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Ringing in the new year with toddlers: What you can do to pass the time

Toddler boy holding a sparkler at a party
Shuttersock

The holiday season can be a wonderful time for families, especially those with young children. There is something incredible about witnessing its magic come to life for them. Even though New Year’s might seem geared more toward the adult crowd and less to the little ones, you can still take the time to include small children into your festivities. Having these special kid-friendly activities on hand might help ease the blow of earlier bedtimes and missing out on late-night events. Replace tears and screams with smiles and laughter by making their New Year just as special as your own.

Toddlers can sometimes be a little difficult to please. What worked to entertain them yesterday may not necessarily work for you today. Finding activities that will keep your sweet and smiling tot interested during a busy holiday might feel a little overwhelming. We have put together a thoughtful list of some toddler-friendly things to do during a holiday that they may not totally understand.

Paper crowns

What kiddo wouldn’t enjoy coloring their very own crown to wear? These “blank slate” ideas are a fantastic way to let your little ones express themselves freely. They can add as much or as little color as they wish, making it a one-of-a-kind creation they can be proud of. You could also include special beads or gems, glitter glue, colored pasta, or any crafty embellishments you’d like your little one to add to their crowns. Feel free to make up your own design and include your little one’s favorite things. If you aren’t super crafty and would like to use a template, we have selected one from Big Activities that we feel is simple and straightforward for parents.

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Have an early-countdown party

Parents know their children best. We know when our littles are tired and need to lie down, even if they are adamant that they don’t. It seems that kids can sense when they may be missing something and often attempt to stay in the moment, wanting to be part of the action. If you’d like to avoid the tears and cries from your kiddo about missing out, we suggest hosting an early-countdown party. Select a time closer to your little one’s bedtime and mark it as your countdown time. Gentler noisemakers, balloons, New Year headbands or homemade crowns (see above), and special food/drinks that they enjoy can make this special enough that they may not even realize they are missing out on anything. This early-countdown party also allows them to experience the fun without missing their bedtimes, making parents and little ones alike incredibly happy.

Cook their favorites

And let them help, too! Create a fun and “toddler fancy” menu with your kiddo. You could even give them fun names by incorporating New Year themed words into the menu such as firework fried chicken tenders or countdown cheesecake bites. Help your toddler feel included in the fun by asking for their input on the menu — “What is something special you’d like to make with Mommy/Daddy for our party?” — then creating it together.

Reading nook

Books are a wonderful method of explaining complicated subjects to little ones in a fun and exciting way. New Year’s can be hard to break down in a way your little ones can fully grasp, which is why we would like to suggest Happy New Year, Spot! by the late, and much-beloved children’s book author Eric Hill. This sweet and simple story helps littles understand the significance of the holiday and how to enjoy it, even though Spot cannot stay up late. This can help ease their own disappointment about missing out on the action.

Mocktails for all

New Year’s Eve for kids can sometimes feel a bit boring. Making special foods and drinks to celebrate with them can turn a holiday that perhaps isn’t the most child-friendly into something they can look forward to each year. Create your own holiday-themed mocktail-making station! Add your little’s favorite juices and top them with a splash of sparkling water or ginger ale for a fun, bubbly drink that’s full of giggles. You could take this a step further by coming up with easy-to-remember, one-word resolutions for your kiddos to “cheers” with. Some ideas could be — “More snuggles!” or “Hugs and kisses!” Each time they want to “cheers” with their cups and enjoy a special drink, shout your resolutions instead.

Firework finger paints

Painting and toddlers can sometimes cause some parents to cringe, which is why we leave this option totally up to you to adjust — making it suitable for each individual family. Select a dark-colored paper to mimic the dark skies that backdrop the stunning fireworks that appear on New Year’s Eve. We suggest using brightly colored, toddler-safe finger paints by Crayola that will give their pictures vibrant pops of color.

We hope these fun and engaging activities will help you to include your littles in your New Year’s Eve celebrations — or at very least inspire you to tweak them into your own. Be prepared to thwart hurt feelings and tears over missing the ball drop with these festive and artistic ideas for ringing in the new year.

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