Slumber Party Success Without the Stress
The thought of your child doing the same things that you used to do at sleepovers might send a chill down your spine, especially if your sleepover traditions involved keeping secrets from the parents in charge. So how can you keep the festivities thoroughly G-rated while still letting the kids experience all the fun of sleepovers? Being prepared with a wide range of activities that they'll actually love is a big part of throwing a successful slumber party.
Theme It Up
Choose a sleepover theme as a simple way of sparking your creativity and helping the kids feel like it's a special occasion. It's also an easy way to customize the party to suit the tastes of kids, no matter their ages. Suggest some possibilities to your child and let her make the final ruling. Maybe she'll want a princess party or to pretend that she and her friends are camping. Music, animals and sports are easy sleepover themes too.
Once the theme is set, plan a few activities in keeping with it. An evening tea party is perfect for a princess sleepover, while a camping-themed sleepover begs for an outdoor scavenger hunt and a faux indoor campfire with tissue paper flames.
It might get messy, but providing lots of arts-and-crafts supplies keeps kids busy without having the TV on all night. Buy a bunch of plain oversized T-shirts or tote bags, and let the kids decorate their own using fabric markers. Provide string and beads to make friendship bracelets, or set out mason jars and the supplies to make DIY snow globes. Be sure to consult your own child, though. She knows better than anyone what projects she and her friends will enjoy. They may prefer more creative pursuits, like choreographing their own dance routine or making up their own play.
Is it really a sleepover if it doesn't have some junk food? First consult all the parents about food allergies, and then find some kid-friendly recipes that only require some light adult help. If they're too little to handle actual mixing and measuring, choose some assembly-based food activities instead.
For example, give each child a ball of pizza dough, and set out sauce, cheese and toppings so each one can customize her own dinner. Let them help you mix up a batch of cupcakes or brownies (with you handling all things oven-related), and decorate them with frosting, sprinkles and candy once they're cool. Encourage them to eat veggies by letting them mix up their own dips using sour cream, salsa, hummus and spices.
Deputize your child to create a short list of games that might be fun to play with her friends. For younger kids, some board games like Candy Land should suffice. Older kids might want to play Twister, simple card games or a PG-rated version of Truth or Dare.
Hopefully, most of the kids will love all the activities you plan. But some kids may feel overwhelmed by a constant stream of excitement, so be mindful to let kids know they can opt out and relax with a book or quiet game at any time. Set out books, coloring sheets and other solo activities where they're accessible. Don't hesitate to pop in an age-appropriate movie at some point. Make sure it's something you've seen to eliminate any risk that there's a scary or sexual scene in there. Settling the kids down with a movie helps them unwind before bed, and gives you a break too.
Sleepover Ground Rules
Making sure the kids get good-quality sleep is a critical part of an overall successful sleepover. Announce a firm bedtime at the beginning of the party. When it's nearly time for lights-out, supply extra blankets and pillows so everyone can create comfortable nests for their sleeping bags. Be sure to choose a sleeping area that's completely safety-proofed and doesn't have any outdoor access. Leave nightlights on, and make sure the kids know where you'll be sleeping and that they're allowed to come get you in the middle of the night if necessary.
Don't forget to check in on your own child periodically. Even a kid who's really excited about hosting a sleepover might find it hard to have friends over all night. You might even want to decide on a code word or phrase ahead of time. She can say the code if one of the kids is being mean or breaking the rules or if she just needs a break. If she says the code, make an excuse to pull her out of the room so you can find out what's going on. Hopefully, a short break is all she'll need to recharge before returning to her friends.
Kathryn Walsh has more than 20 years of experience working with children and has been writing about children and parenting topics for more than 10 years. Her work has appeared on sites including TheBump, Working Mother and Mamapedia.