Sleepover sanity

If you’ve got kids, and especially girls, you will not be able to avoid the prospect of one day hosting a… deep breath… calm thoughts… sleepover! Don’t worry, this rite of American childhood can be fun, even for the host parents! Here are a few tips.

  • Make plans. If you’re going to have a large number of kids in your home, the last thing you want is for them to be bored. Bored, unfocused kids = big problems. Do your homework ahead of time and think things through. Plan your snacks, dinner, snacks, late-night snacks, super-late-night snacks, breakfast, etc. Plan activities. Plan where they will sleep. Plan what you’ll do when they say, “what’s next?” Plan some options for quiet vs. rowdy activities. Plan…and then make back-up plans.
    Now, planning does not mean creating a minute-by-minute agenda and strict marching orders – there’s nothing fun about that! It simply means having lots of ideas and options at the ready. We can’t stress this enough…downtime = danger!
  • Prepare your home. Make sure you know where the kids are going to hang out and, most importantly, where will they sleep. It’s best to have everyone sleep together on the floor in sleeping bags or with blankets – this way you can avoid arguments about who gets the bed or the sofa or the top bunk. And it goes without saying, but you should put away valuables, collectibles, breakable family heirlooms, etc. Make sure you have extra toothbrushes and pillows in case somebody forgets theirs.
  • Activities. Did we mention the importance of planning? Don’t think you’re going to invite 6-10 kids to hang out with hours of unscheduled free time. In addition to dinner and birthday cake and presents (if it’s a birthday party), plan some activities. Girls may like to do makeovers or manicures. Crafts such as scrapbooking or art projects are fun for girls and boys. Use paint or markers to decorate pillowcases or T-shirts. Take a group photo and print copies, then decorate frames. Consider renting a karaoke machine.
  • Games – especially active games that will tire kids out – are a great idea. Play old favorites like charades or Pictionary. Go outside and play freeze tag or kick ball. Feeling super ambitious? Set-up a scavenger hunt, either within your own yard/house or with one or two good-sport neighbors. Be sure to accompany the kids and supervise, as appropriate, depending on their ages.
  • One note about activities: do not insist that everyone must participate. Have some books or magazines or solo activities available for those kids who maybe don’t feel like joining a particular activity. It’s great to have options, but respect kids’ wishes, too, and don’t force anything.
  • Lights out. Forget about enforcing a specific bedtime. You won’t force anyone to sleep but you can at least make it possible for them to sleep at, say, 2:00 AM instead of 4:00 AM. Be sure to tell the kids early in the evening what time “lights out” will be, so no one is surprised. Give periodic updates throughout the evening, “Hey, guys, it’s 11:00. Lights out is in two hours!” As lights out approaches, dim the lights for a while, and then turn the lights off and let them know you expect them to quiet down. Go back into the room, as necessary, with reminders. As a last resort, you may need to join them (on an adjacent couch or chair) to encourage quiet and sleep.
  • Early morning pick-up time. Set the pick-up time for no later than 10:00 AM – and make sure parents are aware of this before they drop-off their children the night before. Put the pick-up time on the invitation, and then confirm at drop-off with comments like, “So, see you tomorrow morning at 10:00!” No matter how late they finally went to sleep, you’ll be able to wake them up (pancakes and bacon are a good lure!), and you’ll certainly want to get your house back to normal as early as possible.

A sleepover is a big deal for parents and kids, but with a little planning and patience, that “big deal” will create memories to last a lifetime.

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