pitch in and purchase large-ticket items like strollers or car seats together.
For second or third child baby showers, gifts tend to be more mom-to-be oriented. Spa gift certificates are popular in this case.
Unsurprisingly, some things new parents need will never change. Clothing, nursery necessities and feeding items are still staple baby gifts. Today, however, there are a growing number of companies combining practicality with presentation for baby gifts.
The Baby Bunch’s signature gift is infant clothing rolled to look like a blossoming bouquet of flowers. The baby clothes bouquet includes a bib, t-shirt, two hats, mitts, two burp cloths, two pairs of socks, one one-piece and a sleep suit. At a shower, the Baby Bunch can work double-time as both a centerpiece and a gift for the new mom. Another line of Baby Bunch shower gifts are Cupcakes and Lollipops – one-pieces and baby pajamas rolled to look like cupcakes and lollipops. Each Cupcake one-piece or pajama pair is placed in a paper cupcake sleeve, then put into a dotted bakery box and tied with a ribbon. What would be cuter than serving real cupcakes alongside Baby Bunch cupcakes at your next baby shower?
Along the same practicality-meets-presentation line, cakes made from diapers are making a splash as a centerpiece and gift at baby showers. Diapers are rolled, stacked high and elaborately decorated to look like a giant, tiered cake. Several companies sell diaper cakes online or they can be handmade relatively easily. Decoration ideas range from simple (ribbons, bows, rattles) to elaborate (ladybug or safari friends-themed).
When I presented a pink Baby Bunch bouquet at my friend's daughter's baby shower, every guest ‘stopped to smell the roses.’ Everyone wanted to know where I got it…
Sharon, Rhode Island
Modern Baby Shower Gifts
Baby Shower Favors
Small gifts or favors are commonly given out to guests by the baby shower host. There are countless gifts that can be given; bubble bath, chocolates, soap, and candles are frequent go-tos. Favors serve as a gesture of appreciation for attending the party and honoring of the guests from the host.
The big trend in baby shower favors right now is personalization. Many traditional favors are being customized with the mother-to-be or baby’s name or with other fun shower details. Several online companies offer customized favors. Here is a list of our favorite personalized baby shower favors:
- Fortune cookies
- Wildflower seed packets
- Honey Jars
- Mint tins
- Cupcake Mixes
- Lip Butters
Another classy, modern baby shower favor would be to make a donation to a child-oriented charity in the guests’ honor. There are several national charities that serve disadvantaged children or children with life-threatening medical conditions. Another option would be to do the same for the mother-to-be’s favorite charity.
Modern Baby Shower Favors
Donation to Children's Charity
Fortune Cookie Favors
Kid-Friendly and Co-Ed Baby Showers
While it is traditional for baby showers to be women-only, it is increasingly acceptable for these events to be both kid-friendly and/or co-ed. New dads are much more involved in childcare today than they were fifty years ago, and inviting them to take part in the excitement leading up to the birth of their baby can be a wonderful gesture. Likewise, if the expecting mother or parent has children, they may wish for their child to attend the shower as well. If that is the case, guests are usually invited to bring their children as well.
My husband and I were living far from our families when we were expecting our first child. My mother-in-law offered to host a baby shower for the two of us when we were home for the holidays. It was held in the evening and many of our relatives and family friends—including both husband and wives—were invited. Hors d'oeuvres and wine were served. We opened the gifts just like you would do at a girls-only baby shower, with all the oohs and ahhs. It felt right having my husband there with me as we were both excited and nervous for our first child!
-Lesley and Mike, Michigan
Here is a great crafting activity to keep children busy during a kid-friendly shower:
Lollipop & Flower Garden
For children ages 4 and up
You will need:
Green craft foam
Buttons of varying colors
Stiff construction paper of varying colors
Green pipe cleaners
What to do:
Before the party, cut the green craft foam into foot long pieces.
You’ll first make the button flowers. Cut out the shapes of flowers from the construction paper. Depending on the age of the children, simply cutting a circle will work fine. For an older crowd, star shapes would also work well. Have each child choose a button to place in the center of the flower. Poke a pipe cleaner through your flower so that it comes up and through the first hole of the button, then poke it down through the next hole in the button and through your flower. Twist the short end of the pipe cleaner around the long end, as close as possible to the flower and button.
Hand each child their own green foam piece. This is their garden. Now have the children “plant” their flower and the lollipops into the garden by poking the lollipop stick or pipe cleaner into the green foam. An option is to have premade one button flower for each child to add to their garden or, if there is time and the children are older, make additional flowers at the party. The result is a colorful garden of lollipops and flowers!
Kid-Friendly and Co-Ed
Co-ed and kid-friendly are increasingly acceptable
Prepare crafting activities for kids ahead of time
Co-ed works well when couple lives a distance away
The New American Family
Gay and Lesbian Baby Showers
The make-up of American families today is very diverse compared to fifty years ago. More and more gay male and lesbian couples are either adopting children or using the latest technology to give birth to a child of their own. The essentials of a gay or lesbian baby shower are basically the same as described previously in this guide – themes, silly games, food and gifts. One difference is that both gay or lesbian parents-to-be are usually the guests of honor at a baby shower, while for straight couples, it is commonly just the expecting mother. Accordingly, the invitation list will frequently be larger for gay couples, as the number of friends, family members or colleagues wanting to celebrate this joyous occasion will grow with two guests of honor. Baby Bunch community members Laura and Belinda, from New Jersey, share the story of their recent baby shower:
This is the first grandchild for our parents so this child was definitely cause for celebration. Both of our mothers hosted the shower, but since we had wanted it to be a surprise for Belinda, I was involved with the planning. She had no idea and thought that I was being surprised as well. The shower was held at a local Knights of Columbus hall. Belinda thought we were going to someone's engagement party. She had no idea when we arrived that it was for her until we walked in the door and everyone yelled surprise.
As far as our invitation list, it was HUGE. I couldn't believe how many people were invited, and I couldn't believe how many people attended. We had somewhere in the range of 90 expected, I think in actuality it ended up being somewhere around 60-70 that showed up. We wanted men to attend as well, since we have some very close male friends and didn't want to exclude them, so we invited couples and gave the men the choice to stay upstairs with us for the shower or hang out downstairs at the bar with the guys. To our pleasant surprise, many of the men stayed upstairs and celebrated with us, so that was nice. Men of all generations and backgrounds were represented upstairs, which we appreciated.
It was amazing to have so many caring people there. Belinda asked not to do too much in terms of games because she usually gets annoyed by them when we attend other baby showers, plus she didn't want the men to want to run out of the door screaming! We had a giant wall of gifts - it was unbelievable. We felt like we unwrapped gifts FOREVER. Everyone was very supportive & very excited for us and we couldn't ask for anything more!
Gay and Lesbian Baby Showers
Shower essentials basically the same
Both partners invited
Invitation list sometimes grows because two guests of honor!
Adoption Baby Showers
A growing number of single parents or couples adopt children every year, either from the U.S. or a foreign country. A baby shower is a wonderful way for friends and family to gather together to show their love and support for the parents-to-be during this exciting time.
Adoption baby showers flow much like the modern baby showers described throughout this guide. However, adoption showers will vary slightly depending on a couple of factors:
-In the case where a couple is adopting (versus a single individual), both parents are normally invited to the shower.
-Some adoptive parents may wish to have the shower before the child arrives, while others may feel more comfortable having it after the child has settled into their new home. One advantage of having the shower after the child arrives is that it serves as an opportunity for family members and close friends to meet the newest member of the family. Keep in mind that this might be a little overwhelming for the child, depending on their age.
-If the shower is planned for after the child arrives to his or her new home, their age will influence certain aspects of the shower. With an older child, for instance, the games will become ones that kids can also play or the host will plan both adult and kid activities. (See our co-ed and kid-friendly baby shower section for ideas.) Food will also be more kid-friendly in this case.
-Themes: If an adoptive child is coming from another country, trivia games, food and the invitation design can revolve around the region that the child was born.
-Author Todd Parr’s children’s books would make great adoption baby shower gift. The Family Book and It’s Okay to Be Different in particular celebrate diverse families. (This would also be a thoughtful gift at a gay or lesbian shower as well.)
Like the motto for traditional showers, the most important thing when planning a baby shower for adoptive parents is to craft the party around the parents’ (and in this case sometimes children’s) personalities and wishes.
Adoption Baby Showers
Shower essentials generally the same
Usually co-ed if couple adopting
Many times shower occurs after child has settled into new home
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