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(MCT)—The drumbeat only gets louder the closer we inch toward that annual fete of snap, crackle and pop, otherwise known as Turn-the-Calendar-Loudly, New Year’s 2013.

The question that thumps round our heads: What to do? What to do? How to take a dark winter’s eve and turn it up a sparkly notch?

If you thought it was tough dreaming up schemes back in the days before tots, imagine trying to rustle up snap ‘n’ pop for the under-12 set.

Well, sit back and sigh because we have a scheme or two for you and the kiddies. And, we promise you can pull ’em off in no time.

What’s key here is that you shake it up. Though kids take comfort in routine, they relish those moments when the grown-ups dare to go bold and turn routine on its head. Remember the joy of breakfast for dinner? Or maybe, every once in a while, someone you loved threw down a blanket in the living room and called it a picnic.

The New Year’s Eve we loved best at our house came just a few years back when several families on the block realized no one had big plans, but, among us, plenty of kids. With a brilliant kindergarten teacher in the mix, it didn’t take long to settle on ooey-gooey fondue as the eve’s star attraction. (It’s not every night grown-ups tell kids to spear their supper and dunk to their hearts’ content.)

After all, what’s oozing around the fondue pot is basically an inside-out grilled cheese, and what kid doesn’t love that? Then top it off with a sweet pot of melted chocolate and platters of cut-up fruit and cakes (and fat marshmallows).

Did someone spell k-i-d h-e-a-v-e-n?

But we didn’t stop there. We headed straight for the screened porch, strung up strands of sparkly lights and turned the place into a twinkling wonderland. Silvery tablecloths would add pizzazz. And an ice bucket filled with sparkling ciders. Be sure to grab a handful of hats and noisemakers at any grocery or big-box store. They needn’t be fancy — all that matters is sparkle and noise.

We added mystery to the equation by gathering the kids inside, and not telling them where we were headed. We wrapped them with blindfolds, spun them around and walked them to the porch. With a poof of fanfare we let them open their eyes in a sparkly room, aswirl in melty deliciousness.

Sure beats another humdrum night on the couch.

Other ways to shake it up

Pack a picnic basket with a thermos of hot cocoa, sparkling cider and a tin of sparkly cookies.

Drive to the beach or a meadow — somewhere away from city lights — and count the stars in the New Year’s sky. If it’s too cold, you can turn the car into your picnic venue.

©2012 Chicago Tribune
Distributed by MCT Information Services