Once upon a time, New Year's Eve was a big night out; you'd get dolled up, have a few cocktails and stay up 'til the wee hours blowing noisemakers and belting out "Auld Lang Syne." But if you have kids in the picture, NYE probably isn't too different than any other night: After kiddy bedtime, you sit on the couch watching bad TV and crash well before Dick Clark starts the countdown.
But it doesn't have to be that way -- kids don't have to stay up until midnight to have a lot of fun on New Year's Eve. You can ring in the new year at 9 o'clock if that's as far as your kids can make it. The important thing is to have fun together and take time for reflection and good old-fashioned family chats. Here are some ways that your tykes can participate in the end-of-year festivities:
- Make funny hats, masks and noisemakers.
- Create calendars for the coming year, and talk about your favorite things from the past year and what you're looking forward to in the new year. Talk about resolutions and seal everyone's in an envelope to be opened next New Year's Eve.
- Set up a sleepover in the living room for everyone, parents included. If you're feeling really adventurous, invite friends over for an all-ages party.
- Set up a "mocktail" bar with fruity, kid-friendly drinks and some swirly straws and take turns making toasts.
- At midnight (if they've made it that long), celebrate with a few global New Year's traditions. Japanese kids try to slurp up soba noodles without breaking them. In Denmark, they jump off chairs. Spaniards eat 12 grapes. (You might want to skip the Russian tradition of throwing empty vodka bottles.)
- On New Year's Day, cook a traditional Southern meal of black-eyed peas (for luck) and greens (for money).
For more information about special family events and traditions, take a look at the links on the next page.