New Year's Eve Ideas for Families: Themes, Games and Beyond

Updated August 27, 2021
New years party and games

Ring in the New Year with the people nearest and dearest to your heart. Whether you celebrate December 31st in the comfort of your home or from a faraway destination, you can easily pull together a New Year family celebration filled with festive foods, games, and activities. Create a New Year's Eve bash that's as unique as your family itself.

Family-Friendly Themes

Pick a New Year's Eve party theme to make your celebration memorable and fun. Play on the countless ways New Year's Eve is celebrated, or brainstorm ideas related to the holiday to develop a theme that everyone will enjoy.

New Year's Eve Around the World

Different parts of the world ring in the New Year in various ways. Research New Year's Eve traditions and customs for several countries, choosing a few customs to work into your own evening. Kids will love trying new things and learning about how people around the world party.

  • Go Greek and make a traditional Vaselopita, or cake, decorated with blue and white details. Play a few Greek folk games during your Greek New Year's party portion of the evening.
  • Celebrate the Chinese New Year by gathering the gang and cleaning the house before the clock strikes midnight. Chinese people believe this tradition rids homes of negative energy. Decorate one room in red and serve up some extra-long Asian noodles as part of your New Year's Eve meal.
  • Party like they do in Scotland on Hogmanay, or New Year's Eve, by singing Auld Lang Syne. Stand in a circle holding hands and then snack on the traditional fruitcake called a black bun.
  • Tap into Thai culture with a practice called Songkran, a three-day water festival and the New Year's national holiday in Thailand. During this time, people tie strings to the wrists of others to signify respect. Make simple friendship bracelets with your family to play on the custom.
  • Gather up a bundle of grapes and celebrate New Year's Eve as the Spanish do. It is customary in this part of the world to eat 12 grapes before the clock strikes midnight. Each grape signifies one month of good luck for the person consuming it.
  • The people of Denmark smash plates and jump off chairs to banish bad spirits and leap into a new year. You won't want your kids ruining your dinnerware, but consider buying paper plates and tossing them around for fun.
Midnight on New year's eve in Spain

It's New Year's, Baby

Use the iconic New Year's baby as inspiration for your entire celebration. Everyone will giggle at the innovative ways you are able to work this New Year's Eve aspect into your family celebration.

  • Serve pureed foods and drink soda or juice from baby bottles.
  • Play with classic baby toys like blocks, and build a Jenga block tower.
  • Play baby shower games like the dirty diaper game where you guess which chocolate candy was mashed up into a diaper.
  • Play a round of charades, with clues centering around all things baby. Use words like: stroller walk, tummy time, nap, leaning to crawl, installing a car seat, and dressing an infant in your game.
  • Watch a movie based on babies. Go with a classic flick like Look Who's Talking or something more current like Boss Baby.

Look to the Future

New Year's is all about looking to the future. Play on the concept of a futuristic world during your New Year's Eve celebration. Build in futuristic ideas with your dress, foods, games, and activities you think might be common 50 or 100 years from now.

  • Watch the film Back to the Future.
  • Have everyone make their own costume that represents a futuristic style of dress as they might interpret it.
  • Get a Ouija board or hire a local psychic to do readings for each family member. Remember that Ouija boards can focus on lighthearted and funny topics.
  • Use LEGO or craft materials to build your interpretation of cars from the future.
  • Whip out paper and colored pencils and design a futuristic house or city.

New Year's Games

No matter where you choose to celebrate or what theme you pick, these New Year's Eve games will keep everyone occupied while you wait for the big countdown. Select a couple of fun-filled activities to keep the party going as you wait for the ball to drop.

Real or Fake Resolutions

Similar to the Two Truths and a Lie game, each person writes down three resolutions. One should be their actual New Year's resolution for the upcoming year, and the other two should be fakes. Take turns to see who can guess which resolution is real.

Good Luck Charm Scavenger Hunt

Turn a list of good luck charms into a quick scavenger hunt. Challenge family members to take selfies with each item they find in or around the house, restaurant, or wherever you are. The person who finds the most items within a given time limit, or returns after finding all items the fastest, is the winner.

Good luck charms list on clipboard

Minute to Win It

Take advantage of the New Year's Eve clock theme and play Minute to Win It style games. These games are meant to be quick and silly. There is an endless supply of these one-minute challenges available online, so you could play all night.

Trivia Game Show

Choose any game show format and use New Year's trivia questions and answers to play. Formats that work best for families are Jeopardy and Family Feud. One person will have to be the host, but everyone else can compete.

Who Am I?

Everyone in your group or family gets a sticky note. They must write down the name of a famous person on the note. The celebrity you write down must be current, meaning they have made headlines within the recent year for one reason or another. Sticky notes get put on the back or forehead of the person to the writer's left. Take turns asking the group questions to help you figure out the name that has been attached to you.

Activities for New Year's Eve

Pass the time with crafts and projects your family can enjoy long after the celebration ends.

Sisters sticking adhesive notes on forehead while sitting in living room at home

Customized Countdown Balls

Make personalized countdown balls with glue, glitter, card stock, and your computer printer. Each person can color and decorate their own ball; then, everyone can "drop" them together at midnight.

Fortune Cookie Hide and Seek

Make a paper fortune cookie for each person and hide them around the house. Set a timer and see who can find their personalized fortune the fastest. To make it fair, one person can hide everyone else's cookie; then, a different person can hide the original hider's cookie.

Family Time Capsule

Start a family time capsule, but bury it in the back of a closet instead of underground. This way, you can pull it out every New Year's Eve and add new things. Start by having each family member choose one item that represents who they are right now to add.

New Year's Cards

Print, decorate, write messages, and send New Year's cards instead of Christmas cards this year. Give extended family members a recap of your past year and your contact information for the future.

New Year's Card Designs

Create a New Year's Eve Photo Booth

Using a large cardboard or store-bought backdrop, festive props, and a Polaroid camera, create a fun photo booth for your family to get silly and snap pics.

Name That Song

Before your gathering, you will want to create a playlist of hit songs over the last year. During your New Year's Eve celebration, play each song and see who can name the song and the artist. Award five points to the person who can name both, and one point to anyone who can name either the song or the artist. The person with the most points wins.

Festive Foods to Bring Good Luck

It seems that some foods are luckier than others! Build a New Year's Eve buffet built around the idea of good luck. These foods have been known to up people's chances of favorable fortune. Give them a try; they are definitely worth a shot!

  • Black-eyed peas - Consumption of black-eyed peas on New Year's has long been synonymous with prosperity, especially in parts of the South.
  • A pork-based dish - Pork is supposed to signify progress, something everyone can hope for in the upcoming year.
  • A fish dish - People all over the world eat fish around the New Year. While different pockets of the globe eat different fish in various ways, the message is the same: fish are associated with abundance.
  • Noodles - There are a million ways to prepare noodles. Choose one and teach your kids that in the Chinese culture, noodles represent a long life, especially when they are not broken during feasting.
  • Rice - Some parts of the world associate rice with wealth and fertility. Create a rice recipe to complement one of your fish or pork dishes.
  • Pomegranate beverages - Serve up a healthy dose of pomegranate juice for the kids. The adults can try a delicious and festive pomegranate martini. In Greek culture, pomegranates serve as a symbol of luck and fertility. It is Greek tradition to throw a pomegranate at the front door on New Year's Eve. The more seeds that tumble out, the more luck a family will be blessed with.
Japanese New year Cuisine, baked red snapper

The Happiest New Year

The New Year's Eve traditions in your family should center on having fun with the people you love the most, as a means to bring good luck and joy to the whole family. Start a few new traditions that can carry over year after year, and make sure to test out a couple of new ideas each year, always building on what you have created.

New Year's Eve Ideas for Families: Themes, Games and Beyond