By Maggie Debelius
"New Year's Eve celebrations are often adult-only events, but kids get excited about the big night as well. Because babysitters are scarce and restaurant prices are high on December 31, it makes more sense to celebrate with the kids. Many communities now host family-friendly First Night celebrations with fireworks, music and games, but you can also have lots of fun staying home.
Whether you decide to host a neighborhood party or just cozy up with your family, make it a New Year's Eve to remember with these tips for a kid-friendly celebration.
Ring in the Noon Year
Many children can't (or shouldn't) stay up until midnight, so count down until the noon year. Bring out the noisemakers, pour a sparkling apple cider toast, and count down to the stroke of 12 p.m. on December 31. If you have several young children over to celebrate, they can make posterboard numbers (10-9-8-7-6…) to hold up as you count down the seconds.
Travel the Time Zones
It's always midnight somewhere in the world, so set clocks around the house to ring in the New Year in other time zones. Research New Year's customs around the globe (in Spain they begin the New Year by eating twelve grapes, in Japan they laugh in the New Year) and celebrate accordingly (while still getting the kids to sleep at a decent hour).
Bring on the Noise
Preparing for the party is half the fun, so get kids involved in making festive decorations. They can create their own noisemakers by filling plastic water bottles with rice or lentils and covering the bottles with colored paper, glitter and other decorations.
Don't have any empty water bottles? Make a joyful noise by banging pots and pans together when the clock strikes 12.
It wouldn't be New Year's Eve without silly hats, so gather supplies for making them. Raid the recycling bin for newspaper, leftover wrapping paper, ribbons, cardboard, paper plates and other materials. Award a prize for the silliest, the most creative, the prettiest, etc.
Plan a series of games around the Father Time theme. For example, in Hide the Clock adults conceal a ticking clock somewhere in the room, then call the kids in to find it. Bonus points go to the team that locates the clock before the alarm goes off!
Putting away the holiday decorations can be one of the saddest parts of the season for young children (and adults) who can't bear to wait another year for the fun to begin again.
Turn the chore into a party by transforming the Christmas tree into a Resolution Tree. Enlist the kids' help to pack away the decorations and then help them write resolutions on small note cards. Suggest family goals like eating healthy, exercising more and arguing less. Leave the lights on the tree and tie the note cards on the branches with bits of blue ribbon to usher in the New Year.
Thanks for the Memories
Spend the evening creating a family time capsule with mementoes of special events. Pack a shoebox or empty tennis ball canister with keepsakes like photographs, blue ribbons, drawings and written memories of the top ten moments of the year. You can also capture the memories in a family scrapbook.
Because many youngsters resist the urge to get to bed before midnight but still need to doze, set up a family campout in the living room. Pillows, sleeping bags, stuffed animals, a few good DVDs and each other's company will make the night a winner.
Drop the Ball
If you can't make it to Times Square, have the kids craft their own ball to drop at midnight. Buy a large Styrofoam ball at the craft store as well as straight pins or craft glue and multicolor sequins. Push a chenille or pipe cleaner stem into the center of the ball and decorate the ball, using the pins to attach the sequins (younger children can use craft glue). Tie a long piece of ribbon to the chenille stem and attach the ball to the ceiling; cut the ribbon at the stroke of 12.
You can engineer a different kind of ball drop by hanging a paper tablecloth from the ceiling with duct or masking tape. Fill it with balloons and pull it down at midnight for a festive celebration.