Ringing in the new year as a family is a great opportunity to create traditions, make memories and help your kids feel like they’re just as much a part of the celebration as you are. With just a little bit of thought and planning, it can become one of your family’s favourite days of the year. And good news—we’ve handled a lot of that “thought and planning” part for you right here.
22+ Ideas for a Fun, Family-Friendly New Year’s Eve
Family New Year’s Eve theme ideas
- Get a little fancy. Have everyone put on their dressiest clothes, dust off the good dishes and celebrate like you’re at a fancy soirée from the comfort of your own home. As for food, feel free to go as upscale or kid-friendly as you want. Who says you can’t eat chicken nuggets on fine china?
- Celebrate the year that was. Print out photos of fun family memories from the previous year and hang them up to remind yourselves of good times from the year gone by. Spend the evening telling stories and watching videos (if you have them) of favourite moments together as a family.
- New Year’s slumber party. Whether you’re planning on making it to midnight or tapping out earlier in the evening, it’s a great chance to put on your comfiest PJs (bonus points if they’re matching) and get cozy for the evening.
- DIY it. If you don’t have time or the extra money to buy a bunch of decorations for your New Year’s Eve party, do it yourself and get everyone involved! Make crafts, print colouring pages for your kids to help decorate the space, and spend the evening being creative and making things together—like these DIY décor ideas, but in gold and silver for a New Year’s Eve twist. Or if you’re up for a little messiness, you could even make your own confetti.
- Kids’ choice! Know who never, ever struggles with having an opinion? My kids. If you’re having trouble landing on a theme, just let your kids pick a favourite movie, character or anything else. At my house, we’d probably end up celebrating a construction site-themed New Year’s Eve, but what’s wrong with that?
Ideas to make New Year’s resolutions fun for your family
- Walk down memory lane. Before anyone writes down any resolutions for the new year, start by talking about favourite memories from the year that’s ending. This is a great time to pull out your phones and look through photos and videos of favourite family memories.
- Make meaningful resolutions. A great way to help kids think about resolutions is to focus less on what they want to change about themselves and more on what they can do to make the world better. Help them focus on simple things like kindness. (This free kindness journal could be a good start.)
- Make predictions. This has always been a favourite with my family, and it’s a fun alternative or addition to making resolutions. Write down some fun guesses about what will happen in the new year and store them somewhere you’ll be able to find next New Year’s Eve. Have each person make at least one prediction for each member of their family and anything else they want. When you pull them out to read next year, you’ll be in for a whole lot of laughs.
- Hopes and dreams. Another meaningful alternative to New Year’s resolutions is to write what you hope, wish or dream instead—for yourself, but especially for the other people in your family and for the world. This is a great way to get kids thinking about others and to hear some of their thoughts about the people they care about.
Little World Changers
If you want to encourage the kids in your life to help change the world just by being the kind, courageous, wonderful humans they are, check out Little World Changers. This line of books and gift products could be a great tie-in to your New Year’s Eve celebration, especially when you’re talking with your kids about resolutions.
Family activity ideas for New Year’s Eve
- Game ’til you drop. Break out your favourite board games, card games, video games or any other kind of game your family loves.
- Movie night! Pop some popcorn, get cozy on the couch together and take turns picking favourite movies or shows to watch as a family.
- Make a family time capsule. Have each member of the family pick an item or two that’s meaningful to them from the past year and create a time capsule to open next New Year’s Eve. Have everyone write a note to their future self, seal it up and hide it somewhere out of sight (but make sure you can find it when you’re ready next year!).
- Get crafty. If your family is artistically inclined, a New Year’s Eve celebration can be the perfect opportunity to spend time being creative together. If this becomes an annual tradition, looking at New Year’s crafts over the years will become a meaningful way to spend time together.
Planning an inclusive New Year’s Eve celebration
There are lots of easy ways to be inclusive of adults and children with disabilities and other special needs. Whether their disability is physical or a form of neurodivergence (like autism or ADHD), here are a few ideas on how to make your celebration more welcoming to everyone.
- First and foremost, include them. Listen to them and take time to care about their needs. Tell them their presence is valued and ask how you can help make it possible for them to be a part of your celebration.
- If you’re sending party invitations, include a note about disability accommodations in the RSVP. (“We want everyone to have fun—please let us know if you have a dietary restriction or require other accommodations to attend.”)
- Holiday gatherings can cause sensory overload, and some neurodiverse children and adults can be overwhelmed by a large gathering. Be thoughtful about the sensory elements of your gathering (for example, loud, sudden noises may be unwelcome for people with autism) and offer opportunities for guests to take a break away from the crowd.
- Firework apps can be a fun and festive solution for those who may not like loud sounds but still like the visual experience of fireworks. Glow sticks are great for this, too, as they provide light without sound.
- Consider finding noisemakers with handles or other adaptive equipment for guests who may need it.
- Let families know that they are welcome to stay for as short or as long as they want, and that it’s perfectly okay for them to arrive late or leave early. If a family includes a child or adult with special needs, consider sending them an agenda of what will be happening at the party and what food will be served so they can review it and plan what parts of the party may be best for them to attend.
- Overall, remember that the holidays can be stressful. Consider the potential positives and negatives that may be different for people with disabilities and make reasonable efforts with all your family and friends to make holiday celebrations as happy, inclusive and physically and emotionally comfortable as possible.
Fun food and drink ideas for New Year’s Eve
- Hot cocoa bar. Assemble all your favourite hot cocoa toppings and mix-ins (and maybe a few you’ve never tried!) to pull together a world-class hot cocoa bar. Or, try these hot cocoa bombs for a fun variation.
- Apple cider. That’s right, we’re giving you two steamy beverage ideas. Sorry not sorry. If it’s chilly where you are on New Year’s Eve, you’ll thank us for this delicious cider recipe.
- Chips and dips. The beauty of this is there’s no wrong answer and so many possible combinations. Salsa or queso? Spinach artichoke dip or guac? Sweet or savoury? And, honestly, who says you have to choose?
- Build a menu together. To help everyone feel involved, let each member of your family pick one thing to put on your menu—no restrictions. This is a fun way to get the kids involved, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a meal you’ve never had before.
- Family party mix. Use the same basic concept as building a menu together but use it to make a fun party mix that you’ll be grabbing handfuls of as the night winds down. Start with a reliable base—Chex mix or something similar—and then let each person pick out something they love to mix in.
A gourmet New Year’s Eve
Want even more ideas to take your New Year’s Eve menu from good to great? Broaden your horizons by trying some traditional New Year’s Eve foods from around the world.
Family New Year’s Eve countdown ideas
- Countdown to the countdown. Build anticipation as the night goes along by opening small surprises or treats every hour on the hour. These could be in boxes, bags or even balloons family members can take turns popping.
- Light it up. Something about glowing, flashing lights can make any moment magical for kids. So when the new year hits, do it up big—bring on the sparklers, glow sticks and anything else that will light up the night and the new year.
- Do midnight up right. When the clock strikes twelve and it’s officially the new year, find a way to make it feel big. There are so many options for this—a dance party, a fun song to sing as a family or even a big balloon drop, if you’ve got the lung capacity.
- Celebrate the New Year a few hours early. If you’ve got little kids, staying up all the way until midnight may not be your best bet. There are ways around this, though—find a New Year’s countdown online to watch before their bedtime, or even tune in to a countdown stream from another part of the world. It’s always twelve o’clock somewhere.
With these family New Year’s Eve ideas, you can turn your celebration into a meaningful one that your family will remember, and you’ll make New Year’s Eve a day your kids will look forward to year after year. Happy New Year!