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7 Successful Sleepover Strategies

Are you thinking of inviting several of your child’s friends over for a sleepover bash, but are unsure you can handle all those exuberant kids for more than three hours?

Yes, sleepovers can be overwhelming and exhausting. Let’s face it, they can be a downright nightmare. It will take quite a bit of planning and forethought, but both you and your child’s friends can have a positive experience if you think things through before the first excited guest appears at your door.

Strategy 1: Establish the rules from the get-go. Kids attending sleepovers know their own parents won’t be coming to pick them up until the next day. This gives a sense of “no holds barred.”

After hosting several sleepovers for my son and daughter, I’ve found that kids respond well to rules if you establish them right away. I like to hold a “welcome meeting.” Tell the guests about all the great activities you have planned. Then give them a list of rules to follow.

Make sure that they understand these are your rules, not your child’s. Tell them if things go well, you have a special activity planned (such as a rented movie or a game with really cool prizes).

Strategy 2: Prepare your home. Find a place in your home that will be suitable for several kids bunking out and playing group games. This might be a playroom or any large space with sparse furnishings. Remove any breakable or valuable items so you won’t become a nervous wreck if a pillow fight ensues. Make sure that the eating area is properly protected. If you don’t have easy-to-clean tile or vinyl flooring, protect the floor with plastic splash mats or drop cloths.

Place night lights in bathrooms and hallways so it is easier for your guests to navigate in the middle of the night. Make sure you have extra toothbrushes, pillows and socks in case one of the guests forgets her own.

Strategy 3: Sanity is in the numbers. Larger groups of kids tend to get more unruly. Some parents suggest that you keep the number of guests to eight, including your own child. Others say the number of guests should be no higher than your child’s age. Most also agree an even number works best to avoid “odd man out” situations.

Many parents today are leery about sending their children to sleepover parties if they don’t know the family. To avoid declined invitations, put a message on the invitation such as, “Party continues after 8 for those who would like to sleep over.” This will enable guests to decline the sleepover part, but to join the festivities and celebrate with your child early in the evening.

Too much free time is a recipe for disaster... Make sure you have scheduled several controlled activities besides dinner, cake and gifts.

Strategy 4: Activities make or break a party. Too much free time is a recipe for disaster, so plan ahead. Make sure you have scheduled several controlled activities besides dinner, cake and opening gifts. If the weather permits, outdoor activities will wear out your partygoers without stressing you out. For indoor activities, choose those that will keep the kids relatively calm and focused.

For girls, painting nails and doing hair usually works. Fashion shows and karaoke are always crowd pleasers, too.

For boys, if you don’t want too much time spent playing video games, schedule group activities. Boys enjoy team activities. Organize a mystery game or sports trivia game and break the kids up into teams.

Group activities such as charades and bingo are always a hit with both boys and girls. Have an alternative activity planned in case one or two don’t want to play the group game.

Crafts are enjoyable for any gender. The best crafts are those that also serve as party souvenirs. Some suggestions for souvenir crafts:

  • Photo frames. Take a digital, group picture, print and insert in each child’s custom frame, then glue magnets on back.
  • Pillow cases, tote bags or tee shirts. Use paint or fabric markers to decorate.
  • Bookmarks or book bag chains that celebrate the theme of the party.

Strategy 5: Fun Food, Happy Campers. You will probably serve dinner, snacks and breakfast, so food plays an important role in the party’s success.

Mixing food and fun is always a hit. Making individual pizzas can suffice as dinner and as an activity. In lieu of a cake, you can set up bowls of toppings for make-your-own sundaes or cupcakes. Put a candle on the birthday child’s concoction!

Remember, popcorn and chips are laden with salt. The kids will be thirsty, so you’ll need to stock up on a variety of thirst quenchers.

Keep breakfast simple. Avoid making omelets or scrambled eggs, which only serve a few at a time. French toast or pancakes are easy to prepare and keep warm. To spice things up, add chocolate chips or M&Ms.

Ask parents if their children have food allergies. Always keep cereal on hand in case someone is allergic to eggs or a vegetarian.

Quick tips: Use paper ware and paper tablecloths for easy clean up. Provide a healthy snack such as carrots and dip. Don’t serve caffeinated items at night.

Even for the most organized host, getting the kids to bed can prove challenging.

Strategy 6: Yes Virginia, There is a Bedtime! Even for the most organized party host, getting the kids to bed at a “respectable” hour can prove challenging.

Showing an age-appropriate movie once the kids have prepared for bed usually settles them down. Any type of calming activity will suffice late in the evening.

Plan to separate groups of kids if some want to whisper and pass notes while others are ready to crash.

Strategy 7: There’s Got to be a Morning After. Give your bleary-eyed guests a specified time to get dressed, clean up and pack their things. Offer a surprise treat if they are successful.

Of course, you remembered to list the pickup time on the invitations, and to remind parents of this time when they dropped their children off. Most of your child’s guests probably have other activities to attend, so a 10:30-11am pickup is appropriate.

Finally, when the last guest has stepped out the door, grab a cup of herbal tea and head for the couch. This respite will be well deserved!

Myrna Beth Haskell is a freelance writer.

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