The squeals of delight from excited tweens echoed down the stairway from my daughters bedroom. I looked at my wife who had a furrowed brow. “It is going to be OK” I reassured her, “as long as we stick to our plan”…
A week ago my daughter had her ninth birthday party. As is common for kids her age, she wanted a slumber party. While we have had our children’s friends sleeping over before, this was the first time we had hosted a slumber party with multiple kids staying over on the same night. After hearing some of the horror stories from other parents who had gone before us, we were a little nervous to say the least.
Taking the lessons from those parents and doing a bit of research ourselves, we came up with a plan on how we were going to manage the party and hopefully still get a decent night sleep. Call it beginners luck but the plan worked! Much fun was had and everyone was asleep by 11pm!
While I cannot guarantee these ideas will work the same way for you, I am sure they will be a step in the right direction. So without further ado, here are my top tips for surviving a slumber party.
Choose your guests carefully
How smoothly the party goes does depend a lot on the friends your child invites to their party. Ideally you want to keep to even numbers so no one feels left out and keep the number of guests to a minimum. For my daughter’s party we invited four girls to stay. I would recommend four and six ideally but certainly no more than eight. It goes without saying, the more kids you have to manage, the more likely things will get out of hand.
Next, you ideally want to invite children who all know each other for a good group dynamic. Double check with your child you are not inviting kids who are arch enemies!
Finally, you ideally want to be inviting kids who have had sleepovers before and are comfortable being away from their parents for a night. In my daughters case, all of her friends had either been on sleepovers or had been on a school camp. This reduces your chances of having “tears at 11pm” from a little person who is homesick and wanting to go home to their own bed.
Have a theme
As this is a special occasion, it is good to have a theme to make it extra special for your child. Our daughter is unicorn mad and so we surprised her with a unicorn theme. We didn’t have bedding for all our guests and so we hired individual tee-pees with a unicorn theme for the girls to sleep in. Each tent had its own blow up mattress and table for the kids to eat their snacks on while they chatted and watched a movie.
There are a lot of companies that hire tents for kids sleepovers. What was great about the company we used was they came and set up the tents for you and the following morning returned to pack it all up. Not all companies offer this service so be sure to check the fine print. It’s nice to have one less job on the “to-do list” on the day of the party!
Keep it moving
While it is important to give your child and their friends a bit of space, it is also important to have a few fun activities planned to keep things moving. For our daughter we had arranged a pedicure especially for young girls at our local beauty salon. We also got the girls to decorate their own party bags with unicorn stickers, complete a unicorn themed craft activity and play the chocolate game which was an absolute hit.
Along with planning activities, make sure you have the meal prepared and ready to go. The last thing you want is a bunch of hungry kids waiting around for the meal. Our daughter had asked for her favorite food – pizza. My wife called me from the beauty salon when the girls were nearly ready to leave, so the pizza was on the table when they walked in the door with their newly painted toenails. When choosing food and snacks for the party, try to avoid food and drink with excessive sugar and artificial colors and flavors as these can cause hyperactivity in some children. To learn more about the flavors and colors to avoid, click here.
For the activity before bed, choose something that is calming and will help the transition to sleep. You don’t want the kids revved up from a high energy game right before bed. A movie is a perfect before bed activity to help them settle down. Dim the lights, make sure the room is warm and press play.
Manage the siblings
One thing that can derail your party plans is a sibling that is feeling left out. In our case our older son didn’t want to miss out on the fun but our daughter was adamant she wanted to spend time with her friends alone.
The way we managed this was by firstly having an activity that the girls loved but our son did not want to be a part of. In our case this was the pedicure. Our son then joined the girls for pizza, birthday cake and to play the chocolate game.
The girls then went upstairs to chat and watch their movie while my son and I watched a movie of his choosing in another room.
So the key here is to include the sibling enough that they feel apart of the celebrations but also have some separate activities planned to keep them entertained.
Other ways to manage siblings are to give them a job e.g to run a craft activity or a game for the invited guests. Alternatively you could allow them to invite one of their friends to sleepover that night as well. Having their own friend to play with certainly help with the dynamic.
Have a transition plan – and stick to it!
Here comes the trickiest part… settling the kids and getting them off to sleep at a reasonable time. This can be difficult but is not impossible. As slumber party novices we managed to pull it off and I’m sure you can too!
I will lay out the steps we took to get the kids off to sleep by our target time of 11pm. You may want your invited guests to be asleep by a different time, so just adjust the timing of the activities accordingly.
1. We held off starting the movie until 9pm. That way as soon as the movie finished we could transition straight to lights out and sleep.
2. We had an intermission half way through the movie where the girls brushed their teeth and got ready for bed. This meant much of the bed time routine was done before the movie had even finished.
3. We encouraged the girls to get into their beds while they were watching the movie. Just by being in their sleeping bags seemed to condition them for the transition to sleep. We also dimmed the lights and made sure the room was warm. We could see a few eyelids getting heavy!
4. When the movie finished, we made it clear it was time to sleep. We told the girls my wife would stay in the room until everyone was asleep. We also said that the last one to go off to sleep would be last one to get a pancake in the morning.
There was a little bit of chatting and giggling but by 11pm they were all sound asleep and my wife and I were high- fiving!
One thing to note, in this day and age it is important to have two adults present when hosting a slumber party and ideally have at least one female. Provide a room with a lock on it for kids to have privacy while they get changed. Most school aged children should be able to get changed without adult assistance. If you are hosting as a single dad, you could ask a female family member or friend if they would mind helping you run the party.
Okay…, so you survived the night, there were no incidents and you even managed to get a decent night sleep. You’re doing well but don’t relax, just yet…
Arrange a pick up time that allows you to comfortably get the kids up, fed and dressed. We asked the parents to pick the kids up at 10am – 10:30am.
The main activity in the morning was breakfast. We made the girls pancakes which went down a treat. Once we got through breakfast, packing up and getting dressed, it was time for the girls to be collected. When the parents arrived, we were able to genuinely say that the party had been great fun for the kids and the parents.
While my wife and I are very aware we are novices when it comes to slumber parties, we are definitely open to having more. It was a lot of fun with a great bunch of kids. Our son turns eleven soon so we may even raise the stakes and attempt the pre-teen boy sleep over. I would love to hear your suggestions in the comments below on how to navigate that one!
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