Hosting your kid's first sleepover? Make it a huge success your little one will never forget with our expert tips.
A sleepover, overnight play date or slumber party. Whatever it is that you refer them as, they’re heaven for children and hell for us parents. Food and drink mess, excitement, homesick and disagreements can make for a night full of surprises. A more positive picture begins to emerge as the sleepover goes on, providing you with an insight into your kids behavior. You see your son or daughter being independent, and boosting their social skills, all within the safe environment of your home.
Is your child ready?
So they've started packing a bag or planning who to invite, only to find yourself having to answer the question "Can I sleep at Lola's house on Friday?" or "Can I have a sleepover?". You know they are ready when they ask to try it. That being said, a child as young as five can more than likely handle a small overnight stay with family or close friends. If you’re still unsure about your smaller ones readiness, a good compromise might be a "sleepunder". Just like sleepovers, minus the sleeping part. The little ones can have fun and then leave when its time for bed. Better yet consider the opt out policy. Make it clear that kids are welcome to be picked up at bedtime and can decide either to stay the full night or not.
Consult with other parents
Information shared between either incoming or outgoing parties is at the center of any successful sleepover. Written invitations are a great way to get the message across. Specify pick up times and what to bring (e.g sleeping bag), and some information about any supervised activities. Contact details are also a must. Have a conversation with other parents about their child's bedtime routine or allergies. Some children may have certain meal plans or medication. If your child is staying over at their friends house, don't be shy about giving the parent the low down on your child's needs. It is better to be safe than sorry, so be honest about any bed wetting or fears. A prepared host can always handle any situation effectively.
Maintain the guest list
Start with a maximum of three guests and build up to a larger number. Don't over do it with and wait until the hang of sleepovers. Of course if you have a lot of experience with kids, jump right in and have as many as you can sleep. Depending on age, children do tend to entertain themselves, with the occasional interference needed. You have to consider the many personalities at the sleepover. This may not be the time to introduce new friends. For a more peaceful stay, let your child pick who they'd like to stay over.
Avoid sweets and fatty foods
Dips, veggies, mini burgers and low sugar foods are a wise choice. Keep the selection light and offer food earlier on in the evening to allow the kids to burn off the energy. A final note is to avoid any food that might upset anyone's already home sick stomach. Remember it will be you cleaning up the vomit.
Come up with some fun activities
The most successful activities are the ones where everyone can get involved unlike a video where only one or two people can play. Of course if it's a video game that includes more people and interaction, then go for it. Some good ideas include: decorating food; watching movies; crafts; dance mat or board games. Just make sure they are age appropriate. Depending on your mix of genders, make sure the games appeal to everyone, and if someone is not interested ask them what it is they'd like to play. Never push a child into doing something.
Stay close, but not too close
The last thing your child wants is for their parent to be poking around every 2 minutes. Check in every 30 minutes, and make it quick. You'll be able to gauge whether the situation is fine or not. Keep a watchful eye and be discreet. And, of course, ensure that you know what to do if anything goes wrong. Taking control of any argument without singling anyone out is the key. For example, if two children are fighting over the TV remote, remove the remote from them both and allocate it to someone else.
Take control when it comes to sleeping
Arranging the sleeping area is top of the list. A row of sleeping bags on a living room floor, space permitting, means all of the guests are equal and all together. Having all the children on the floor means no one will be falling out of bed and by setting the rules of where to sleep you will squash out arguments about who gets to sleep where. There are a few things you can do to get the kids to sleep at 10:00.p.m. instead of 2:00.a.m. Make them aware of when the lights will be turned off and how you expect them all to get into there sleeping bags or blankets. It is best to limit the use of television in the period leading up to this time, and possibly leave a lamp on if anyone is afraid of the dark. If the noise carries on throughout the early hours, consider going down and talking to them. That said, sleeping next to them might encourage sleep. If all else fails, a big scary voice should do the trick, this is where the dads come in!
Be prepared for anything
Expect the unexpected: have extra toiletries, blankets and pillows ready. A toothbrush is bound to be forgotten by someone, so have a stock. By having the other parents phone numbers ready, in case their child was missing home or out of control, a call should be made. Make sure these numbers are to hand, even at the crack of dawn.
Arrange a suitable pick up time
You've had them for over 12 hours, so stand your ground when it comes to the pick up. Even though they have been up until the early hours (which you can't control) they’ll probably still wake at sunrise. This get up will be difficult, but you can pat yourself on the back for having created some fun memories. The sleepover, hopefully, should have built a stronger bond of friendship between guests. You might have even achieved a reputation as a "cool" parent. As for the parent hosts, follow the rule of packing every thing as it was packed. Make sure they are well fed, clean and ready to go home. Those parents who are not hosting, picking them up the next day and on time is common courtesy, or even better, pick your child up early. Following these tips will ensure your kids sleepover goes down smoothly. Just remember, if you aren't hosting this time its your turn next!