Hosting a sleepover can be a lot of fun. But for first-time kids and parents, it can also be a daunting experience if you're not prepared. So to help bring more "yay" and less "no way" to your child's next sleepover, here's our 7 Secrets to a Successful Sleepover.
1. Are your kids ready for it? Are you?
We're often asked what age is the best age for a child to have their first sleepover. Our answer; it depends on your child. Most kids at age 7 or 8 are ready to have a sleepover with their friends, but it's not something that should be forced or rushed into. If your child is thinking of games to play, things to do and who to invite that's a pretty good sign. And if they've had a night away at a friends or cousins it probably means they are ready for the big leagues of a group sleepover.
For kids under 7, we recommend our SlumberUnder which is specifically designed for kids who aren't yet ready to stay the night but don't want to miss out on any of the fun. Think of the SlumberUnder as an "almost sleepover" where the kids arrive in their pajamas in the afternoon, had some fun, watch a movie from the comfort of the WonderTents and then leave around 8 or 9pm.
Another idea is to have an opt-out where any of the kids can call their parents to be picked up at bedtime. It doesn't happen often, but it's a nice comfort to have.
Of course, the other question to ask is, "Are YOU ready for it?" You, Mom. You, Dad. Are you ready to have a group of kids in your home for an overnight stay? If the idea is going to keep you up at night then maybe look at other group activities until you're comfortable with the thought. Of course, we can offer helpful hints and activities to make the night less of a chore and more of a roaring success.
2. Have your child lend a hand in the planning.
Remember it is their special night so make sure they lead the way in planning the event. Let them feel empowered by deciding who to invite and what activities to do. It's great to help them by offering suggestions of what might be fun but follow their lead. No matter how cool and hip you are, they know their friends best and will know what activities they will enjoy and what ones they won't. Guide them and keep suggestions in your comfort zone but always keep the focus on fun.
3. Keep the numbers comfortable.
This is especially true for hosting your first sleepover. We suggest your child and four of their friends is a good number for a first outing. This makes you feel confident you'll have things under control (after all, no-one likes herding cats) and it won't have your child feeling too overwhelmed with having to "entertain" a large group. We've also helped parents host Sleep Overs for groups as large as 20! Large groups might feel daunting but the truth is they often end up entertaining themselves which frees you up.
Another good tip is to think about the personality of the kids you're inviting. Make sure there's a good balance of outgoing and friendly kids to help keep things moving and inclusive. Also if the group is pretty tightknit already, now may not be the best time to introduce a new friend to the mix.
4. Keep the parents in the loop.
While the other parents might relish the thought of a "night off" it can quickly turn into a night of panic for them. The key here is to keep them informed. When inviting be sure to have a clear drop off time AND a clear pick up time (let me say that again, a clear PICK UP time.) This means the kids won't have a chance to feel alone or out of sorts either arriving too early or waiting for their pick up. It also means that you can focus on what you and your family need to do the next day. We strongly recommend a pick up time of 10am as the kids will be up early (regardless of how late they got to sleep.)
Also, let parents know of any planned activities you're looking to do or what movies you are looking to watch. And check for any food allergies or any other bedtime habits (the need for a nightlight, a call before bedtime etc.)
One recommendation we make is to have parents leave their details on a Contact Sheet that's kept on the fridge. That way if you, or their child, need to call them their number is super handy. Sometimes just visually seeing that Mom/Dad is just a call away can settle any nerves.
5. Feed them well but hide the sugar.
Part of the fun of a sleepover is sharing a meal or some treats together. But keep it all within reason. Have a fun food activity like making your own pizza or creating your own sundae planned for early in the night or before the movie. And give the kids a chance to burn off any excess energy. Try holding off on any sugary treats the closer you get to bedtime. And again be aware of any food allergies or foods that might cause an already nervous tummy to get even more upset. The last thing you want is a "Clean up in aisle five!"
6. Be flexible.
While it's great to have a plan of activities to keep the kids entertained, remember to keep the plan flexible. Some activities will keep their attention longer than others, and some might just not come off as planned. That's ok. Just go with the flow. The most important thing is to make sure the kids are having fun.
7. Sleep will come. Just not when you plan it.
Part of the joy of a sleepover is the bonding and chit-chat that happens at bedtime. While we recommend you have a defined "lights out" time, plan it to be for an hour before you really expect them to go to sleep. And then plan for it to go on after that. It's ok to check in on them and give them a gentle but final "Goodnight" when its time to sleep.
Other things to keep in mind is to have a "codeword" with your child so they can let you know if things are getting out of hand or someone needs help. Something simple like, "What time is it?" is great way for your child to let you know to check in on them or help out without making it a big deal.
Also, keep a hall light on or create a path to the bathroom with night lights so you don't have to worry about things that will go bump in the night. We have designed each of our SleepOver setups to include individual fairy lights and individual lanterns so if a child needs a little light to feel safe they can feel in control of it.
Following these simple steps will guarantee you a truly memorable sleepover for your child, their friends and you. And of course, if you really want to make it an unforgettable experience treat them to any one of our amazing SleepOver setups (that's our Sleepover Secret number 8.)