Let's face it -- once kids arrive, the prospect of partying it up on New Year's Eve loses its sparkle.
General parenting fatigue and fear of dealing with little early risers while hungover on a few hours of sleep really deters parents who don't have overnight babysitting available.
Some parents prefer to spend the occasion as a family and crash early when their kids do, but if you want to do something this year on New Year's Eve with a bit more pizzazz, here are 10 ideas that don't suck:
1. Take the party outdoors. Most kids love snow and being outside. Winter activities like tobogganing, skiing, skating, snowman-making or snowball-fighting seem much more exciting to kids when it's dark and past their bedtimes.
Tracey Kean of Wesleyville, N.L., has always included her two daughters, now adults, in their annual New Year's Eve snowmobiling trek around their cabin in the woods. They still do, and later gather around a fire with friends and family to toast in the new year.
2. Keep it on the down low. Low on the floor, that is, with an indoor picnic complete with a basket of food on a blanket. Include some surprises in your basket, like non-alcoholic champagne for the underage crew. From your position, you can eat, talk, laugh, play video or board games and even build a family fort together.
3. Dance the night away! Mom-of-three Michelle Baker in Whitby, Ont., loves to bust a move with her husband and their two, nine and 10-year-old. Dollar stores have mirrored balls to hang, add some inexpensive decorations the kids choose and pump up the jam for your home disco!
If you like a bigger crowd, many banquet halls offer family dinner and dance packages that you can all attend in your fanciest attire.
4. Have an appetizer-palooza! Everyone gets to pick one favourite appetizer recipe to be prepared together. Once your hors d'oeuvres are ready, snuggle in on the couch to enjoy the goods while watching favourite family movies or televised festivities from around the world.
5. Get crafty! Individual or group craft projects keep little hands entertained. Not creative? Pick up some inexpensive pre-packaged kits and simply provide glue. Create a gratitude jar as a family where every member can write a daily gratitude and drop in the jar. Presto! An instant activity for next New Year's Eve -- reading some of the gratitude notes from the year gone by.
6. Light up the night with fireworks and live music. Most cities and towns offer some sort of municipal celebration with both. Bundle up, fill a thermos with hot chocolate and head to your local city hall or town square to enjoy the show.
7. Get away from home for the night. Kids love hotels, so budget into your holiday plans an inexpensive, family-friendly hotel to host your celebrations; just be sure the hotel has a pool for a late-night New Year's Eve swim and another one on New Year's Day!
8. Plan a secret adventure. Almost all tourist attractions offer events for New Year's Eve, so book the tickets early but don't tell the kids. When the time arrives, set out on a "secret adventure" then watch them go wild when you arrive at the attraction's celebrations.
9. Reflect. No, not the boring kind. Make plans as a family -- new things or foods to try over the 12 new months ahead, plan family acts of kindness for the coming year, start planning your annual family vacation or talk about goals everyone wants to achieve and how to help one another get there.
10. Balloon pop. Don't want to commit to a full night of any of these ideas? Write down on separate papers some activities that everyone in your family would like to do and put the papers inside balloons, then inflate the balloons. Watch your kids "pop" with excitement when every hour, one person gets to burst a balloon and everyone does the activity inside for the next hour. Award a prize for most original balloon-pop technique!
Finally, don't fret about keeping the kids up late. Professional sleep consultant Alanna McGinn of Burlington, Ont., assures parents it's not harmful on occasion: "As long as you're protecting your child's sleep routine at least 80 per cent of the time, it's OK to bend the rules a little for the other 20."
Just remember you'll need extra patience the next day, however. McGinn also suggests making the late night worthwhile by putting away phones and tablets to give your family evening the full attention it deserves. Definitely an idea that doesn't suck!
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