Turn your New Year's Eve party into a grand playdate ... for young and old alike.
Six years ago Corinna Creedon rang in the New Year by changing her 3-week-old son's diaper.
"We didn't even realize it, and by the time we put him to bed and came back to our room we were like, 'Oh, Happy New Year!' " says the 36-year-old business consultant from Long Island, N.Y.
The next year, she and her husband wanted to do something slightly more fun to mark the holiday, but it was hard — the family was in the process of moving and they weren't familiar with any baby sitters in the area.
Friends in a similar situation suggested they come over with their son to celebrate. They were joined by two more couples with children. The BYOB (Bring Your Own Baby) party worked so well, it's been a tradition ever since.
"Now we have at least two children apiece," says Creedon. During last year's party, "all of them stayed up through New Year's into one o'clock in the morning."
New Year's Eve can be a tough holiday to celebrate with toddlers. But rather than stress over getting baby sitters or resign themselves to an evening on the couch, families can find creative ways to involve children in the party.
"New Year's Eve out is highly overrated," says Lisa Stiepock, editor of Wondertime magazine, which is geared to parents of young children. "It comes with high expectations, so you're almost bound to be disappointed."
So if you're ready to embrace the New Year with children in tow, here are some ideas:
Create a party-within-a-party for the children. While adults mingle, children can have a pajama party, complete with soda-filled plastic Champagne flutes, funny hats and finger food treats.
When it's time to go home, parents can load their children into warmed-up cars. "They're not only on their way to being passed out, but they've had a really great time," says Creedon, who sends the children home with goody bags.
Wondertime magazine recently asked readers how they celebrate New Year's with their children. Tips included setting the clock ahead several hours to let children stay up until "midnight" for an earlier countdown.
Other suggestions include demolishing gingerbread houses left over from Christmas, devoting the whole night to fondues — cheese, meat and chocolate, and holding a picnic in the living room and watching a movie.
If you want to keep the children entertained, consider hiring a performer dressed as a character, such as an elf. And to keep it affordable, the cost can be divided among all the families attending.
Offering a variety of activities for youngsters such as storytelling, hand and face painting, balloon sculptures and sing-alongs works well, says Lillan Tucker-Thomas, an owner of Focus on Fun Entertainers Inc., in New York.
New Year's Eve is a good time to create or add to family albums, says Jodi Butler, senior editor of FamilyFun magazine. And it can be a great group activity for multiple families.
Have everyone bring boxes of photos, blank albums or scrapbooks and other supplies. Set up card tables around the room and enjoy the company and showing off pictures while you work. Be sure to set up special craft tables for the children to design their own scrapbook pages, too.
Party scene not your scene? Keep things low key and take time out to reminisce. Go through keepsake boxes together or write out wishes about something new to learn to do during the coming year.
"A lot of people are just trying to think of ways to stop for a second and kind of take stock and be thankful for the year that they've had," says Stiepock.
If you want to hit the town, there are options there, too. Many children's museums hold celebrations with early countdowns. A disco ball descends four times at the Children's Museum of Portsmouth, N.H., by late afternoon.
In addition to making party hats and playing with noisemakers, the children get to tie their wishes for the new year to balloons, which are dropped during the countdown, says Jane Bard, the museum's director of education. After that, "they get to read everyone else's wishes and leave with a wish for the new year," she says.
"It's definitely a holiday that is difficult, because it's not a holiday that was designed for children, and so making it into such a family-friendly event is something that they look forward to doing every year," Bard says.
On the Net: FamilyFun magazine, www.familyfun.go.com; Wondertime magazine, www.wondertime.go.com