Celebrity party planner Marley Majcher, aka The Party Goddess, offers one big piece of advice — preplan. "The less preplanning you do, the more the kids are in your hair the night of the party," says Majcher. "For the under-21 group — because drinking is not part of the equation — focus on three kid-friendly areas: Food, beverages and activities."
The food may be out for several hours, so select edibles that hold up over time. Majcher recommends tamales and tacos, pasta dishes, homemade pizza and kid-friendly wrap sandwiches and food bars.
Beverages are the thing at many grown-ups' New Year's Eve parties, and kids want to imitate their parents. Choose a signature fancy beverage that everyone will enjoy, but provide options like juice boxes or bottled water.
The kids can eat and drink only so much, and planned party activities are a must. Since the main event doesn't happen until midnight, there are lots of hours to fill before that. Think of party activities that have something for everyone, and let older children supervise or lead the activities. Indoor games are a must-do for New Year's Eve, so plan ahead for lots of time inside.
For the younger set, the hours until midnight can really drag. Megan, a mom and entrepreneur, helps her family pass the time with hourly surprise bags.
"Add different times to the front of the bags," says Megan, "and when that time rolls around, find out what surprise activity the family can do!" For example, at 6 p.m., open fortune cookies, and at 7 p.m., make New Year's Eve hats.
"When it's time to ring in the new year," continues Megan, "the last bag could have poppers and confetti!" Making some noise to welcome New Year's is fun for all ages.
"Make your own photo opportunity with different backdrops," suggests Majcher. "Use props, costumes, dress-up items, a glam makeup station and a mock red carpet. Use disposable cameras or iPhones to snap paparazzi shots." If you use your digital camera or phone, you can easily see how the photos come out and email them to party goers. Older kids love to Instagram their photos, so they can quickly upload and send their photo booth shots.
Everyone brings something they don't want so they can regift, suggests Megan. "One man's junk is another man's treasure!" Exchanging gifts in this way makes it fun and takes the pressure off. Just the gift exchange — and subsequent trading — can take up a good chunk of time.
Kids love to sing and dance. Make playlists of songs that most kids will recognize, and mix it up a bit. Majcher recommends setting up a karaoke machine for a sing-off or the Wii for a dance competition. You may need to coax a few to participate at first, but once they get going this will be a party hit everyone will love.
Hard-partying kids need some downtime too. Choose something they can watch on DVD for some much-needed rest for tired kids with full bellies. A short movie will give them enough time to recharge their batteries and move on to the next activity.
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