My kids have a pretty firm 7:15 bedtime that sees them asleep by 8:00 at the latest. Even during vacation we stick to this. The few times we've slacked off on it (like that night we got lost on vacation and didn't end up at our accommodations until 11:30pm!!) we PAID for it. The kids still woke up at 7:00am and then they were a mess the next day.
All this to say that *HELL, NO* we're not keeping the kids up till midnight on New Year's Eve. Some year we'll be able to enjoy the Grand Parade or Oval celebrations in Halifax with them, but for now we make New Year's Eve a special celebration that ends at their regular bedtime, kind of like Christmas Eve.
Here are some of our favourite ways to celebrate New Year's Eve with little kids who need to be asleep MUCH earlier than midnight.
Tip: We like to do the first three ideas in the days leading up to New Year's Eve to help them understand what they're celebrating on the 31st, and to build some excitement for the day, but you can also do it all in one day for a super big New Year's Eve extravaganza.
BUY A NEW CALENDAR
Yes, yes, we all have our Smart Phones and wall calendars are not as essential as they used to be but a family outing to pick out a fun calendar to hang in a central place is a great way to explain the very abstract concept of a year changing to kids.
On New Year's Day take down the old calendar and hang up the new one. You can follow this up by crossing off each day throughout the year and talking about what the date is every morning and by next year they'll really be primed for this activity.
CREATE FAMILY YEAR-IN-REVIEW ART
Roll out a long piece of paper and create a work of family art that incorporates some of your favourite things over the last year.
Set it up by writing the year that's ending in prominent numbers on the paper. Then note some highlights and milestones for your family in words on the paper. Flip through photos to jog your memory and scroll through your calendars to think about what you may have forgotten. Some milestone examples for the kids may be learning to use the potty, moving to a big kid bed, starting preschool, a special trip, moving to a new house, etc..
Ask the kids about what things they remember and use prompts such as asking them what their favourite part was about a trip or event that happened. You may be surprised at what they think of that you'd forgotten. Write each down on the paper in marker.
Then work together to create accompanying artwork, either using crayons so you don't cover up the marker words, or print out some photos to go with the memories they thought of. Add some scrapbooking stickers or words if you want to jazz it up. For drawings by little ones, you can ask them to tell you about what they've drawn and write out their words beside it. Hang the artwork in a central place and then make sure to save that puppy - it's going to be a special memory down the road!
We all like setting new goals or resolutions around the new year so invite your kids to join in the fun. Talk about the new things they've accomplished this past year and ask them about new things they'd like to learn how to do this year (swinging on a big kid's swing, using the potty) or a habit they'd like to stop (sucking their thumb, forgetting to clean up their toys).
Write them out on a special New Years Goals chart (don't forget to include a couple of your own!) and come up with a plan such as a sticker chart and a reward to try to achieve it, starting on New Year's Day.
Tip: If you make a reward chart for your own goals, those kids are going to MAKE SURE you stick to it so you earn your stickers. There's not much more kids love than keeping a parent accountable!
HAVE A PARTY!
What's New Year's Eve without a party? Even if it ends at 7, you can still live it up that afternoon and early evening!
New Year Gear: Buy or craft some special glasses, hats or crowns to wear with the new year on it (lots of glitter is a good idea for a New Year's party).
New Year Birthday Cake: Bake a special New Year's birthday cake with the kids to have for dessert; buy number candles to put the new year on it.
Special Supper: Have something fun for supper (a selection of kid-friendly appetisers, roast hot dogs over a fireplace or backyard fire, make your own mini pizzas).
Get Fancy: Pull out the fanciest clothes you have (think wedding gowns, old prom dresses, bridesmaid gowns, suits, tuxes) and really get dolled up for the party. Have manicures and pedicures with the kids and let them wear your make-up if they want.
Party Time: Put on some fun tunes and have a dance off, play a kid-friendly board game, or do some New Year's crafts (such as the hats above or photo booth props below).
Make a Year-End Photo Booth: Grab some supplies from the dress-up bin (or craft your own or visit the local bargain store), create a back-drop with craft paper or bristol board with the year in sparkly numbers, and, voila!, You have your own photo booth to take silly photos.
Mocktails: Get some plastic champagne glasses and sparkling (non-alcoholic) cider or mix up some Shirley Temples so the kiddos to join in on some new year toasts. Kids LOVE to do a rousing "Cheers" and clink their glasses.
Countdown: Do your own countdown with numbers on pieces of paper or turn on the Netflix one that you can start whenever you want.
Celebrate: If you're really brave, throw some confetti around or just blast noisemakers or holler out your front door like I used to do as a kid. Your neighbours will probably be confused but what's New Years without a little odd behaviour from your neighbours?
We here at Itsy Bitsy Haligonians hope you have had a wonderful year with your wee ones and that the upcoming year is even better.