8 family-friendly New Year's Eve ideas you can plan at the last minute

Dec 31, 2016 at 11:30 a.m. ET
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When you're a parent of young children with early bedtimes, ringing in the new year as a family when the clock strikes 12 usually isn't an option. These fun family New Year's Eve activities will make the night a blast for as long as your kids manage to last.

If your child is too young to stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve but you don't want to hire a babysitter and spend the night out on the town, figuring out your holiday plans can be more frustrating than fun. Rather than wait until the kids are asleep to start your celebration, here are eight ways to welcome the new year as a family that won't leave everyone tired and grumpy the next morning.

More: 8 Things parents will end up doing on New Year's Eve

Putting on the Ritz

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Just because you're not headed out for a night on the town doesn't mean you have to wear yoga pants. Half the fun of going out on New Year's Eve is dressing up, so why not make getting fancy part of the family fun? Let everyone choose an outfit they feel great in and strike a pose for each other. Even if you lounge around for the evening, wearing something sparkly will make the night feel more festive.

Have a camp-in

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Instead of sleep being something your family wants to avoid on New Year's Eve, make it the goal. Play off the ambiance provided by your still-standing Christmas tree and set up a tent for an indoor camp-out to make bedtime on New Year's Eve special, even without the midnight festivities.

Itty-bitty photo shoot

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Any parent with a toddler knows that rule No. 1 is don't wake the baby. But if you're the proud parent of a newborn who can sleep through almost anything, consider using New Year's Eve as the chance to take some fun posed photos using props around the house. Like almost everyone else toasting the New Year, your pictures might feature someone sleeping on the floor, but at least the baby won't have a headache in the morning.

More: Mom pits preemie baby against household items in epic battle of cuteness

Take a nap before midnight

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If you have older kids who just can't keep their eyes open until midnight but are devastated at the thought of missing out on the moment the clock strikes 12, consider letting them sleep, and then waking them up to celebrate the stroke of midnight with you. With any luck this will encourage everyone to sleep in on New Year's Day.

Move the clocks forward

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If you want your kids to experience the excitement of seeing the clock reach midnight but you don't want everyone tired and cranky the next morning, don't race the clocks — change them. Move the display time up by a few hours and let the kids believe they've lasted until midnight. Then send them to bed on schedule and treat yourself to some snacks and a good movie, with your kids being none the wiser.

The year in review

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Older kids may get embarrassed by their parents gushing over old photos, but children young enough to fall asleep before midnight are usually ecstatic to view old pictures and videos of themselves. Settle down with your computer or smartphone and enjoy the evening reviewing the memories you made as a family over the past year.

More: 7 Best tablets for kids who are always stealing mom's smartphone

Open your own restaurant

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Most parents have vague memories of a time before they had kids, when New Year's Eve meant a trip to a fancy restaurant. Skip the need for reservations and high heels that make your feet hurt and make your New Year's Eve meal at home as a family into a swanky affair. Whether you enlist the help of the kids to prepare a gourmet meal from scratch or simply bust out the fancy plates to hold your pizza, it's sure to be a meal no one forgets.

Go to bed early

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Just because the rest of the world is staying up past its bedtime doesn't mean you have to. Young children will still be up with the sun, regardless of what time you go to bed. Spending New Year's Eve getting some much-needed rest by going to bed when your child does may be the best way to start off the new year!

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