Gone are the days when you waited for New Year's Eve with excited anticipation. No, you are in a different stage of your life now. You are a parent of children. Young children. Ones that can't be left alone while you party hardy with your friends. New Year's Eve and kids are a combination that requires a bit more planning, some patience and perhaps -- just perhaps -- a tip of wine (or champagne).
Though it may seem this way as you approach December 31 with the family, all hope is not lost. There are things that you can do with the kids where you and the little ones can enjoy the celebration.
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1) Special Dinner -- It's the end of the year so celebrate! The kids will surely be in a celebratory mood so why not get them involved in cooking? Get some family-friendly recipes that the children can help you make (including baking a cake or cookies for dessert). Timing is everything: start the baking in the afternoon, the dinner preparation in early evening and sit down for a nice meal a bit later than normal. Do your New Year's Eve with the kids early if the children are on the younger side. If they're old enough to stay up late, let them. This night is not the night to insist that they follow their usual bedtime rules. It's New Year's Eve and staying up to see midnight is part of the fun, after all.
2) Games Tournament -- How about some old-school entertainment for the family? You can always turn off the TV or XBox and gather around the dining room table for a Monopoly championship. If your kids are old enough, consider playing this classic game as it is not only fun, but it takes time (at least a couple of hours) and will get them thinking and strategizing -- which is always a good thing. If the kids are on the younger end of the spectrum, card games are always a favourite, with Go Fish, Crazy Eights and Concentration as great games to keep the little ones occupied.
3) Movie Night -- How about a themed evening of entertainment? After the homemade dinner (see point #1), sit the family down to some old classics as well as some new faves. New Year's Eve can be a wonderful time for families to bond together over the dinner table (see above) and a good movie. As with anything, plan in advance and have your mix of movies ready to go for the big night. That way no time will be wasted deciding on a film that everyone will like.
4) City Festivals and Parties -- The dilemma of "what to do with the kids" has finally sunken in and now most cities have family-friendly activities and entertainment events planned. Whether it's at the city hall grounds, a popular park or similar landmark, for the most part, these fetes are free. Better yet, they are catered to both adults and children, so you'll be guaranteed to have activities that will be enjoyed by the whole family. If you're in a part of the world where it's cold on New Year's Eve, make sure to bundle up the kids so that frostbite doesn't ruin your night out. If you're in a warmer climate, what could be better than ringing in the new year on a beach, or somewhere outside, without a jacket?
5) Museums and Galleries -- Most cities have museums and art galleries that offer special new year events that are specifically geared towards families. Many of these locales offer kid-friendly parties, arts and crafts and live entertainment, often at a discounted rate. Best yet, they often start early in the evening and wrap up just in time to get the kids in bed so that you and your significant other can ring in the new year alone. Check your local listings and make a date with the family for December 31.
6) Family Party With Friends -- There's strength in numbers/surround yourself with like-minded people/misery loves company. Whatever the platitude, you can enjoy New Year's Eve. There are many, just like you, who are dealing with their kids and wondering how to entertain them on the last night of the year. How about a party -- with kids? One of the things that many adults miss when they become parents is the social aspect of getting out. This is often due to the lack of a babysitter, lack of funds or lack of energy. New Year's Eve is the perfect time to reconnect with friends -- those with kids -- who you may not have seen for some time. Invite them and the whole family over for a mini-party (if you don't want it to get too crazy) and get your groove on! Put some movies or music on for the kids, set up some games, have some goodies out, serve some easy buffet-style food (e.g. chili, pizza, etc.) and have fun! Just because you're a parent it doesn't mean that you can't have a good time.
New Year's Eve should be a celebration, mom and dad. With some simple planning you can have lots of fun ringing in the new year with the kids.