Family, Kids & Relationships

How to celebrate New Year’s in a meaningful way with young kids (without staying up late)

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Ringing in the new year is an event that almost everyone celebrates or commemorates in some way. But a lot of New Year’s Eve traditions are not exactly family-friendly. Staying up late messes with kids’ sleep schedules (not to mention exhausted parents’ need for sleep), and you wouldn’t want to bring kids to a typical champagne-fueled New Year’s party anyway.

But welcoming the new year and saying goodbye to the previous one is a big deal! Plus, it’s an event that kids of almost any age can understand and find meaning in. So it may be time for a brand new New Year’s tradition — one that you can share as a family, even with the littlest ones.

All of the following ideas could work on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, depending on what works best for your family’s schedule. The spirit of the celebration matters much more than having accurate timing.

Share a song or treat every hour

You don’t have to stay up until midnight to have a momentous countdown. If you’re going to be home for the holiday, one way to commemorate it is to put on a timer for every hour of your kids’ waking hours (you choose how many!) and then have a special surprise for each hour. 

Surprises could include novelty snacks, kid-friendly beverages, fun crafts, dance-worthy songs, funny videos, or board games. You can even write your best ideas on little pieces of paper and create a grab-bag of family activities that you choose from every hour.

Make a slideshow or collage of the year

If burying a time capsule in the backyard seems like too much of an undertaking, you can make a digital time capsule (an album or video that you label clearly with the date) or even a paper collage of your kids’ favorite artwork and ticket stubs from your favorite events.

Or simply choose your favorite photos or videos from the outgoing year (or let your phone choose, but just be sure to preview first!) and put them up on a big screen to watch together. It’s a great way to reflect on the year and grow your sense of gratitude — plus, it makes for a perfect family bonding experience, even for the youngest of kids.

Learn about New Year’s traditions around the world

Did you know that in the Philippines, families eat 12 round fruits on New Year’s Eve to symbolize prosperity? And that in Brazil, folks head to the beach to jump over waves, since it’s summer there?

Share some of these global New Year’s traditions with your kids, and be inspired to open up your worldview in the coming year.

Recycled confetti crafts

Bring some of the more family-friendly party vibes home, and get into confetti — without most of the waste and mess.

First, save some used wrapping paper, tissue paper, ribbons, bubble wrap, holiday catalogs, etc. Then use scissors or hole punches to make your chosen materials into confetti. (Cut bigger pieces for easier clean-up later.)

Here’s where you can choose to let kids go wild throwing confetti in a designated indoor area. Confetti dance party, DIY confetti poppers, confetti family selfies, or a dramatic countdown to 12:00 noon, anyone? Or, feel free to skip the messy part, and go straight to the crafts below.

Have kids help clean up the confetti so they can use it in another craft or activity. Ideas include:

  • Fill a clear bottle or picture frame with confetti to make an ornament or decoration (glue on the top/edge if you don’t want another confetti mess).
  • Add confetti into a baking soda and vinegar eruption — or a slime-making project — for a festive New Year’s science activity!
  • Use confetti and glue to decorate a picture frame, then take a family New Year’s selfie (with confetti?) to put in the frame.
  • Glue confetti to heart-shaped paper to get a start on thank you cards or Valentine’s Day cards or decorations.
  • Fill balloons with confetti using a funnel or tube (you can make a toilet paper tube into a cone/funnel shape), then play balloon games with them!

Choose something different to try in 2023…and start it now

What do you really want to do differently with your family in the coming year? Think outside the box. Do you want to learn to appreciate nature in all seasons, or start composting? Learn a language or musical instrument? Try a new sport or mindfulness practice?

A wonderful time to start that new activity is right around the first or last day of the year. That way, whenever you reflect back on the holiday season, the memory can inspire you, and remind you to keep at it.

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.