Whether you’re planning a New Year’s Eve celebration for the immediate family or including a dozen of your closest friends and their children, a kid-friendly party doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it can be far more entertaining than an adults-only soiree! Incorporate some of these nine ideas to keep the evening fun for all ages.
1. Let’s Get Things Poppin’
If your New Year’s Party is all about the kiddos, it helps to have an action plan so the kids have something to keep them busy on through to the new year. Make the evening fun by working with New Year’s countdown balloons, each marked with a different time and stuffed with a note indicating a fun activity. For instance, 7 p.m. might be time to make personal pizzas; 7:45 as time to decorate T-shirts with puffy paints, 9:30 for sparklers outside, and so on, all the way up to just before midnight. (This can also be tailored to kids too young to stay up until midnight, as it gives them plenty to do until bedtime.)
To create the balloons, print out tasks on small slips of paper, similar to the fortunes in fortune cookies. Place the first activity slip in the first balloon, then write the time on the balloon with marker; if you’re making snacks at 7:30, the balloon should say 7:30. Continue filling and writing on the balloons in consecutive order, then tie all the inflated balloons to a long ribbon or piece of fishing line and string it up near the ceiling. Let the kids take turns popping the balloons at the appropriate time.
2. DIY Party Hats and Noisemakers
Crafting keeps the kids – and adults – busy for what could seem like a long night. Making party hats and noisemakers gives everyone something to wear and play with when the countdown to the new year finally reaches zero. Provide printed templates for the party hat shape, as well as colorful poster board, scissors, tape or glue and decorative embellishments for every hat. Pom-poms, gold pipe cleaners, craft feathers, puffy paint and glitter can be used to embellish the hats. Also provide ribbon or elastic to make straps for each hat.
To make simple noisemakers, crease one end of a straw, cut the creased end into a point, then blow into the pointed end to make a shrill sound. Decorate the straws with glitter or sequins and glue, avoiding the mouth end. Make more noisemakers by filling clear plastic Christmas balls with beads, then taping the seams shut, or by stringing jingle bells on ribbon and wrapping the ribbons around wooden craft sticks.
3. Dance-off Dance Party
Host a dance contest for all ages to kick the hilarity level up to eleven. Move all the furniture to the perimeter of the room, then play some tunes that are sure to get the crowd dancing. Create a Soul Train line with guests lined up on either side of the room, with one guest at a time parading down the center to show off their moves. Hold a lip sync or karaoke contest as well, offering random dollar-store trinkets as prizes. (The toy and party favor aisles are excellent sources of goofy giveaways.) Make the evening even more fun by lighting things up with an inexpensive rotating party light, disco ball or blacklight. Provide glow bracelets and fluorescent trinkets to make the evening even more special for the kids.
4. Play Dress Up
Preschool kids in particular love dressing up – especially in outfits that are wild, wonderful and full of color. Turn a small New Year’s Eve gathering into a dress-up party (for the kiddos, anyway). While the adults may opt for their fave suits and black dresses, the kids can sport their tutus, Halloween costume gowns or even a tiny tuxedo with a homemade cape. Don’t forget the tiaras and crowns. Hit the party-supply store (or dollar store) to stock up on tiaras, feather boas, crowns and party baubles in advance.
5. Make Time for Mocktails
No matter what the adults are into, even the kids deserve to drink something special for this festive occasion. Fizzy, sparkly drinks – complete with umbrellas, mint sprigs or maraschino cherries – help celebrate the evening. Serve the drinks in plasticware designed to look just like glass champagne flutes, martini glasses or wine glasses to let the kids feel all grown up.
Here’s a great list of mocktail ideas, such as a holiday Shirley or a strawberry fizzyade, made with equal parts lemonade and ginger ale and a dollop of minced strawberries. Make a pitcher of mock sangria by putting a cup each of raspberries and blueberries in a pitcher, along with thin apple slices. Add a can each of club soda and ginger ale, then fill the pitcher the rest of the way with apple cider and stir the mixture. Be sure to pour a little fruit into each glass along with the drinks. Include twisty or colorful straws for an added playful touch.
6. Board Game Bonanza
Before the days of apps and console gaming, board games offered a great way to while away the hours. Grab a stack of classic and favorite board games from the closet – or ask partygoers to bring one of their own favorites – and set the games up on card tables or the kitchen table. Guests can play whenever and with whomever they choose as the night goes on. A few game ideas, for starters: classics such as Monopoly, Boggle or Clue, or nouveau classics such as Bananagrams or even Jenga. Giant Jenga can also be a great game for the night if you have extra space to set it up.
7. Build a Blanket Fort
What child (and inner child) doesn’t love a blanket fort? A fort is the perfect stay-up-late structure for your non-adult guests to share a kid-approved hang space. Even teenagers will appreciate having a space of their own to watch movies, talk or even fall asleep. Turn an entire room such as a den or spare bedroom into a fort using lightweight blankets, spare sheets and clothespins or binder clips to hold the fort materials together. Plug in some rope lighting and provide the guests with glow bracelets or glow sticks and balloons to make their own glowing balloons.
8. Photo Booth Fun
Set up a corner of the room as the photo booth, complete with a backdrop and photo accessories such as the token hipster lips or mustache-on-a-stick, assorted hats, random Halloween costume bits, etc. The backdrop can be a chalkboard with hand-doodled design, or even a large sheet of leftover gift wrap. Appoint one person as the photographer for a while and snap away, using an instant-print camera or even a phone. Post the photos online for all to see afterwards
9. DIY Balloon Drop
A midnight balloon drop makes the moment even more special for the kids. To make your own balloon-drop setup, purchase a paper tablecloth and cut it in half. Stitch the halves together with a length of ribbon to make a “zipper pull” for the big moment. Attach the tablecloth to the ceiling with removable adhesive such as Command strips, leaving some slack in the tablecloth to make a pouch for the balloons. Carefully stuff the balloons between the tablecloth and ceiling, mixing in some large confetti, if you like. Appoint one person – perhaps the winner of the dance contest – to be the official balloon drop master. At midnight, the master of the drop gets to unleash the balloons.