New Year's Eve has always held a lot of expectations. The pressure to do something epic and memorable was exciting in the days I was single and free — a night I looked forward to planning with my friends each year. But after kids came on the scene, there were suddenly more factors to consider. Can I find a babysitter willing stay until after midnight? How early will these kids wake up the next morning? Staying home became the new normal, because it was easier. Luckily, there are plenty of fun New Year’s Eve activities for families that parents who choose to stay home can enjoy with their kids.
One of the best things about having a family New Year's Eve at home, is that you set the terms for the night. Your family can eat dinner in pajamas, play some games, share some New Year's resolutions, and have the little ones in bed by 10, giving you plenty of time to pop champagne (or go to bed yourself — no judgement here.)
Whatever you plan is, staying home together for New Year's Eve can be far from boring. Toss some surprises into the mix with traditions this year, and try out these 11 fun family activities for when the clock strikes midnight.
1. Have A Countdown
Want to bump-up the end of year countdown to way earlier than midnight? Login to Netflix and let the kids choose a countdown, hosted by their favorite characters — anytime on New Year's Eve night. They don't have to know it's only 9 o'clock.
2. Host A Scavenger Hunt
Create a fun scavenger hunt around the house, and give kids clues to find where fun New Year's Eve items are hidden. Stash items like noise makers, sparklers, and plastic Champagne glasses (for sparkling apple cider, of course) around the house and leave a trail of cryptic clues for the kids to decode. To add some excitement, set a timer to see how fast they can complete the hunt.
3. Create A Memory Jar
A few years ago, a friend told me about this tradition in her family and I have enjoyed doing it since. All you need is a large jar (or box), some scraps of paper, and a pen. Have everyone write down all of their favorite memories from the past year on the paper scraps, then share them with the family before placing them in the jar. Label the jar with the year and save in a safe place.
While you're at it, you can create one for the new year and add slips of paper with special events, milestones, and fun memories as they occur through the year. Then, on New Year's Eve, open up the jar and reminisce.
4. Battle With Silly String
After the clock strikes 12, release any lingering energy with a Silly String battle. Head outside, hand everyone a can, and see who can escape without any string on them. Pick up this Silly String Spray Streamer, 12 pack ($24), and have enough for everyone to double fist.
5. Make A Toast To The New Year
Raise a glass as a family and toast to the new year. Have everyone take a turn saying something they hope for the year to come — maybe a goal they hope to accomplish, a place they want to visit, or a fear they wish to overcome.
6. Dance In The New Year
After the countdown has ended, crank up the tunes and shake it. Split into teams and dance battle or just pile the whole family onto your in-house dance floor and groove 'til you drop.
7. Set Fireworks Ablaze
If you live somewhere that doesn't allow you to set off full blown fireworks, think small scale and light some sparklers. Kids still love things that are sparkly, glowing, and on fire — and these classic New Year's Eve pyrotechnics will not disappoint.
8. Cook A "Fancy" Dinner
Skip the crowds and opt for a fancy dinner at home. Go all out and make a meal that would normally be on the menu in a top notch restaurant. (Or if cooking's not your thing, order take out from a nice venue.) Maybe you choose to dress up or maybe you all savor this special meal in your coziest jammies? Either way, it feels significant and the kids will always remember the uniqueness of the dinner.
9. Chow On Good Luck Bread
Order up a Vasilopita ($13), the traditional New Year's bread of Greece, and take your chance at finding the good luck token. This sweet loaf contains a coin that is meant to bring good luck to the person whose piece it is hidden in.
10. Have A Family Slumber Party
Drag your sleeping bags, air mattresses, and fuzzy blankets into the family room and settle in for a family sleepover. Watch a movie, tell ghost stories, or talk about your hopes for the year ahead. No matter what you choose to do, you're doing it as a family and that is the best way to ring in the new year.
11. Exchange Good Luck Gifts
Get your New Year's Eve on like the ancient Romans and exchange nuts and coins to usher in good fortune. According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, this is just one tradition of giving New Year's gifts as a symbol of prosperity. Different cultures have different ideas about which gift will ring in a happy new year — so if you're looking for fertility, hope to receive eggs. But if it's luck you're after, make sure to ask for silverware.