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My kids LOVE everything about New Year’s Eve. From staying up late, to the snacks, to the special New Year’s Eve countdown activities we do with them each year – they love it all!

I won’t lie. As an adult, I could take or leave New Year’s Eve. With four kids, I’m pretty much perpetually exhausted and love to hit my bed before 10:00 PM. BUT… since the kids love New Years’s Eve, and two of mine are old enough to actually stay up the whole time, I’ve tried to embrace it.

New Year's Countdown Activities for Kids! Printed over a balloon countdown and printable images
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With the Hot Mess Express that was 2020, we did alllllll the holiday things around here. I wanted to make the holidays extra special and fun because the kids had given up so much with schools and activities shut down. We already did a lot of kids’ activities on New Year’s Eve in years prior, but I decided to kick it up a notch by putting together a balloon clock of New Year’s Eve countdown activities for my kids.

How the New Year’s Eve Countdown Activity Balloons Work (in short)

Set up your balloons and arrange them in a clock-like circle. Label them with a Sharpie. Every hour, on the hour, let one of your kids pop a balloon, assuming you trust them with a safety pin or sharp point. If you don’t trust them, pop the hourly balloon yourself.

New Year's Eve Countdown balloons in a circle for each hour
Our New Year’s Eve Countdown Balloons! (It wasn’t the most elegant arrangement, but it worked perfectly!)

Each balloon contains a special countdown activity for the kids to do. Pop the balloon, do the activity, repeat until midnight.

Setting up your New Year’s Eve Countdown Balloons

Decide what time you want your New Year’s Eve countdown activities to start.

We decided to start at noon, because my kids spend all day, every day asking me to entertain them anyway. I figured at least starting the countdown early might cut down on that.

If you have to work, you can start it later. If you just don’t feel like being the circus master of entertainment so early, you can start it later. Of course, if you’re kids are already whining, “I’m bored!” at 10 AM, you could always start it earlier. The world’s your oyster here.

Whatever time you decide to start, you need a balloon for every hour until midnight. (Or, if your kids are too young to stay up all the way until midnight, you need a balloon for every hour until they go to bed.)

Decide what countdown activities you want to include

Write down the planned activities on a piece of paper. Then, insert that paper into the balloon before you inflate it. Once you inflate the balloon and tie it off, the little activity paper will be inside the balloon.

When you pop the balloon at the hour mark, the activity paper will come flying out. You can read it to your kids if they don’t read yet. If you have readers in your house, you can watch your kids attack one another trying to get to the paper first. (… Guess which one happens in our house….?)

Seriously though, I recommend taking turns. One kid gets to pop the balloon, the other gets to read the activity. Switch and rotate as often as necessary for the number of kids you have. There’s no sense in ringing in the new year with tears and a bloody nose…

Hang up the New Year’s countdown balloons

I like to do mine in a circle, like the numbers on the clock. It seems like someone’s always learning to tell time around here, so that’s a helpful bit of reinforcement.

You could arrange your countdown activities in a row just as easily, especially if you’re not doing twelve hours or you don’t care about the clock-like appearance.

A fun little twist, if you like to live dangerously, is to let the kids play darts with the countdown balloons. Don’t number them, just hang up the necessary number. Then, let the kids throw darts until they pop (or at least hit) one of the balloons.

I do not like to live dangerously, so we don’t do this.

(Also worth noting – if you don’t do the countdown balloons in order, you can’t control what activities come up and when. The control freak in me prefers to know what activity comes next.)

New Year’s Eve Countdown Activity Ideas for the Balloons

You can do whatever activities you want as you countdown to midnight (or fake midnight, for younger kids).
As a jumping-off point, here are the countdown activities we did last year, when my boys were 8, 6, 3, and 10 months:

(The little two went to bed around 8:00 PM and the older two hung in there until midnight.)

1:00 PM – Start Harry Potter Movie (This was super random and a mistake on my part. I’d forgotten about New Year’s Eve. On December 30, I promised the kids we could watch a Harry Potter movie “tomorrow.” Naturally, they took it as a blood oath, so that’s how we started our New Year’s Eve countdown activities.

2:00 PM – Make popcorn and finish watching Harry Potter (it wasn’t the most creative countdown activity, but those movies are long, so… there we were.)

3:00 PM – The kids used this New Year’s Resolution printable to plan their resolutions (<–I created the printable and it’s free, so feel free to grab it from that post. We do this every year and I save them like the paper hoarder I am.)

4:00 PM – New Year’s BINGO (this activity is part of my $3 New Year’s Activity Pack. You can get it from the same post as the resolutions printable (or you can purchase it directly here.)

New Years Printable Bingo Activity for Kids

5:00 PM – Chick-fil-A for dinner! (I’m not sure who was more excited about this one. Probably me. Cooking allthemeals for allthepeople is no joke.)

6:00 PM – Farewell to 2020 Craft (from the same New Year’s Packet as 3 PM & 4 PM; of course, it’s been updated for 2021)

7:00 PM – “Snowball” Fight (with pretend, inside snowballs we got for Christmas. You could always just crumple up paper, but we have these and the boys love them.)

8:00 PM – Sparkling Cider and Netflix Countdown – Practice Round (because at least three family members always fall asleep before midnight). The 8-year-old and I made it to midnight, the 6-year-old made it until 11:55 PM and had to be woken up again at 11:59 PM. The struggle is real!

9:00 PM– Reading/Story Time. This is part of our bedtime routine every night. I used it as a countdown activity because the preschooler loses his ever-loving mind if you try to skip stories. Plus, by 9:00 PM, some of the younger crew gets a little cranky. Sitting down for stories is kind of a nice break for all.

10:00 PM– Nintendo Time –because IF any of the kids are still awake, I won’t want to play or do anything at this point. I may or may not use this time to steal a nap behind my eyelids while the kids play.

11:00 PM– iPad time (see 10:00 PM– same rationale, same potential nap time!)

MIDNIGHT – Sparkling Cider & New Year’s Kisses FOR REAL. We wear the silly hats, blow the obnoxious noisemakers, the works!

I can’t understate how into this New Year’s Eve countdown my kids were. Most of the countdown activities we did weren’t anything spectacular, but putting them inside balloons made them special and popping them was fun and exciting.

Of course, you could definitely try a different spin on this. You could have kids pull countdown activities out of a hat. You could make a chart/poster and color in the hours (we have a roll of butcher paper like this we use whenever we need to draw something large). But the balloons were such a hit, we’ll be sticking with that model for years, I’m sure.

Whatever activities you do to countdown New Year’s Eve with your kids, I hope it leaves you with fun memories that last well into the year ahead.

Happy New Year!

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