7 Tips for a Family-Friendly New Year’s Eve Party

posted: 12/17/15
by: Blythe Copeland
Family celebrating new year

Think your days of New Year's Eve parties ended when you had kids? Think again: You can find plenty of ways to celebrate the changing of the year with little ones along for the fun. From nonalcoholic toasts to earlier-than-midnight countdowns, here are seven ways to get your kids involved on the biggest party night of the year.

1. Get dressed up

Have your girls bring out their favorite princess dresses, get bow-ties for the boys, and encourage adults to wear their own fancy duds to make your New Year's Eve party feel a little more special even if you're just staying home. The more glitter and sequins, the better -- and make sure to add sparkly party hats, costume jewelry, and other fun accessories to increase the bling factor. Another idea: Go the opposite direction and wear pajamas for your party (Bonus: When the kids fall asleep on the couch, you won't have to change them before sneaking them into their beds.)

2. Plan a special dinner

Maybe your nights of swanky restaurant dinners on New Year's Eve are over -- at least for the next few years -- but you can still put together an out-of-the-ordinary meal that's fun for the whole family. It can be as simple as homemade pizza or a make-your-own taco bar; you can add an ice cream sundae station for dessert or go all in and have dessert instead of dinner; or you can rely on snacks and bite-size versions of your family favorites -- think macaroni and cheese cups, pigs in a blanket, fruit and cheese, and sliced veggies for a party-food menu that's more fun than your usual dinner options.

3. Celebrate with the community

You may not have kids old enough to stay up at watch the ball drop, but many towns and districts offer family-friendly events earlier in the day. From candle lightings at dusk to all-day festivals, look for events in your community that give you a reason to get out of the house and celebrate with your neighbors. Or start your own tradition: A sleepover with your kids' cousins, a walk around the neighborhood to drop off "Happy New Year" cookies, or one last drive around town to look at your favorite holiday light displays.

4. Look back on the year

New Year's Eve is about celebrating the end of the year as much as it is about preparing for the new one -- and even the youngest kids can get involved with a trip down memory lane. As a family, talk about some of your favorite moments from the past 12 months -- a winning science fair project, a family vacation, a new toy or movie the kids loved (try these free printable prompts from Alice and Lois for inspiration). Or add a photo element to the game by putting together a Year in Review scavenger hunt, like this one from No Time for Flashcards, which has your kids searching the house for photos of the year's best moments and then sitting down with you to go over them.

5. Countdown!

The countdown to midnight is one of the main highlights of New Year's Eve -- but if your little ones can't make it that long, set up a mini-countdown for them instead. Set a timer for past bedtime (everyone should get to stay up a little later on the last night of the year!) and help your kids mark the hours and then minutes until it rings. If you start early in the afternoon, you can set up a different activity to do on each hour -- like making beaded bracelets, decorating cookies, or having a dance party.

6. Make a DIY balloon drop

Not going to see the ball drop in person? Finish your countdown with a balloon drop that the kids will love. You can buy the supplies at local party shops and big box stores, or create your own using these instructions from Modern Parents, Messy Kids: You'll need netting, tape, balloons, and confetti (if you don't mind the extra cleanup).

7. Cheers!

While you and the rest of the adults are toasting with champagne, give the kids their own special drink -- in plastic champagne glasses, of course. Choose a sparkling cider or other fizzy drink if they want what you're having, or create a kid-friendly concoction just for them: try Vicky Barone's idea of pouring sparkling water or flavored seltzer over cotton candy for a sweet and sugary treat; offering a milk and cookies toast, or serving up root beer floats in fancy cups.