"We have learned so much, been challenged in every way, and have grown exponentially," Colton Dixon and wife Annie tell PEOPLE

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Colton Dixon twin daughters' first birthday party
Credit: Janel Tackett Photography; Rick Diamond/Getty

Colton Dixon is marking one full year with his baby girls.

The 29-year-old American Idol alum and wife Annie share exclusive photos with PEOPLE from an adorable celebration for twin daughters Ava Dior and Athens Elizabeth's 1st birthday.

"This has been the best year of our lives thus far," the parents, who tied the knot in January 2016, tell PEOPLE. "We have learned so much, been challenged in every way, and have grown exponentially."

"The most challenging circumstances often heed the biggest reward," they continue. "We know we are just getting started, but we are grateful to be on this journey together — what a gift."

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Colton Dixon twin daughters' first birthday party
Credit: Janel Tackett Photography

In June, the "Made To Fly" singer told PEOPLE, "I love being a girl dad, first and foremost," and explained that despite being identical, Dior (who goes by her middle name) and Athens are already showing their individuality.

"They're already blooming into their own person. It's so cool to see. The older they get, the more personality you see, which so fun."

Colton Dixon twin daughters' first birthday party
Colton Dixon twin daughters' first birthday party
Left: Credit: Janel Tackett Photography
Right: Credit: Janel Tackett Photography

Dixon also said the past year with his little ones has been "incredible" and he is "so thankful" for the extra time he's had with them at home during the pandemic.

"I never really understood what parents meant, when they're like, 'Man, I didn't realize I could love someone so much.' But then you have kids and you go, 'Oh my gosh. I would literally do anything.' There's nothing I wouldn't do for them," he said.

"It's just a whole new layer of what love looks like and it's been amazing. Just trying to be the best dad I can be, even at this stage, but it's been so fun."