Once my first daughter was born, ringing in the new year became much less about champagne and ball-dropping and much more about falling asleep in a chair at 10:15 p.m. and waking up to a new year. But parenting doesn't have to take the thrill out of celebrating New Year's Eve. You can throw a festive gathering that you, your children, and your friends will remember well into 2013.
A Family Feast
Create a menu that will please everyone, and by everyone I mean the kids. Most adults will eat any party food because it's a party — the perfect excuse to overindulge. Kids on the other hand are picky. Go for traditional snacks and foods like pigs in a blanket, chips and dip, veggie platters, Chex Mix, chicken wings, and anything else your kids would love to eat all day long. Or, put a spin on the traditional with this New Year's Eve Family Meal plan from Martha Stewart. And include some awesome non-alcoholic beverages. You get the best of both worlds — please the kids and wow the adults.
Fun for All
Sure you want to mingle with friends on New Year's Eve, but why mingle when you can giggle (and not about gossip)? Break out some classic board games including Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders for the little ones, or Twister, Scrabble, or Cranium for the older kids and adults. Try a New Year's-inspired game such as setting timers for midnight in each of the time zones to celebrate 2013 over and over. Or how about creating a clock-shaped piñata for the kids to attack? Check out PBS for some other great New Year's games.
Welcome the Noise
Kids love to make noise, and New Year's Eve is all about being loud. Let them make as much noise as their little hearts desire (and supply earplugs for the adults). You can set them free with bubble wrap to jump on at midnight, make home-made noisemakers together, or give them whistles to blow. If you're feeling extra nice, let them bang on pots and pans in a New Year's Eve parade around your home.
Now, this may be a family-friendly event, but at some point, you'll need to cart those kids off to bed. If you have guests over with their children, turn your party into a sleepover. After all, there will probably be drinking and even if your friends want to stay until midnight, the kids might not be able to handle it.
And whether they decide to stay or not, you can fake midnight by moving the clocks ahead. This way, the kids get to yell, "Happy New Year!" and the adults get to feel like they had the chance to celebrate.
No matter how you party on New Year's Eve, remember to be safe. Take keys from your guests when they arrive and keep drinking to a minimum. We want you, your family, and friends to head into 2013 safe and healthy.