The best NYE activities for families to ring in the new year

Growing up, my family would always watch the ball drop together. That was back in the days of Dick Clark. We often got together with extended family and had our our New Year’s Eve celebration.

Through the years our New Year’s Eve celebration evolved as we kids grew up. Now I have children of my own and have come up with some New Year’s Eve traditions that work for us.

Whether you have older children or younger children, I’ve got some NYE activities for families you’re going to love!

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NYE Activities for families with younger kids

Before we talk about this idea, start with giving yourself grace for whatever stage of parenting you’re in right now. When my children were babies and toddlers, we didn’t celebrate New Year’s Eve in much of any way. In fact, I was lucky to even be awake at midnight!

Don’t put pressure on yourself to have a memorable New Year’s Eve party when you’ve got littles. Know that you will have plenty of family time to come with the kids are older and you’ll be able to enjoy it much more.

Noon Year’s Eve

Once your children are past the toddler stage, but still not in the stay-up-late stage, Noon Year’s Eve can be a great way to ring in the next year without messing up everyone’s schedule.

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You can quite literally do a pseudo New Year’s Eve celebration at noon or pick another time and work with it. When my children were little, a few friends and I got our families together. We did some simple online research and discovered England would be ringing in the new year at the perfect time for our families to celebrate.

We found some creative ways to celebrate in British style from a different perspective. My artist friend made a large paper picture of Big Ben for the wall. We brought in snacks. Our entire family had a great time together. We played games, ate food and donned festive party hats for a New Year’s Eve countdown to midnight in London.

It worked so well, and our kids were all tucked into bed around their usual time that evening. Noon Year’s Eve is a great NYE activity for families with younger kids!

Focus on New Year’s Day

Another fun way to celebrate an upcoming year is by celebrating New Year’s Day. This is another one of those great ideas I pulled from my own family. Our whole family would also gather for dinner on New Year’s Day each year. In fact, it was such a tradition, I was quite a bit older before I realized not every family does this!

Before we had children, I continued this tradition and hosted New Year’s Day dinner at our house. Once we had children, I carried on this tradition for a few years. What better way is there to look forward to a new year than with those you love?

I took it a step further and added in an option for each of my family members to write down a prayer request for the year. I’d put them in an envelope that I sealed without looking at anyone’s request. Then I’d pray over the requests all year long. 

It was a whole family affair of focusing on God together. And it was an added bonus the next year for everyone to see their requests and reflect back over the past year as well.

NYE Activities for families with older kids

One of the fun things about kids getting older is their schedules are more flexible, and they can do more things. With kids who are 10 and 14, we’ve had a chance to figure out fun New Year’s Eve activities that work best for our whole family. 

Take some of these New Year’s Eve ideas and make them your own this year!

Eat good food

What’s a party without good food? Try some new delicious recipes! Snacky food tends to be the biggest hit for New Year’s Eve at my house. 

You can serve an assortment of appetizers, charcuterie with kid-friendly fare or even just sandwiches and chips. Another great option is to let your children help you decide what to have. Mine have surprised me by asking for food I never would have thought of.

One of the biggest hits we had one year included apples with caramel dip I bought at the store. Super easy, yummy and not too bad health-wise! Definitely plan for some evening snacking, too.

Play games

Games are a great way to have quality time as a family no matter what time of year. But, they work especially well on New Year’s Eve because you have a long time together for family connection.

We love everything from board games to role playing games to video games. We are a gaming family, in fact! Games are always part of our NYE celebrations.

Some fun games my entire family enjoys include the following:

And then a surprisingly great game my entire family has enjoyed for years is Toilet Trouble. This one works for toddlers to grandparents! It is simple but brings lots of laugh. Just keep a hand towel nearby!

Watch movies

Watching movies together as a family can be a special time to snuggle and relax. Finding something you all agree on might be challenging, so I suggest talking about it ahead of time. Or at least have a list of movies in mind that your family can pick from. 

Some of our recent family favorite movies that would work well as NYE activities for families include the following:

Watch the ball drop

Nothing is more quintessentially American New Year’s Eve than watching the ball drop in Times Square. One of my family’s fun ideas is to do this encamped in our bedroom. 

The first year, we did an extra fun option of making a fort out of blankets and putting glow sticks in balloons of different colors. Now, we inflate the air mattress for the kids in our room, and my husband and I get into bed.

We watch the ball drop and spend the last night of the year cozy together. At the stroke of midnight we wish each other happy new year; my husband and I exchange a kiss. Our kids then have the option to sleep in our room or retire to their own rooms. 

Usually our son stays in our room and our daughter heads to her own, but being all together in our room is one of the best places to be as we welcome a new year.

Pray your way into the new year

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One tradition my husband grew up with was going to church on New Year’s Eve to ring in the year. Most churches (at least around us) no longer have Watchnight Services, but you can still spend time in prayer whether at midnight, before or after.

Pray together as a family. Ask for God’s blessings, guidance and protection for whatever the new year brings. 

Talk about New Year’s resolutions

My daughter and I are both planners. We actually do enjoy talking about New Year’s resolutions as a family and our goals for the coming year. For the most part, we try to avoid the word “resolutions” and replace it more with “goals.”

Thinking ahead for the new year always feels productive. The possibilities somehow seem much more endless heading into a new year!

Enjoy whatever NYE activities for families you pick

No matter what fun activities you pick for New Year’s Eve this year, enjoy the time together. It’s not going to be perfect. There will be squabbles or spills or people dozing off before midnight. 

However, this is your family right now. The end of the year and beginning of a new one marks how quickly time is passing. Our kids won’t always want to be with us for a New Year’s celebration. Embrace the messiness, craziness and everything this New Year’s Eve brings! 

About the Author: Stacey A. Shannon

Stacey A. Shannon is a freelance journalist and blogger who has been published internationally. She's also a Christian, a wife and a mom of two school-aged children. She started Families with Grace in 2019 to encourage Christian moms as they create homes filled with grace, love and faith.

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