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Sleepover Success Playbook

Sleepover Success Playbook

Kids love 'em; parents often dread them. Let's have a sleepover!

By Sara Kendall

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Hanging with your best friends, staying up late, crashing in a sleeping bag, and waking up to a big pancake breakfast. What could be better? Let’s face it: sleepovers are the stuff of kids’ dreams.

And yet, many parents dread these relatively benign parties.

No need to fret, moms and dads. Sleepovers are only for one night and we have you covered! Read on.

Choose Guests Wisely

A sleepover is a great way to promote bonding among friends. Start by encouraging your child to ask those kids she knows well and who have been over for play dates. Only intervene, gently, if you feel your child wants to ask someone to spend the night who you feel is not compatible with the group.

Does your child do best entertaining just one friend or can he handle several at a time? If the former, start with just one guest. Next time, advance to three. A sleepover veteran can deal with more guests, but still try to keep the number low.

Parents need to decide how many kids they are comfortable with, too. Stick to a reasonable number and try to make it an even number — you don’t want an odd man out.

Reach out to everyone on your child’s guest list. When you get a yes, ask about food allergies, medications, and contact telephone numbers for more than one person.

An EPI pen might accompany a child who has severe allergies. Don’t be afraid to ask how to use it, if you are not familiar with one. It’s best to be prepared instead of driving the child to the ER in the middle of the night.

Prep the Homefront

Kids like to entertain their friends without their siblings hanging around. Arrange for brothers and sisters to be taken out for a portion of the evening or to spend the night at Grandma’s house. At the very least, set up some special entertainment such as movies or games for these kids in a part of the house not inhabited by the sleeplover guests. They might want to camp out on the floor of your bedroom, for instance.

Move furniture if necessary to allow for all the guests to sleep together, and remove anything that could be damaged. Sleepovers tend to raise energy levels in kids and a highly excited guest could get out of hand. Also, have extra towels and pillows for the guests.

Make sure you have ample food with plenty of choices (remember the kid with food allergies). Be mindful of how messy the snacks are and how much sugar is in them. Save yourself some stress by ordering pizza or making lasagna. For breakfast, consider running out for some donuts or whip up stacks of pancakes. In any event, keep it simple.

A Planned Agenda

Brainstorm with your kid about games, videos, and crafts and let them have a say in the activities. Start the night off with an opening act, like a physical outdoor activity to burn off some of the collective energy. Save the best activities for later when everyone is present and feels like joining in. Planned activities throughout the evening prevent the kids from breaking off into groups at the exclusion of others. End the night with a light, funny movie, which will help to settle everyone down.

Give a verbal rundown or post a list of rules so that everyone is well aware of boundaries and other restrictions. Ask the young host how he prefers to communicate the rules with his guests.

Explain which rooms are off limits and that no one can leave the house without asking. If an issue arises, the guest(s) should consult with you first, rather than call or text their parent.

When you let the guests will know what is expected of them, don’t be too overbearing. After all, they are there to have fun!

Electronic Devices

Consider collecting all electronic devices in a basket for the night. A sleepover is a time to engage on a face-to-face basis. Removing these devices will help eliminate the potential of kids looking at inappropriate videos and photos and also texting with kids not invited to the party.

Sticky Situations.

There is a good chance you or your spouse will need to jump in and be a referee if an argument or teasing situation occurs. Keep a level head and listen to all sides of the story. Separate the kids for a cooling off period, if needed.

Some kids might get homesick. A fun-filled, action-packed night will give the child less time to think about Mom and Dad. Nevertheless, if one of your guests is overcome with homesickness, call the child’s family and drive her home, if necessary.

About once an hour, drop in on the party to make sure everyone is getting along, is still present, and that no one is engaging in inappropriate activities. It’s a party, but it’s not a time to let your parenting slide.

Now that you have the sleepover success playbook in hand, you and your child can plan a champion party. Looks like a big win for the home team.


Sara Kendall is a freelance writer and mother of two daughters

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Tagged With: sleepover, kids, parents, rules, food, sugar, kids' activities

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