“Can I have a sleepover?” and “Can I go to a sleepover?” are two questions you’re guaranteed to hear many times as your kids get older. If just the thought of a sleepover sets off a cascade of questions such as, “Is she old enough to spend the night away from home?” then fear not. We’ve gathered a set of hints and tips to help ensure everyone, whether they’re hosting or attending, enjoys their first sleepover.
Tips For Hosting A Sleepover
Being the host of your child’s first sleepover has plenty of both pros and cons. In the pro column, you have control, you know your child is in a safe place, and you won’t get a phone call at 3 am asking to pick your little one up. The cons of hosting could include the prep and planning (not to mention being woken at 3 am to call someone’s mother to come and get them.)
If you’re on the fence about hosting one, here are some things to think about:
1. Consider a half-sleepover
The guests come over to your place, already in their pajamas, have some fun, play a few games and then leave again at 9 or 10 pm. This puts less pressure on all involved, has many of the fun elements of a sleepover and is a good starting point for all who are still unsure about the whole “spending the night at someone else’s house” business.
2. Limit the Guest List
The potential for disaster increases exponentially with each additional child you invite. Four or five, kids including your own, is generally a good number. More than this and you can expect chaos, less and you are more likely to find one child left out in the cold. Although not literally of course.
On a side note, do not invite extra kids on the assumption that some will not come along. You are essentially offering free babysitting for the night and parents will leap on that invitation as a tired momma pounces on the chance of a nap.
3. Share Information
It might seem like overkill but take the time write an email invite with all of the relevant info the other parents need, plus a section where you ask for information in return. For example, you might want to know:
- A contact name and a number that will be answered in the middle of the night.
- Does your child have any allergies, food sensitivities, or dietary restrictions?
- Are there any medical issues that I need to be aware of?
- Do you have any particular nighttime rituals your child might want to stick to in order to be comfortable?
- Is your child afraid of the dark, do they wear disposable pants at bedtime etc?
- Would you like a call from your child before bed?
The information you’ll want to give might include:
- Your contact details
- What each child should bring i.e. sleeping bag, pillows etc.
- A note about who will be supervising, what the plan for the night is etc.
- Who else will be there
- What time they should be picked up the next morning
4. Have Plans
For a first sleepover, you’ll want to have a few simple games and activities planned because sitting a group of little ones in a room and expecting them to amuse themselves is asking for trouble.
5. Make it Inclusive
When you are planning ways to keep your little sleep-dodging guests occupied, try to stick to activities that everyone can participate in at once. Unless you have four kids and a game for four and four controllers, leave the video games turned off. If you need some inspiration, consider one of the following options:
- Decorating cupcakes
- Painting, drawing or colouring
- Building with Lego
- Watching an age-appropriate movie
- Simple crafts
- Turn a room into a fort
- Buy plain t-shirts to use as PJ tops and have the kids decorate them
- Build a crepe paper maze
6. Be Flexible
Having said that, be flexible. You don’t have to have an action plan and timetable worthy of a military general and you certainly don’t want to force the kiddos to have the kind of fun you want them to. Listen to your child and guests and be prepared to change your plans on the fly.
7. Stay Close
If you are leaving the slumber bugs to their own devices, don’t stray too far. With younger children, if you are going to leave them for a little while, make sure you are within listening distance. That way you can swing in if you hear something suspicious, or if all becomes suspiciously quiet.
8. Have A Code Phrase
By setting a code phrase with your kiddo, you give them a way to ask for your help, without everyone knowing about it. If the “secret words” are used, you can come into the room, take stock of what’s happening and make it look like a natural “mom moment” instead of it being your child going to their mom because they are upset.
9. Feed Them Early And Feed Them Well
You know what happens when your own child eats tons of junk later in the evening. Now multiply that by five or six. If you give your guests sugary treats, give them enough time to burn off the energy or you’ll be paying for your generosity at 1 am with a bunch of bouncy kiddies. Also, don’t serve any foods that might upset a small, nervous tummy, you don’t want vomit making a guest appearance.
10. Set a Bedtime
Let the kids know from the get-go, that X pm will be the time they will be ready for bed, in their sleeping bags and the lights will go off. Lead up to lights out with a quiet activity or story time.
11. Provide Privacy
Younger children may feel embarrassed about getting changed in front of others or they may still need to wear “nighttime diapers.” By having each child take their own bag into the bathroom, get changed, then come out and let the next child go in, nobody has to feel different.
12. Keep Sleeping Equal
Have everyone sleep in sleeping bags, or wrapped in their duvets, that have been laid out by you on the floor. This avoids any children feeling left out, but more importantly for you, sidesteps arguments about who sleeps where.
13. Stock a Few Spares
If you can, have an extra toothbrush in the cupboard and a spare pillow to hand because there is always one child, usually mine, who has forgotten something.
14. Set a Clear Pick-Up Time
Try to avoid generalizations like, “Pick them up sometime tomorrow morning,” or you’ll be sitting at the door at 11:30 am with a pack of children.
If Your Child Is Attending A First Sleepover
In general, imagine that you are the host and act how you would want the parents of your guests to act.
Always RSVP as soon as you possibly can. The host will want to plan for food and activities and having unused extras or having to rush out and grab extras at the last minute. If there is a reason you cannot commit immediately, let your host know and don’t leave them wondering what’s happening.
16. Ask About Gear
Ask about what your child will need to bring. You don’t want to weigh your kiddo down with a ton of gear but on the other hand, you do not want them to feel uncomfortable because they are the only one to be without a particular item.
17. Pack Together
Don’t hand your little one a prepared bag. Pack your mini-me’s bag with your child so they will know exactly what they have and where it is.
Put in an extra t-shirt, set of pj’s and underwear, just in case of accidents.
19. Be Timely
Arrive on time. Your host might not be ready, or even at home if you turn up early, and arriving late will make your child feel they have missed out. If you do find yourself running late, lat your host know you are still coming. In addition, always pick your kiddo up on time.
20. Prep Your Child for Differences
Make sure your little one is prepared for a different way of doing things and coach them on how to behave in someone else’s house. For example, it might be standard practice for kids in your house to go help themselves to a drink, but it is better to ask first in someone else’s home.
21. Let Them Know You Are There
Reassure your child that you will come and get them at any point in the evening, should they need you. No questions asked, and you’ll never be upset if they need to call.
22. Be Ready
Bear in mind you might have to jump in the car at 3 am to retrieve a homesick slumberer so don’t do anything with your free evening that would prevent you driving safely and legally should you need to. In addition, have your phone by the bed with the ringer turned up.