When you child longs for an overnight experience but isn’t quite ready for it, celebrate with a faux slumber party instead. 

Updated December 03, 2019

A sleep-under is the perfect way to celebrate New Year’s Eve with kids, since there’s no school on January 1. Plus, your friends’ pajama-clad kids will be prepped for bed at the end of the evening!

Ace the timing. 

Parents who’ve hosted sleep-unders recommend starting the event around 5 P.M. with a departure time of 8-ish (aka bedtime). You can skew it a little earlier for young kids. “It’s longer than your average kids' party because you usually screen a movie,” says Alyssa Hertzig, creator of the blog The Sparkly Life. Hosts also agree that 15 kids is a good maximum head count.

Make it authentic.

Invite the kids to come dressed in their favorite pajamas, and ask them to bring a sleeping bag for movie watching. Clear the floor so they can set up their “sleeping” spots. Bonus points if you wear your own ’jams too!

Fudge the countdown.

Thanks to the wonders of streaming, you can watch a countdown or fireworks and get the kids to bed at a decent hour. The 2019 New Year’s Eve fireworks display from Walt Disney World is easy to find on YouTube, or you can search for “countdowns” on Netflix to see familiar kids’ characters count down to 2020. Amp up the illusion by setting a clock so it’s approaching midnight.

Clink with real glass.

Skip the usual single-use plastic party cups, and buy an inexpensive set of champagne glasses with short stems, like Mini Champagne Flute Shot Glasses ($20 for four; worldmarket.com), made from break-resistant glass. Kids will feel extra fancy drinking and toasting with a real flute!

Serve a special drink.

Nothing says New Year’s Eve like a glass of bubbly. Champagne for adults and sparkling cider for kids is a classic. Or try this mocktail that can be made in a big batch and then spiked for grown-ups. In a pitcher that holds at least 2 qt., combine: 4 cups limeade, 2 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice, 1½ cups unsweetened cranberry juice, ¼ cup honey, and the juice from 2 limes. Stir until the honey dissolves. Pour 4 cups of the mixture into another pitcher. Chill until ready to serve. Just before serving, gently stir 1 sliced lime, ½  cup pomegranate seeds, and 2 chilled 12-oz. bottles of ginger beer into each pitcher. Add 1 cup vodka to one of the pitchers and label accordingly. Serve chilled over ice. Makes 10 cocktails and 9 mocktails.

Serve breakfast for dinner.

After the night's festivities, tuck everyone into their sleeping bags, turn off the lights, then“wake” them up 30 seconds later for breakfast. Morning staples like pancakes, waffles, French toast, or baked goods are all great candidates fora buffet-style setup with toppings laid out for kids to help themselves. Make or bake the pancakes or waffles ahead of time, then set out sliced fruit, nut butters, syrup, whipped cream, jam, and sprinkles. It’s a nice break from the usual pizza!