The party season is winding down just in time. This night can be laid-back and casual because kids don’t care as long as they have a good time. We start with oodles of munchies and make homemade pizzas together. Fresh dough is easy to pick up in the store and is inexpensive. Each pound makes one pizza and a jar of pizza sauce will cover several. Having a few choices for toppings makes all the difference. I buy cheese, green peppers, mushrooms, onions and pepperoni. Buy whatever your family prefers; just be sure to let the dough rise at room temperature for an hour or so before creating. Each child likes the idea of being Chef for a Night, complete with apron and in charge of his or her taste buds. They get to make their own dinner which is more appealing and tasty since they have put in their own effort. Plus, there is no lengthy wait for the delivery person and no stress traveling potentially snowy December roads laden with sober-impaired drivers.
Accessorize with favors such as sparkly headbands, beads and funny sunglasses that can be purchased anywhere. Noisemakers and blow-outs are always a hit, but mostly with the kids. It will keep them out of trouble and in the party spirit with each other; however, it will grate on a parent’s nerves quite quickly. We had to have designated time-outs for the toys to keep our sanity. I think I actually hid them before the next morning with an out of sight, out of mind mentality. It’s still worth it to see the excitement on their faces and if not, maybe having a glass of wine will help.
For dessert, anything sweet and fizzy is a huge hit. Root beer floats are basic, but special. Dollar stores are a great place to buy bowls specific for floats, too. Place a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream in the glass and slowly pour in root beer soda. Have the kids help top it off with real whipped cream and a cherry to complete the magic. I’ve found it’s the simple joys like this they tend to remember for years to come, so don’t forget the camera!
There are a lot of activities to do in the evening and most are dependent upon age and cooperation. Whatever stage is appropriate for the child is what you should highlight. For us, there were championship matches of games like Trouble or Go Fish, and others just a favorite family movie. Throw on some tunes or turn the television to one of those channels specific to the genre of music you’d prefer, like sounds of the 80’s or 90’s. Lately, we’ve put in videos of what we’ve filmed over the last twelve months to laugh and reminisce. It’s amazing how much people change and even younger kids recognize it. Teens and ‘tweens will quietly indulge in this fun despite their denial and attempts to hide a grin. It’s a great time to bond, reflect and share thoughts and memories of the events. Later in the evening we like to put on the Rockin’ New Year’s Eve specials for the entertainment and musical groups. It also makes great background music to keep us old folks grounded in familiarity and delay the older kids from sneaking back to their room to do whatever teens do when the food is gone.
End the evening early with a mock midnight countdown. Kids like any opportunity to make a lot of noise and get a kick out of throwing pieces of confetti all over the place on purpose. And without mom melting down. Actually, they giggle a lot when mom starts throwing paper all over her own floor. So get silly and show your little ones you can still let loose and enjoy yourself. Putting the partiers to bed early also allows some alone time for mom and dad to snuggle and relax while watching the ball drop.
Whatever families do with their children I can tell you from experience it is for a limited time only. Kids only want to be with their parents while they’re cool, and our cool factor decreases drastically as they get older. We make the most of whatever we can and appreciate the attention they lavish on us as much as the love we get in return. There is nothing more comforting than being in a snug, warm home surrounded by the people you love most, cocooned in your own world of a family unit as the new year is welcomed in.
Originally published by Family Times, December 2013