One of the rights of passage for young kids is getting to that sleepover stage where they are old enough and ready for sleepovers. For some kids this transition is natural and is anticipated, but for other kids it can be a mixed bag of excitement and nerves. We, as parents, all have those fond memories of sleepovers as kids: eating pizza with friends, playing games, talking until wayyyyy past bedtime and giggling in the wee hours of the night. We all want our kids to have these memories too and there are some simple ways that you can be sure your child is set up for sleepover success!
Sleepovers can be some of the best memories for kids, but like all kid-focused events, a little planning is in order to be sure that your child, their guests and all the parents involved are ready, willing and able to have the most fun possible! Sleep overs are a great place for kids to boost their social skills, practice problem solving and practice being independent- all in a safe environment. Think your child is ready? Read on to find some top tips for ensuring sleepover success: sleep being optional.
Be sure they are ready.
Different kids are ready for sleepovers at different ages, but the average age for a child to have their first "friend" sleepover is around 7 or 8. Some kids are ready earlier and some later- only you know your child best. Things to ask yourself are: Can they transition well at school? Playdates? Sports? With a babysitter? Do they awaken a lot still at night or can they sleep on their own? Can they use their own voice to ask for help? If you have a child that cries when you leave, or begs you to stay, they probably are not ready to stay over someplace yet. Changes in routine, space and being away from Mom and Dad is a BIG deal to kids. Even if they say they are ready, be sure they are. Have family close by? Plan a "test" run sleepover. Sleeping over at Grandma's or a favorite aunt is an easier transition for most kids. Practice a few times before the big "friend" sleep over.
When you think your child is ready to give it a shot, keep guest lists small. One friend is a good beginning and you can work your way up to those massive sleepover extravaganzas as they get a big older. Little kids can feel lost in the mix in a big sleep over, especially if they aren't ready. By keeping the guest list short, kids will maximize the amount of fun (and chaos) during the event.
Communication is key.
Whether you are hosting the sleepover or your child is going someplace, first it's important for everyone to be on the same page. If you know the parents well and your kids play together often, you will most likely be familiar with each other's rules and expectations already, but it can't hurt to brush up on them. Obviously not all families follow the same rules and you need to be flexible when it comes to having guests over. But if you have a few set rules in your house, like where it's ok to eat or that Dad's office is off limits, then be sure to sit the kids down in the beginning and explain this. Also communicate with the other parents about any medications, allergies or special circumstances your child has and if they tell some to you, respect those and be sure to follow the other family's boundaries. One other important life lesson your kids will learn here too is to "roll with the punches" a bit so to speak. What if their friend always brushes their teeth right after dinner but you usually do it right before bed? What should they do? Tell your child that, with some things, it's certainly ok to assimilate to another family's rules. Remind them it's fun to try things a different way.
Be prepared for late night calls.
They happen people- a lot! Whether it's a bout of home sickness or just feeling a little overwhelmed, your child will most likely, at one time or another, call to come home in the night. Be ready for this and ensure that you have given ALL your contact info to your child's friend's parents and expect to get the same if you are hosting the sleepover. Heading out on date night? Make sure to inform the other parents of this and where you will be, just in case. If your child does come home, they will most likely feel upset about it, and maybe will feel embarrassed or like they "failed". Ensure them that is not the case and that everyone wants to come home at one time or another. Suggest that next time maybe you should host the sleepover until they feel like they are ready to give it another try.
Hosting the sleepover?
Make a fun and kid friendly supper for them followed by a yummy dessert. Order out or have a make your own pizza station. It's always a good idea to ask the child's parents what they like to eat so that you are not serving something foreign to them. The key is to keep it simple. When it's dessert time, be sure NOT to overload them on sugar- you don't want any upset bellies that lead to late night phone calls or to you scrubbing throw up out of the grout. Be sure to give them some time to burn off that sugar before it's time to settle down too. Keep it safe and make small ice cream sundaes or eat popsicles by the pool.
Plan some games and activities for them too.
You don't have to plan every minute of the sleep over but have some ideas ready as back up just in case their own creativity gets lax. When it's daylight, plan some outside games or swim time. If you don't have a pool, use squirt guns and the hose! When it's time to come inside, set out board games, a simple craft or toys for them. Don't worry if they don't want to try all of the games-- it's just important they are having fun. Later when it's time to settle down, watching a movie is a great, and quieter, idea.
Set the best sleeping arrangements as possible and be sure to give them some privacy.
For most kids, they want to chat after it's "lights out" so making one big bed on the floor is a great way to facilitate that; this also prevents any guests falling out of beds they are not familiar with. Be sure to have a night light on and make sure all the guests know where the potty is for during the night. If you can, leave a night light on in there too so they can find their way if they need to go during the night. Allow them some privacy to chat, giggle and talk. Part of the fun is feeling more "grown up" by having a friend over or being over someone else's house. It's not fun when Mom or Dad is staring at them for every moment of the party. Also be sure to have "lights out" a decent time. We all know that they are going to talk for HOURS so consider that when you tuck them in. Part of the fun is staying up late, but they are more likely to fall asleep in a dark and quiet room than still running like a banshee throughout the house.
Last but not least- don't overstay your welcome!
Unless other arrangements have been made, pick up your child by around 10 am the next day. This ensures no one gets that burnt out feeling of having too many kids over all day and that each family can get back to their routines.
Sleepovers can be like A Tale of Two Cities: they can be the best of times or the worst of times, and the difference can be found in the planning. You don't need to have an agenda from beginning to end but be prepared for all sorts of situations and be very clear about what is expected of you and your child and of your child's guests and their parents. With a little thought and talk amongst the grown ups, these sleepovers will be some of your child's fondest memories as they grow up-- and isn't that the point anyway?
Photo Credits: Our Three Peas