We want to throw a big party on New Year's Eve and are interested in keeping it fresh and fun, not the sloppy drink-fest that some parties are. Most of our friends have kids now, including us, and nobody wants to stay out so late. What are some new ideas?

- Mari


This could be the party opportunity of the whole year! If all of your friends have kids, host a family-friendly evening.

Provide activities and a variety of kid- and adult-friendly foods. I admit I love salty snacks like popcorn and mixed nuts for those late-night munchies, but offer some healthy foods, too.

Concerned about the late hours? Who says New Year's happens at midnight? Plan your party for earlier, with games for the kids and conversation for the grown-ups. Have the older kids help with the younger ones, or hire a sitter or two. Have fun with the kids (and maybe even some of the adults) by changing or hiding your clocks before your guests arrive. Celebrate some other time zone's fireworks on the Internet, and everyone can go home early.

Or hold a more traditional New Year's party time, but combine it with a slumber party and have everyone spend the night. If you don't have enough beds, buy, rent, or borrow air mattresses, bedding, and towels, or have each family bring their own.

Set aside one room as a quiet place for the littlest ones to go to sleep early. Another area could be for games and movies, and the garage or backyard could be used for more active games. A playroom, bonus room, or your children's rooms could be where older kids can fall asleep while the adults stay up.

Plan some quiet activities after midnight to calm the kids. Have the parents take turns reading stories and getting the kids settled in.

Some families may take their sleeping children home. But for those who stay, and those who don't, it will be a memorable night for all.