Slumber Parties: From A to Zzz's
By Janice Wells
Hosting an overnight party can be an eye-opener. Slumber is rarely on the agenda and parents can count on getting zero sleep, or just a few hours of sleep—if you are lucky. These parties can be a positive way for your child to enjoy just plain fun and giggles are guaranteed if a house full of girls is planned. So if there is a nightfest in your future, consider the following to ensure a safe, sane sleepover.
For first-time hosts, two or three carefully chosen friends are usually plenty. The ideal guest has already spent time at your home, so he or she has met you and is familiar with your house rules. If a child has never slept over before, tactfully ask his parents if he can handle being away for the night—the party won’t be much fun for a child or adolescent who is afraid of the dark, has frequent nightmares, often needs his parents during the night or wets the bed. To acclimate a novice partygoer, perhaps invite the child over before the party date to spend some time at your house.
Party time begins
It is best to begin your sleepover in the early evening, between 5 and 7 p.m., to limit the number of waking hours you’ll need to supervise. Start early and take a trip to the park or allow them to play vigorously, preferably outside for an hour or two. Games such as hide-and-seek or jump rope are good for younger children and older children may enjoy badminton or just hanging out.
Slumber parties require some supervision, the amount depending on the maturity of the child. “A young child can’t be expected to act as a host until he’s intuitive enough to empathize with an unhappy guest or to help solve disputes—typically around age seven,” said Alan Fogel, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Utah. Even then, treat him like one of the guests, and plan initiating activities, setting up the sleeping bags and preparing dinner and snacks. Stay within earshot and periodically check up on the children.
Food and games
A “food bar” that allows guests to construct what they want to eat is fun and gives picky eaters more choices, said Penny Warner, author of Kids’ Pick-a-Party and Kids’ Party Cookbook. Line up the fixings and let guests build their own tacos, sandwiches or hamburgers, she said. Pizza—frozen, delivered or child–assembled—also score big points. For breakfast, set out a variety of fruits, cereals and an assortment of muffins.
Slumber parties rarely experience a lull. But just in case, have a list of backup games and activities to suggest. Also, ask guests to bring something fun to share with everybody—a game, music, comic book or movies.
From the start, tell guests what time they’ll need to go to bed, but be flexible. An hour before, lay out sleeping bags and steer the children toward playing quiet games, telling stories and whispering. Or put on a video that they’ve seen before (so they won’t care about seeing the end) to help them nod off.
If your party goers are still lively, give them a couple of warnings, but don’t be mean, Warner said. “Come out in your pajamas and tell the kids that you’re going to join them since they’re keeping you awake. That’s sure to silence them.”
Ask each guest’s parents if their child has food allergies, and get a number where you can reach them in case of an emergency. Ask the guests to bring a sleeping bag, a pillow, pajamas, a toothbrush, and anything they like to sleep with.
Be specific about the start and pickup time (after breakfast but before lunch), and remind parents of this when they drop off their children. Keep the following day free of plans until long after the agreed ending. As mothers of experience have learned, there are always stragglers.
Besides, you may be too party-pooped to do much more—except catch up on your own sleep.