If you have young children, a New Year’s Eve of party hopping and staying out until sunrise is probably a rare indulgence. Babysitters are hard to come by (and expensive). And when kids burst into your bedroom at 6am with all the pep and verve of the nascent year, you have to wonder if staying for that last round was a wise choice. Kids are so loud.
This year, consider putting all that youthful volume to use: throw a family-friendly NYE party!
Chances are that your friends with kids are also debating what to do (possibly resigned to a glass of bubbly in their pajamas around 9pm). So get those friends together, get dressed up, and get your groove on!
Since I know you can throw an incredible party, here are some tips to turn that soirée into a raging kid-friendly NYE blowout.
What’s your ideal ball-drop time? We like 8:00pm Pacific: late enough for preschoolers to feel fancy, early enough to get them to bed before they short-circuit. Do a little time-zone math and, voila: Puerto Rico! You’re celebrating the New Year with an entire island of awesomeness. Need earlier? 7:00pm and celebrate with Buenos Aires. Older kids can probably boogie down with NYC. Consider letting your time-zone city inspire your menu and decorating.
Cook to your regional theme or stick with traditional NYE canapés. Regardless, make sure you mix delicious adult fare with kid-pleasing “fancy” dishes like cheese or fruit pops, mac and cheese cupcakes, and mini pretzel dogs. For dessert this year, I’m making these adorable Confetti Countdown Cookies, by Repeat Crafter Me. Or set out a DIY ice cream sundae bar.
In addition to adult bevvies, have fruit-flavored sparkling water and plastic cups and provide markers so kids can decorate their own. Don’t expect kids to toast at the big moment, they’ll be too busy going insane. Save the toast for when things calm down, or better yet, toast earlier. Another crowd pleaser is a DIY hot cocoa bar with different flavor chocolate and all the fixings: marshmallows, mini chips, caramel sauce, cinnamon, and candy canes or Pepperidge Farm Pirouettes for stirring.
Upon arrival, give kids a crown or top hat or have them make their own crowns from an assortment of sparkly pipe cleaners. Steer quieter kids to a DIY bead necklace table. They’ll love accessorizing everyone’s elegant attire.
Every half hour or so, try one of these:
Wish Wall Craft
On shiny star-shaped paper, ask kids to write down their wishes for the New Year. Have masking tape handy and create a New Year’s wish wall. (Then use this as your photo booth backdrop.)
Bubble Wrap Dance Break
Put on some dance tunes, give each kid a big piece of bubble wrap to stomp, and watch your party turn into a rave. (Reuse that bubble wrap from online holiday shopping!)
Give each child a cup with instant snow crystals at the bottom. Pour in water and create some cold-weather magic in the Bay Area.
Traditional Holiday Crackers
Give kids a cracker with their dinner plate. They can pop it, wear the crown, treasure the trinket, and discuss their fortunes.
A great way to get out energy – buy extra for when they pop. But be careful that the littles aren’t overpowered by older kids.
When the adults need a little peace and quiet and food and beverages, change the kids into pajamas. Pile pillows and blankets on the floor and let them get cozy. Use the search feature on Common Sense Media to select an age-appropriate movie.
Make a countdown bag for each child. Hand out the bags about 5-7 minutes before the big countdown. Fill the bags with glow sticks, noisemakers, streamer throwers or confetti (depending upon your mess-threshold), and a small non-choking treat. Consider a DIY balloon drop for the big moment or buy a balloon drop kit.
If you’re celebrating earlier than 9:00pm Pacific, have a recorded ball drop cued up to stream on your TV or iPad. Search for a specific year on YouTube: the birth year of a lucky kid or oldest adult. I like celebrating 1999 to 2000 (or 2001, if you’re a purist) because if you’re going to party in the past, go millennium.
I guarantee that a room full of kids with balloons, glow sticks, and noisemakers will be louder and rowdier than Times Square. Let them go crazy, and then get them to bed. You might just start your year with a quiet cup of coffee waiting for them to wake up.
Happy New Year!