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Themes

Hold on to the plastic bubble wrap at the office, bring it home and tape it to the floor for children to bring in the new year with a lot of noise. Decorate with balloons — and use them to play volleyball. Have a "dancing through the decades" musical tribute. Give old Halloween costumes a second life; have the children dress up for the party. Or have every family bring bags of old clothes and costumes, pile everything in one room and let the children create their own costumes. Research fun holiday traditions from other countries. For example, children will love to pop open English crackers (a type of noisemaker with hats or toys hidden inside).

Food

Keep the food simple, but prepare it with some care. Use cookie cutters to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; make shapes out of pound cake; serve macaroni and cheese in foil cupcake liners. Create a "no rules" night to allow children to indulge in treats. Do a breakfast-at-dusk dinner for the kids. Frozen waffles can be toasted in large quantities in the oven. Then set out a buffet of toppings, such as dried fruit, sauces and syrups, chocolate chips, whipped cream and nuts. Create a noodle bar. Have every family prepare a sauce for pasta, such as cheese, pesto, spicy peanut or tomato. The host provides the pasta. Set up a cookie or cupcake decorating station for children to design their own. Get Chinese takeout. Buy your fortune cookies separately, soften them in the microwave for about 20 seconds and insert your own New Year's fortunes. The cookies will harden up again.

Logistics

Make sure the children are well-napped beforehand and designate a place in the host home for them to crash if they need to. Provide sleeping bags and mattresses. Take turns keeping an eye on the children. Don't have too large a guest list. Limit it to a half-dozen families. The party will go more smoothly if the children already know each other. If needed, plan some playdates before the party to get everyone acquainted. Try to have separate spaces for adults and children that still are within ear- and eyeshot of each other.

The Associated Press