It isn’t easy staying up until midnight on New Year’s Eve when your age is in the single digits.

But the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine figured out years ago that counting down the new year at noon is a snap for those in the elementary school and under set. For decades the museum on Free Street in Portland has turned itself into a Times Square for young revelers. On Saturday hundreds of children – many dressed in pajamas – and their families rang in the new year with a balloon drop and other festive activities.

“We have a lot of things happening,” said Reba Short, the theater and education director.

This year’s events also included face painting – a perennial favorite – a dance party, a calendar construction workshop and a read-aloud session featuring the staff’s picks for the best 10 children’s books of 2016.

The museum staff worked to send a message to the children about the passage of time and the traditions associated with that, Short said.

“And they can celebrate the new year without having to try and stay up until midnight,” she said.

The Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine resulted from the 2008 merger of the Children’s Museum, founded in 1976, and the Children’s Theatre of Maine, founded in 1923. Both institutions were started by the Junior League of Portland. The theater is for young people ages 8 to 17, while the museum is aimed at children ages 10 and under.

On Saturday the level of excitement grew as children piled through the doors. On the second floor volunteer Cathryn Cunningham went in search of the 365 balloons for the feature event.

“It is my job to bring them all down,” said Cunningham.

Downstairs Abby Jaques, 7 of Freeport arrived in braids and candy pink pajamas, clutching her identically dressed American Girl doll.

Abby said 2016 had treated her well.

“Because I got an American Girl doll for Christmas,” she said.

Not many of the revelers had heard about new year’s resolutions, the tradition of trying to change oneself for the better in the coming year. But Tess McMorrow, 7 , of Malden, Massachusetts, quickly caught on to the concept once she was told about it.

“I will give up candy – it’s so good and super sweet – for the first week of January,” Tess announced.

Ellie Clifford, 6, of Cumberland gave some thought to a resolution and said, “I will practice hockey.”

Doc Williams, 4, of Cumberland, said he was excited about the new year because “it’s another 365 days.”

Doc said his resolution was, “I want to spend time with my family.”


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