Are you, like us, facing the fact that the New Year’s Eves of yore (you know, going out to party past midnight with actual humans outside your home, drinking your way to a new year and waking up the next morning with only a vague idea of what year it actually is) are behind you? Have you, like us, been largely at home with kids since, you know, March? Are the only bottles you pop full of…milk? And actually, do you still wake up with only a vague idea of what year it is — but for entirely different reasons? Fear not: It is still possible to make Dec. 31 an event and put together some New Year’s Eve fun for the whole family — even in 2020.
Think the kids won’t last until midnight? That there’s no time to shop or put anything together? Well, you’re probably right, but luckily for you, we’ve gathered up eight family-friendly New Year’s Eve ideas you can throw together last-minute for a totally legit New Year’s Eve.
Stage a fun family photoshoot
You know you didn’t get your stuff together in time to take holiday photos this year; we’re right there with you. Now’s the perfect time to get dolled up and enlist a friendly local photographer (read: neighbor/partner/Grandma) to take some glam fam shots. Or you could go the legit photographer route and hire an affordable professional for a distanced outdoor photo session courtesy of Shoott.
Hot cocoa bar instead of bubbly
Sure, the bubbly is great, but if you let the kids put together a hot chocolate bar à la a pimp your prosecco bar to deck out their own mug of steaming goodness, they’ll be sure to love it — and put on way too many sprinkles. But that was a given. Put out a mug of cocoa for each child and some small bowls of marshmallows, sprinkles and cans of whipped cream for the ultimate in decadent chocolaty treats.
Instead of waiting for the ball to drop, have your own twist on the ball drop by using a disco ball piñata ($28.67 at Amazon). You know your kiddos will go to town beating the crap out of it, and if they each take turns taking a swing every half-hour, it’ll be a way to pass the time until the real thing. The sugar when they finally do break it open will help too.
Dress to impress
Who says adults are the only ones who get to dress up to welcome 2019? Bust out the dress-up trunk (or just let the kids ransack your closet) for the fanciest getup they can find. Lay out some lipstick and nail polish you’re not using anymore, and voilà — instant glamour. Don’t forget to document it with a little fashion show and lots of pictures to put in their high school yearbook. I mean, to commemorate the occasion.
Have a slumber party in a fort
There are all kinds of insane forts to build for your kids, so break out the pillows and ransack the linen closet for a truly memorable creation. The only thing better than an awesome fort? Spending the night in it. Get extra cozy with the whole family snuggled up in your fort while you watch a holiday movie and snack on some popcorn. Does it get any better than that? No. No, it does not.
Check into a hotel for one night
If you plan a little bit ahead and scout out some discounts and deals, you can make your family’s New Year’s Eve feel unbelievably fancy and special by checking into a hotel for one night. Swim in the (indoor) pool, order room service and watch a holiday film in your hotel robes. Let the kids have elevator races and check out where the ice machine is. It might be just enough time for you to smooch your love and wish them a happy New Year.
Make a goodie bag for each hour
To help time pass, make a small goodie bag for the kids to open every hour as you count down to midnight. Include little things like play dough, a puzzle, etc., that they can do while they wait. If you’d rather include an activity instead of an item, have each bag contain something to do, like, “Shout, ‘Happy New Year!’ outside as loud as you can” or “Make a paper chain to decorate the mantel.”
If your kids are old enough, explain to them what New Year’s resolutions are and sit down with them to write out their intentions for 2019. Help them keep their goals realistic and within reach — getting a pet unicorn and learning how to fly might be out of reach, but trying out for their sports team or learning how to get outside every day may be more attainable. Talk to them about the wording of their resolutions; saying, “I will try to get outside every day,” is less disappointing if they don’t achieve it than saying, “I will get outside every day.”
Cupcakes are pretty spectacular on their own, but to add to the festivities, stick a sparkler in your kids’ favorite cupcakes to make them extra special. It’s like a candle but cooler. Let them enjoy their sweet treat as you keep the countdown going. Pro tip: If your kids are too young to make it to midnight, turn your clocks ahead to make them feel like they’ve made it — minus the utter exhaustion the next morning. Count down and cheer, then off to sleep in their new fort. They don’t need to know it’s only 9 p.m.
A version of this story was originally published in December 2018.