Some parents might be making last-minute plans for New Year’s celebrations. This holiday is often a popular time for parties, dinners and late night celebrations, but not all parents will feel like venturing out. Parents might have trouble securing a babysitter at the last minute, while others just want to spend this evening with their family.
When celebrating this festive eve with children, though, how can parents keep them entertained? Little ones might head to bed hours before midnight, but older children can stay wide awake until the clock strikes midnight. Try these 15 New Year’s activities for kids to keep young celebrants busy as they anticipate the awaited—and hyped—countdown to the New Year.
1. Watch a Double-Feature
A New Year’s movie night can be a great way to lead up to the late night countdown. Families can schedule a double-feature, with the movies beginning around dusk. Order in pizza or other takeout or just make something easy for dinner that children can eat as they watch the movie.
Parents also could schedule dinner a little earlier and serve up some classic movie snacks. Pop popcorn and let children enjoy their favorite movie candy, too. Schedule a little break between movies, so everyone can stretch and prepare for the next feature.
Not sure what to watch? Check streaming services or video-on-demand services to find fun movies for kids.
2. Host a Family Game Night
New Year’s Eve is the perfect game night. Grab the family’s favorite board games and have everyone change into cozy pajamas for the night. Let children each pick out a favorite game to play, and parents can pick their favorite, too.
Families also can opt for a kid-friendly ‘card shark’ night. Play family-friendly card games!
3. Write Resolutions
New Year’s is the time for resolutions. Children and parents can sit down and decide on a New Year’s resolution that they would like to make for the coming year. The family also could make one together.
Ideas for family resolutions are: getting active, decreasing tech time, or spending more time together.
4. Cook a Meal Together
Celebrate New Year’s Eve with a big dinner and maybe dessert, too. Cook something special together as a family. Everyone should have a job in the kitchen. Little hands can help with small (and safe) tasks. Recipes also are a great way for children to practice reading and math skills.
Sit down together as a family and eat together. Talk about the year; discuss favorite memories and maybe even some times that weren’t so good. Families also can talk about their hopes for the New Year and what excites them about the future.
5. Make Joy or Blessing Jars
Joy jars, blessing jars or gratitude jars are all the same concept. These simple jars hold moments that bring happiness, and they’re easy to make. Use old glass jars (with the lids) and decorate them with stickers, fabric, paints or anything that might happen to be in the craft drawer at home. Children can decorate their jar any way they want, because it’s what’s inside these jars that is most important!
Starting on January 1, everyone should write one thing for which they are grateful or that made them happy. Every day, add another blessing or joy into the jar. At the end of the year—the next New Year’s Eve—read all the notes. Everyone will have 365 moments of happiness! Then start the tradition again!
6. Make a Calendar!
For children who love crafts, spend New Year’s Eve making a calendar for the year. Parents can print out pages for the months, and children can choose to illustrate each month in their own way.
Pictures or illustrations will be drawn on the back of the previous month to represent the next month. However, January will need a blank piece of paper for its illustration. Parents who are confused on how this should look can just use an old calendar for reference.
7. Dance the Night Away!
Stream some kid-friendly tunes and have a dance party. Plan for an upbeat party and include tunes that will get kids moving.
8. Make Glitter Slime!
Do kids love slime? Make the slime festive for New Year’s with glitter slime! The Best Ideas for Kids has the recipe for gold glitter slime, but kids can make this gooey gross—but pretty—slime in any color. Add rainbow glitter or silver glitter instead of gold!
9. Clean out the Old
When waiting for the hours to creep to midnight, the family can embrace a tradition of getting rid of old relics from the past. Grab a few trash bags and clean out closets or toy bins of items that are no longer needed or wanted.
Families can set a goal that each person has to find 10 items that they don’t need. These items can be clothes, toys or something else. Start fresh and clean out the old!
10. Have a Family Olympics
This is an activity that can be planned at the last minute. Family Olympics can include any sport parents can imagine or dream up. Think of games like:
- Build a pillow fort fastest
- Worm races (squirm like a worm across the floor)
- Hula hoop contests
- Three-legged races
Parents need to consider their space when planning events. If it’s a nice evening, an outdoor Olympics could be feasible, but some may have to play indoors. Choose activities that won’t cause injuries, too. Parents don’t want to end up in the emergency room in the middle of the night!
11. Explore the Night Sky
If it’s a clear night, take children outside and let them explore the cosmos on New Year’s Eve. Parents can download an app called SkyView Lite that uses the phone’s camera to identify the celestial bodies in the sky. Children can learn what constellations and planets are visible on the last night of the year.
12. Plan to Journal a Year of Memories
Buy older children a journal, preferably with a blank cover. These can be purchased at any store; parents can opt for just a paperback journal that is often required for language arts classes. A paper bag can be cut to create a book cover for the journal; children can decorate the plain brown cover however they wish.
The purpose of the journal is to encourage children to write something every day of the year. This is a concept that is similar to the joy jar, but the journal can include more in depth memories. At the end of the year, children can read their own story.
13. Make Some Noise
In some parts of the country, homeowners set off fireworks to celebrate the New Year. Others will just use noisemakers and go outside to make noise at midnight.
Children can create their own New Year’s instruments with items from around the house. If parents have any old plastic Easter eggs lying around, let children decorate them and fill them with beans or rice. That egg is now a noise maker!
14. Plan a Kid-Friendly Toast at Midnight
For kids that are planning to keep their eyes open until the clock hits midnight, let them ring in the New Year in a festive but kid-friendly way. At midnight, parents can sip champagne in fancy flutes while children drink sparkling grape juice from their own special flutes.
Many parents might be hesitant to give children expensive stemware. Opt for plastic flutes for children, or parents can thrift a few fancy flutes! Kids will love the experience.
15. Say Goodnight with New Year’s Stories
Don’t skip the bedtime stories for younger children who can’t stay up to see the New Year. Instead, theme the story time for New Year’s. Visit the library and check out books about New Year celebrations or traditions in other parts of the world.
Parents who are celebrating New Year’s Eve with their children can fill the night with lots of activities to keep them entertained until the countdown begins. Use any—or all—of the above kid-friendly activities for a festive, fun and celebration at home!