Ringing in the New Year with Kids

by jessica fisher

Each year I entertain visions of a fancy New Year’s Eve party. You know, me and the hubby decked out in formal wear, dancing the night away while a band plays and champagne flows endlessly in a fountain nearby. But, then I wake up and realize that that kind of bash is not for my season of life. It’s not because I’m “a mom”, but it’s just not practical with six growing mouths to feed. Not to mention that I couldn’t convince my husband to don a tux and uncomfortable shoes. Or that we don’t know anyone who would host such a shindig anyway.

    In the world of diapers, carpools, and missing school papers, the reality of New Year’s can be watching the ball drop on the television and hoping that the neighbors’ fireworks don’t wake the baby. Possibly, some friends will invite us out, but it can be tough to find a babysitter on the last night of the year. Many years have found us treating it like any other night and just heading to bed at the regular time.

    Ringing in the new year doesn’t have to be blah or a repeat of years past. New Years can be fun for the whole family! The minutes are ticking by and our kids will only be young for a little while. Let’s help them celebrate and look at the passing of time with excitement and anticipation.

    Here are some suggestions for spending the last and first days of the year with your folks, big and little. Making the most of the season you’re in – now that has quite a ring to it!

Scrap It!  As a family, create a scrapbook page of all the past year’s events. Reflect on how your family’s life is richer than it was twelve months ago. You don’t have to have pictures of each event. But list them and explain the lows and highs so that you’ll have a record for the future. Consult your calendar if you can’t think of what you did. You’ll be surprised at how much your family has accomplished over the last year.

Game-a-thon.  Invite some friends and their kids over for a game night. Set up as many tables and chairs as you can for different games to be going on simultaneously. Consider old time classics like Monopoly, Yahtzee, Candy Land, and Battleship, as well as some newer games, such as Blockus, Rush Hour, or Apples to Apples. Try to choose games for a wide-range of ages and be prepared to take a few strolls through the Gumdrop Mountains if there aren’t enough takers to play with the little ones. Be sure to provide plenty of fun munchies and drinks.

Thank You’s for the Year.   Gather the kids around the table with blank note cards, envelopes, stamps, markers and stickers. Together brainstorm a list of all the people you can thank for services and care given over the past twelve months. These might include grandparents, teachers, coaches, neighbors, doctors, and friends. Don’t forget those who’ve given Christmas and Hannukah gifts. Enjoy an evening of crafting creative cards and heartfelt sentiments. Make sure everyone signs each card. Then address and stamp the envelopes, all ready to be mailed on January 2nd.

A Few of My Favorite Things.   Host a dinner party for young and old alike, asking friends to bring their favorite food as well as their favorite movie. Never mind if you have twenty desserts. Live it up! You’ll only do it once a year – maybe. Scan the movies for what would be appropriate for all ages and send a ballot around. Pop some corn and pass the night away taking in some fun flicks and laughing together.

Extreme Closet Makeover.  Chances are, stuff is just bursting out of dressers and closets thanks to the recent holiday gift-giving. Turn on some tunes and whistle while you work with each child, sorting out unwanted or unused clothing with the purpose of donating them to a local shelter or thrift store. The kids may balk at the prospect, but you’ll all feel better, knowing that someone less fortunate is benefiting from the activity. You’ll also enjoy the freedom to put something away easily. Afterward, take advantage of New Year’s Sales and leftover gift cards to add one new item to the kids’ newly cleaned closets. Seize the opportunity to discuss clothing care and how different items match. For some kids, creating coordinating outfits is a natural gift; for others, it definitely takes some instruction.

Happy New Year Cake.  Each year is the birth of a fresh start. Celebrate with a special “birthday” cake. Bake up a boxed mix and let the kids help with the frosting and sprinkles. Top it off with number candles that spell “2009.” Make sure you take a picture of the family blowing out the candles together.

Goals/Dreams.  Sit down as a family and think and dream of all the things you would like to do, individually and as a family in the new year. Consider it a life list for 2009. What trips would you like to take? What skill would you like to learn? Perhaps there’s a new sport or adventure activity, such as snowboarding or canyoneering, that you can try together. Are there movies you’d like to see? Books to read? What character traits would you like to grow in, or see your kids grow in? Make a list of goals and dreams for the next year and place it where all can see. Be deliberate in planning ways to execute these goals. If your son dreams of sword fighting, research your local fencing club for available lessons. Help your kids see their goals through to completion. Check them off as you go. Learning to set goals and accomplish them is a valuable skill, no matter the age.

Plan to Serve.  Choose one way for your family to serve others in the coming year. Whether it is delivering meals on wheels or visiting folks in the local rest home, there is bound to be something that will fit your family’s interests and season of life. Contact your local church, synagogue, soup kitchen, food pantry, or Red Cross for volunteer ideas. What better way to enter the new year than to purpose to make life a little easier for someone else?

Times does fly. So have some fun as a family. There’ll be plenty of time for ball gowns later. SFM

Jessica Fisher is a wife, mother of six, and freelance writer, making her home in a suburb of San Diego. For more family fun activities, follow her on the web at www.lifeasmom.com