12 fun ideas for celebrating New Year's Eve with kids
These kid-friendly party ideas will help you celebrate the new year—no matter what your bedtime
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Now that we have kids, those days partying until the sun comes up is a thing of the past. I don’t know about you, but my kid’s bedtime is 8 and I’m asleep by 9. Even if we could get ourselves to stay awake past midnight, there is no way the kids are going to let you sleep in on New Year’s day, which leaves me little motivation to dress up, find a sitter, and jet my way across town for a party.
While New Year’s Eve is typically thought of as a “grown-up” holiday, it can still be fun with kids involved—even if you opt to do it low key. Here are some of our favorite ways to make ringing in the new year fun and festive, while still being kid-friendly.
1. Have a mock midnight
For tiny tots, this can be the popular “Noon Year’s Eve”, celebrated right before nap time. For older kids there is the “It’s midnight somewhere” idea. Pick a bedtime that’s age-appropriate and make that your stroke of midnight. For our family it’s 9 p.m., the sweet spot where our son starts to feel tired, but before the witching hour begins. Kids will love that they got to stay up late, but everyone will be refreshed and in good spirits with the start of the new year.
2. Party with the Brits
If you must watch a New Year’s Eve countdown, live stream from a different time zone. For East Coasters, they can live stream London and be done with the countdown at 7 p.m. For West Coasters, it’s as easy as cuing up New York City or a local affiliate station on the eastern seaboard.
3. Make some noise
They don’t call it “ringing in the new year for nothing.” It’s not a party without some noisemakers. No matter when your clock strikes—be it the real midnight or your mock one—kids will love making lots of fanfare with sound.
4. A night of favorites
New Year’s Eve is a night to reflect on the year behind us. Kids change so much year to year, how about having a night to celebrate their favorites? Let them come up with a dinner menu: Sure, it may be macaroni and cheese and Oreos, but what a fun kickoff to an annual tradition where you can fully take in their favorites and take note of how it changes year to year. If you’re inviting friends over, you can make it a potluck-style where each kid brings their favorite foods to share.
5. Get dressed up
You may not be going out on the town, but it can still feel special. Invite kids to come to the party dressed in their fanciest clothes. You provide party hats, crowns and feather boas. Be sure to snap lots of photos to share.
6. Have a dance party
Make a playlist that will get kids excited and on the dance floor—but keep it grown-up friendly (there’s no need to dance to the Wiggles tonight). Get some glow sticks and glow necklaces to set the mood, and maybe even invest in an inexpensive dance floor light and a bubble machine! It may have been years since you were last on a dance floor, but tonight is the night to show your kids how Momma used to move!
7. Make a photo booth
All you need is a roll of craft paper for a backdrop, and you’ve got the start of a photo booth. Let the kids decorate it with glitter, shimmering pompoms, gold lettering—you name it; as long as it’s festive it works! Then set aside some costume props and your party guests have the perfect place to take some end-of-the-year snaps.
8. Do a craft (but don’t stress over it)
When the founder of Year Cheer was a new mom, she found herself spending too much time on the internet, researching how to come up with fun and meaningful holiday crafts to do with her kids. Skip the research! These adorable kits will give you a fun moment to connect with your kids while doing something they enjoy.
9. Have a movie night
There is nothing like ringing in the new year with an annual tradition of a movie night. For little ones, we like to keep it short and sweet. This 24-minute Peanut gang classic is just right for little ones who want to party, but maybe can’t last their way through a feature length film.
10. Project it on the wall
Whether you are watching a short movie or a long countdown, make it feel like an event by projecting it on the wall for all of your party guests to see—plus everyone can carry on with their festivities, rather than cramming in together on the couch. Our expert testers’ favorite is the Anker Nebula Mars II, which comes with popular streaming apps like Netflix, Youtube, and Amazon Video right out of the box—simply connect the Mars II to a Wi-Fi network and you’re ready to go. The Mars II also comes with a small remote control so that you can navigate the software from a distance.
11. Give a toast
Keeping it kid-friendly doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the toast. Whether you’re drinking mocktails or sparkling cider, fill their flutes with something fizzy and festive.
12. Do your own ball drop
They may not get to see actual holiday ball drop but, if we are to be honest, it’s sort of anticlimactic anyway. A much more fun and festive activity is smashing the piñata at the stroke of “midnight.” We like this shimmering disco ball pinata that’s so festive it is very likely Ryan Seacrest-approved. Fill it with candy or toys and let the kids break through to 2022.
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