New Year's Eve parties for kids

Dec 30, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. ET

Want to let the younger crowd in your house in on the New Year's Eve celebration? Round up some age-appropriate fun for the kids and let them celebrate New Year's in their own way.

Teen on New Year's Eve

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."

Party food

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.

  • Create a snack bar of bite-sized finger foods and include healthy options such as apple slices, veggies and string cheese. "Display them in a fun setting that draws kids in and makes them want to eat," says Majcher.
  • Set up a make-your-own s'mores table with different types of graham crackers, marshmallows, peanut butter and chocolates. Bonus: Food bars are perfect for picky kids, says Majcher. Consider a salad bar, an ice cream sundae bar or a top-your-own-cupcakes bar.

Party drinks

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.

  • Fill plastic versions of adult wine or champagne glasses with sparkling juices
  • Add light-up ice cubes to the kids' punch bowl
  • Create a hot chocolate martini bar — kids can add marshmallows, whipped cream and more

Party activities

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.

Hourly surprise bags

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.

Photo booth

"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.

White elephant gift exchange

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.

Quiet time

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.

More New Year's Eve ideas for kids

5 Safe New Year's celebrations for teens
New Year's resolutions for kids
Let the kids stay up on New Year's Eve?