We know you’re staying home this year. We’re here to help.

By Stacey Ballis
December 29, 2020
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Credit: Getty / Riska

New Year’s Eve will be very different for everyone this year, and especially for families. On a night when many are used to enlisting grandparents or babysitters to allow for a rare parental night out, families will be celebrating at home together. And after the year that has been, we all know that making it special is extra-important. So how to make a New Year’s Eve with your kids that you will all enjoy? Let food be the focus!

Here are four great approaches to make the last night of 2020 a good one for all.

1. Make it a DIY party

Thinking DIY for the food will keep everyone engaged during the meal. Think about things like DIY pizzas, a taco bar with all the possible toppings, custom mac and cheese bowls, or baked potatoes. Anything your kids can choose their own adventure on will be fun for everyone. Don’t skimp on dessert: Think about an ice cream sundae bar or fill-your own crepes.

2. Let the kids make the menu

Have a family meeting to plan out what you should eat on the night, and let the kids really jump in. Whether you go through cookbooks or old family recipes, look online or wing it, giving your kids a voice in what the dinner should look like will make for an evening that everyone can look forward to. If they need guidance, start by asking what everyone’s favorite dishes are and use those as a jumping off point. Be sure to enlist them in what the table setting should look like: Crafting decorative elements like placemats, place cards, and centerpieces is fun and engaging. But so is creating a living room floor picnic, so think outside the box. Ask them about plating, which plates and bowls to use, and get creative about serving. Mostly, cook as much of the meal together as possible.

3. Make some pep talk cookies for the year ahead

During the course of the next year, we are all going to need some reminders of what is good and special in life, what we have to be hopeful about. Have everyone in your family make a list of everything they love about their life, everything they still want to achieve or accomplish, favorite songs or poems, favorite recipes or names of recipes you want to try. Cut the lists into strips and spend part of your New Year’s making homemade fortune cookies and inserting the strips. Store everyone’s cookies in their own labeled bag in the freezer, and you’ll have instant reminders for everyone all year long of the good stuff. Whether you make a tradition of everyone opening one on the first day of the month or saving them for spontaneous occasions when a boost is needed, it is a hopeful project that keeps everyone looking forward.

4. Choose your own ball drop moment

Maybe your kids are old enough to last till midnight. Remember, though: Once it’s noon where you live, it’s midnight somewhere in the world! So, decide in advance what time you are going to do your countdown for maximum impact, and plan on some great beverage to use for toasting. From sparkling apple cider to hot cocoa with extra marshmallows, that countdown to happy new year is key.