Friday, December 27, 2013

Yes, You Can Have A New Year’s Eve Party with Kids

New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve (Photo credit: volantwish)

Once you have children, New Year’s Eve is no longer that end-all, be-all rockin’ stockin’ shockin’ event of all time. So you have to make it fun, with kids and for kids. Kids love holidays and the implied bacchanalia – although in their case, it’s likely more associated with an overdose of cookies and video games than actual debauchery.  Timing, quirky activities, and leftovers can make this an affordable, fun, annual family affair.

We jokingly start at 5:30pm and end at 9:30am, because the “real New Year’s Eve” ends at that time in New York for us Californians. It also made it easier for us to get our children to bed at a reasonable time.

English: Publicity photo of Dick Clark from hi...
English: Publicity photo of Dick Clark from his ABC radio show. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Live Telecast
We watch the last ten minutes of the live telecast of the New York countdown via an LCD projector. One year, though, we couldn’t get the live feed, and settled on a classic Dick Clark rerun from YouTube.

Games & Activities
Activities vary according to the mood and money of the moment. Since we usually have very little money, we emphasize classic entertainment such as Charades or penny poker.

Once we had an impromptu adult and child Garage Band competition. Another time we laid out board games and some of us played Scrabble© or checkers while others just hung out and chatted.

White Elephant Bingo
Stray Cats
Cover of Stray Cats
We occasionally receive gifts from well-intentioned people who love us, but who may not completely know we’ve moved onward from plaid shorts or Stray Cats memorabilia. It happens to all of us. In response, the White Elephant Game or Party has become a winter staple, as hundreds (if not thousands) of party-goers try to find a home for their unused gifts.
On a related note, children love to win things, almost anything. Some children can go crazy for nail polish or gum, if you tell them it’s a prize for cleaning their room or helping their sibling.  
Together, that brainstorm combination produced our annual White Elephant Bingo game as part of our New Year’s Eve party.

I used bingo cards from DLTK about five years ago and I am still using the Blues Clues set.  Meh. It still works. I chose bingo because when we started with early elementary school aged kids, I needed something that was quick and easily understood without too much reading.
One winner per game and he or she chooses from the wrapped or non-wrapped gifts. The best gifts usually go first. Spa sets and noxious perfumes are adored by preteen girls and boys love those “quirky” office gifts from co-workers, like the rubbery stress ball or the “spy pen”. The remaining gifts are donated to a local charity.  We can usually go three or four times before the kids get tired or bored. One year, we went almost a dozen times. I think it was because that year I had winners draw random numbers, which were associated with particular gifts. The crystal weather reader and the floating pen held up until almost the very end of the evening. As soon as the pen was won, my son and his twelve year old friends audibly sighed and left the game.

Festive Mood Rooms
Low-cost party décor: music, mood and attitude.  An outdoor fire pit here in usually warm California creates the “cigar room”, a white sheet in the garage becomes the “home theatre”, and the kitchen is “bingo central”.  We have also allowed my daughter to entertain her young friends privately – oh, C’est chic! - in her room with a Barbie© video on dad’s work laptop, popcorn, and nail polish.


I encourage people to bring their holiday leftovers. It’s a great opportunity to be open-minded and to help others empty out their refrigerators, too. Perhaps some of us can eat ham for five days; other people cannot. One man’s leftovers is another man’s lunch. We’ve received cookies, baked bread, pasta, green bean casserole and hummus dip. I usually provide a soup or some kind of doctored leftover. I never worry about dessert.  I request that guests bring a beverage to share. We always provide iced tea and water and juice.

All's Well That Ends On Time
Our event has built up over the last few years to be the relief party for families. Adults can enjoy the company of adults and some responsible use of adult beverages; children have companions their own age; and it ends early enough that we can clean up the house and be in bed, before midnight, California time.

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