10 Ways to Make New Year's Eve With Kids a Countdown of Family Fun

Published October 17, 2021
family celebrating new years eve together

Remember your roaring twenties when New Year's Eve was a dressy affair with friends, Champagne, and a very late bedtime? If you have children, your New Year's Eve celebrations might look vastly different from those pre-child days. However, you can still have a fun-filled, fantastic New Year's Eve with your kids by doing these creative activities to keep everyone entertained until the big countdown.

Celebrate New Year's Eve Around the World

Each part of the world celebrates the start of a new year a little differently. In Spain, people eat 12 grapes to signify good luck in the upcoming year. The Chinese dine on long noodles because they symbolize luck and longevity. People in the southern parts of the United States make sure to include black-eyed peas in their meal, since they are thought to bring prosperity in the new year.

Food isn't the only way different cultures exhibit hopes for a lucky and prosperous new year. Brazilians wear white, other South American countries wear specific underwear colors, each with a different meaning behind them, and the Greeks hang onions from their front doors. Take a few of these global inspired New Year's traditions, teach your children where they occur and why people engage in them, and add some enlightenment to your festivities.

Make a New Year's Resolution Tree

Chances are your Christmas tree is still sitting in the living room. Take your bulbs and ornaments down, but leave the tree up for a few more days. Kids can spend New Year's Eve turning the tree from a Christmas tree into a Resolution tree. Have everyone think of a handful of resolutions they's like to make in the new year. Encourage children to make resolutions for:

  • School or academics
  • Sports or extracurricular activities
  • Relationships with family and friends
  • Something they want to try or learn in the upcoming year

Write the resolutions down on cardstock, punch a hole through the cardstock, and string pipe cleaner or ribbon through the hole. Hang all the family resolutions from the tree for everyone to read in the upcoming week. When it's time to toss the tree or take it down, save the cards, and attach them to a large poster board, a wall in your home, or a door.

Work on a Year in Review Art Project

New Year's Eve wraps up an entire year of family outings, birthdays, holidays, performances, and other celebrations and milestones. For a low-key family activity, stay in your pajamas or sweatpants and get out the scrapbook materials. Create a family yearbook or scrapbook of the brood's big happenings over the past year. Work on each page together, or designate certain events to each family member to curate as an addition to the final product.

Get Dressed Up Like Belles of the Ball

family having formal new years eve dinner toast drinks

Kids love a rousing game of dress-up, and New Year's Eve is an opportune time to lean into that activity. Let everyone put on their finest frocks (or superhero costumes) and come to dinner looking like a million bucks. Just because you aren't spending the evening at a five-star restaurant doesn't mean you can't look like you are! Serve up dinner on your fanciest dinnerware, light candles, and pour juice into plastic Champagne glasses. Create an upscale evening right from the comfort of your home.

Get Crazy With Confetti

It wouldn't be New Year's Eve without confetti! That said, confetti and kids can be really messy, and you might find yourself cleaning up bits and specks throughout the entire new year if you let the children go wild with it. Consider working in a few family-friendly confetti crafts that bring all the colorful fun but keep the mess at bay, like making confetti slime or creating confetti ornaments.

Have a Movie Marathon

Nothing beats a good movie marathon when you're spending an evening in with the kids. If you're trying to make it to midnight, fill the time with some classic family movies that everyone will enjoy. If your gang goes gaga over Disney, there will be no shortage of movies there to choose from either. Consider letting each of the kids pick a movie to watch. If you have several children, you may want to spread the movies out during the day so you don't run out of time later in the night.

Put out favorite movie snacks, cozy up in comfy clothes, and ring in another year relaxing by the television. You can cap this night off by having a giant slumber party in the living room. Family sleepovers are certainly something no one in the family will soon forget.

Play New Year's Eve Games

Design a game night with the New Year's Eve holiday in mind. Create a New Year's Eve scavenger hunt for the gang to enjoy. Include words like:

  • Champagne glass
  • Confetti
  • Dessert
  • Picture of NYC
  • Sparkly material
  • Party hat
  • The word "Cheers"

You can also pay Name That Tune, playing 20 seconds of popular songs that made their debut throughout the year. Allow players to guess the name of the song and earn bonus points for naming the artist. Or, get inspired by the year's pop culture icons and play Who Am I? This is a game where everyone gets a sticky note with a pop culture icon's name on it. They place the note onto their back or forehead and ask for clues of their person until they can guess who it is.

Create Countdown Grab Bags

children wearing fun glasses on new years eve

Give the kids something to look forward to for every hour they celebrate before the new year begins. Fill a bag with something special, like a treat or a small activity, and seal it tight. On the bag, write: Open at 7 p.m. (or whatever time you choose to begin the activity). You will have one mystery bag per hour, per child, so be sure to create these well before the big day. Tailor the contents of the bag to the ages of your kids, but consider adding some of the following items:

  • A small coloring activity
  • A yummy snack
  • Party poppers
  • Hat and shiny necklace
  • Fuzzy socks
  • Silly New Year's Eve glasses to wear
  • Puzzles or word games (older children)

Head Outside for a Lights Display

family with sparklers on new years eve

Celebrate the stroke of midnight with lights. Kids will think the evening is a true treat when they get to run outside at midnight (or whatever time you "deem" midnight is) and put on a backyard light show. Purchase glow sticks for kids to wear as necklaces, wristbands, or headbands, and buy lots of sparklers. (When using sparklers, lay out some ground rules for safety, and always supervise children closely). Watch the kids' faces light up with joy!

Have a Rousing Dance Party

Whether you and your family have chosen to dress up for the evening, or you're all in your coziest pajamas, a dance party on New Year's Eve is a must. Kids love letting loose in the living room and bopping around with siblings and parents. Because this is New Year's Eve, be sure to choose music that has grown popular over the past year. Celebrate the start of a new year and each other with everyone's favorite hits from the last 365 days.

The Most Important Component of the Night

No matter what activities you choose to work into your family's New Year's Eve celebration, be sure you focus on the people you are with. Sometimes just being together is the most meaningful activity of all, and everything else is icing on the cake. When choosing your evening's activities, take into account the time you will have, and your children's ages and interests. Design a night full of joy, family, and fun that the kids will remember for years to come.

10 Ways to Make New Year's Eve With Kids a Countdown of Family Fun