Sleepover, slumber party, pajama party – it goes by many names, but the idea remains the same. Children get together at someone’s house, have fun, and go to sleep – or don’t. The sleepover is a rite of passage for kids, and a chance for them to taste a new kind of independence. But if it’s your turn to host a sleepover, it’s up to you to define when lights-out comes.
Preparation will go a long way in making sleepover night a success. The first thing to determine is how many children you want to have over. Eight is the generally recommended maximum, and sometimes the fewer kids, the better for your sanity. Before you commit to a larger number of guests, make sure you have room to fit them all.
Once you have your guest list, call guests’ parents to invite them. Make sure parents know when your party begins and ends, and where they can drop off and pick up their child. Also, get each parent’s cell phone number, and ask them about dietary restrictions or other specific issues their children might have – have a notepad handy to keep track. Once you know how many kids are coming and what they’ll need, stock up on supplies. Make sure you have extra linens, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. A grocery run should cover snacks, drinks, and breakfast items, but might also include plastic plates and cutlery for larger groups.
You might also consider working out a rough activity schedule before guests arrive. Talk with your child about what they’d like to do at their sleepover. Watch movies? Paint fingernails? Play flashlight tag? Also, make sure your child knows what playing host or hostess entails. Explain to them that they can have some extra say in what they and their friends do on sleepover night, but that this also means they have to take responsibility if a rogue attendee decides to finger paint the pool table.
When the big night arrives, there are two things to do right at the beginning. First, give all your sleepover guests a tour: show them where all the bathrooms are, and where you’ll be should they need you. Second, lay down the rules. These are up to you, but might include no leaving the house, no using dangerous appliances, and no “ganging up.” Rules should definitely include a specific time for lights-out. In fact, you might step in about a half-hour before lights-out to remind everyone.
Even with all this preparation, be ready for some typical problems. Be available to comfort kids who are homesick or otherwise upset. Try to imagine what it’s like to sleep somewhere strange, to adhere to another family’s rules and quirks. On the other hand, be ready with stern warnings for out-of-line behavior, and don’t hesitate to call parents should kids drastically overstep your rules.
That said, staying up all night is par for the course for many sleepovers. It might be best to just let it happen and accept that you probably won’t get the best night’s sleep either. Take a nap the previous day or the next. And take solace in the fact that while you might miss out on one good night of sleep, your child’s sleepover memories will last forever.