Family-Friendly New Year’s Eve Ideas

When I was a kid, my dad (who was divorced from Mom) would drive my sister and I to our grandma’s house the day after Christmas, and we’d stay until New Year’s Day. For years, Grandma invited over our cousins, aunts and uncles for a family-friendly New Year’s Eve party. There were no big activities, just lots of eating, watching football, playing cards or board games, and then blowing our horns as the ball dropped. Those parties were so exciting, because when else were we allowed to stay up with the adults until midnight?

Now I have three kids of my own, and ever since they reached elementary school, my husband and I have been letting them stay up (as long as they can make it) on New Year’s Eve. We either invite other families to “party” with us or do it on our own, but either way, I try to make it fun for the kids and recreate the excitement of my own New Year’s Eves gone by.

The Family That Plays Together …

One year, we did a family game tournament, and my boys loved it. First, we drew straws to pick the teams. Then we chose four different games – air hockey, Twister, Sorry and a kid-friendly version of the college game Flip Cup (we lined plastic cups on either side of a rectangular table and raced to see who could flip each cup upside down and reach the finish line faster). We kept a running tally of the night’s scores, and the winning team was gifted with bragging rights, which in a family full of competitive boys (including my husband) was prize enough.

Sing in the New Year

I think it was the wise philosopher Madonna who said, “Music makes the people come together.” It’s true that I have a bit of a karaoke addiction, but whenever I bring out my karaoke machine, people do tend to come together, just before they start fighting over the microphones. Last year, we were invited to a friend’s house for a multi-generational party, just like the kind my grandma used to have. But Grandma didn’t have a karaoke machine with 10,000 crowd-pleasing hits from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s — all the way up to today’s current music! The young and the old had a blast taking turns with the microphones, and everyone sang and danced along, even if they weren’t the ones “performing” the song.

Strike a Pose for Auld Lang Syne

A homemade photo booth is a cute idea at any party, and there are lots of New Year-themed props you can buy, or you can even print your own. We put up a huge “Happy New Year” banner whenever we’re hosting and take turns goofily posing in front of it with things like top hats, wigs, fake mustaches, and party hats and horns.

New Year Time Capsule

I love this idea I read about on the blog The Idea Room, so much that I’m making it a new tradition this year! We already do a thankfulness box for Thanksgiving, which is in a way like a time capsule, because we write down everything we’re thankful for leading up to Thanksgiving, and then we read them aloud at the dinner table on Thanksgiving. Each year, I save the notes so we can read them the following November when I get out the box. This New Year time capsule is similar in that you look back on the year, but not just at what you’re thankful for. I found some printable questions to hand out (What was your favorite trip? What was a funny moment from the year? What was your biggest mistake? What was something you learned?), and after everyone writes down their thoughts, I’ll put them in a Mason jar with a little family picture and the year 2016 printed on it. It will be neat just reading over everyone’s answers, and I think it’s a perfect way to reflect on the year. Next year, we’ll open up the Mason jar, read all of our memories and write down our new ones!

Light It Up

There are few occasions when my kids get to stay up really late; the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve are pretty much it! So on both holidays, I get lots of glow toys like glow sticks, big balloons that light up with glow sticks in the middle, blinking rings and even wardrobe accessories like these glow gloves that are all the rage in my neighborhood. (They’re also a great gift for under $10!)

Munch the Night Away

For the last hurrah of the holiday season, you really can’t go wrong with any type of snack. I personally am so wiped out from Christmas that I don’t get very fancy. Pizza, chicken tenders, a veggie tray, and chips and dips will do. A cute idea for dessert is to get several canisters of cinnamon bun dough, and instead of pulling the buns apart, make the number 2016 out of them, bake and slather on the icing!

Take a Cup of Kindness Yet

Adults may want to drink something a little more bubbly when the ball drops, and the kids will want to be part of the toasting and clinking too. Get out some plastic champagne flutes and fill them with sparkling apple cider. You can even drop in some colorful gummy bears or rock candy stirrers for a color and taste explosion.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of planning, money or effort to make your family’s New Year’s Eve celebrations fun and special. Whatever your traditions, the best part of ringing in another year is doing it with the ones you love.

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