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How to Stay in Control During Your Child’s Sleepover

Maintaining your cool - and making sure your child (and the guests) have fun at a slumber party is a tough thing, but here are some tips on how to do both!

Many of us remember those ridiculous and fun childhood sleepover parties. I seem to recall waking up at 2 a.m at Cathy’s birthday sleepover, seeing my friends playing some sort of video games. Despite the time, I joined a few of the girls to eat sour cream and onion potato chips with gobs of room temperature dip and play a board game. 

We were too young to freeze bras, but I remember some girls were unlucky enough to have their underwear frozen! My mother picked me up before I wanted to get out of bed, and even though I napped the rest of the afternoon, Cathy’s birthday sleepover was always a highlight of elementary school parties.

Your child can have the same sweet memories, and their friends will hopefully have similarly wonderful memories.

8  Stay Organized

Being organized before, during, and after the event will make everything run much smoother.

Make sure you have all of the parents’ phone numbers in case of emergency or homesickness. Be sure the parents know to keep their phones on in case you need to reach them.

Keep track of any food allergies, and when planning a snack menu, try to think of a variety of kinds of treats to please different palates. Think “healthy,” as much as possible, though if it’s your child’s birthday, there will likely be cake.

Have veggies and hummus, salsa and baked tortilla chips, or a fresh fruit salad.

If you want to get the kids involved, have creating a meal as part of the experience. Don’t make it too complicated. You can do something fun like make your own pizza on a pita - buy pre-shredded cheese and store bought (or pre-make it yourself if you have time) sauce. Pre-chop veggies and olives so children can choose and make their own unique pizzas. Pull out some unusual toppings, like pineapple or corn or black beans for the child who likes to experiment.

Give siblings their own special experience by arranging a sleepover with Grandma; that way, they won’t feel like they missed out on a sleepover party too. If you have a partner around, have them help too; or if you want a little extra help, see if your cool younger sister can come over to help chaperone and hang out.

Create a loose timetable of any activities beforehand with your child; that way, they are clear on when activities are, and when bedtime is. You don’t want any arguing about bedtime when guests are over.

7  Ask Your Child for Help with Prep and Cleaning Up

Normally, it might be impossible to get your child to help with cleaning up - but make the cleaning up conditional for having this party. This will establish that they are partly responsible for keeping things in order and stopping their friends from tearing your house apart.

Beforehand, have them straighten up the room that everyone will be sleeping in. Depending on their age, you can have them sweep or vacuum, set-up snack tables, or arrange piles of pillows and blankets.

If there are any favors to arrange, put your child in charge of bagging them up.

After the party, ask them to help with bringing snack bowls to the kitchen, wiping up spills on tables, putting any used blankets or sheets in the laundry pile, and other light tasks...before they ask to take a nap.

6 Plan an Activity

Ask for your child with their help in this one. They might have some good ideas.

Try not to pick anything too wild or rowdy (You don’t want them to be energized and up all night!). They can play anything: if your child has a favorite board game, card game, or even an old fashioned game of charades, or the newer version, the app Heads Up.

Make sure whatever activity you pick is one that your child likes and approves of. You don't want your child or their guests to be bored. If you have a game system it would be worth it to rent a party game or dancing game. There are tons available for each system, just look them up on Google.

One game that kids love to play whether they'll admit it or not is hide and seek. This is a great game and it's free. Although you may want the kids to play this early into the party so they won't be too wound up before bedtime. If you decide to give prizes to the winners, have some smaller “consolation prizes” for the other children that don’t win.

On a side note, you may also want to plan an activity for your other children if you have more than one. depending on their age, maybe they'd want to stay over at their grandparent's house, or go to a movie while their sibling entertains their guests. You can make your other children feel special too while the sleep over is going on.

4. Pick a Movie

Movies can settle the kids down quickly. There's a couple of things you can do here. You can ask the parent of each child which types of movies their child isn't allowed to watch, that way you can stop from showing that child something their parent's will not be happy about. Choose something that you know all of the children’s parents will approve of once you find out the parent's preference for their child, and make sure it's one that won’t get them all riled up.

Another idea is to ask the kids to bring movies with them and have the kids vote on which movie they want to see. This way you don't have to rent a movie, and it's likely a movie that all kids will be able to see. In the event a child brings something questionable you can set it aside and give it to the child when they're packing up to go home the next day.

Before putting the movie on, make a big bowl of popcorn - check out some of these interesting tricks and recipes. Settle everyone in front of a TV...and suggest they curl up in their sleeping bags. If you’re lucky, quite a few of them (if not all!) will fall asleep before the end.

5 Rituals

Keep any rituals in place that you have in your house for bedtime and mornings. Make sure your child knows that they should still wear their night retainer, brush their teeth at bedtime and in the morning, and take care of any other regular routines.

Keeping the routine in place stops the children from getting wild and sets in a semblance of what they'd be doing at home right at that moment. Remind the other children to brush their teeth. Have a few new toothbrushes on hand in case anyone has forgotten theirs.

Leave out a pitcher of water and some cups in case anyone gets thirsty in the middle of the night. Stock extra facecloths and towels in the bathroom, and be sure the children know where they are so they can grab them if necessary.

4 Set Bedtimes and Be Strict...But Know There Will Be Whispers

Not all children will have the same bedtime, there might be a difference of an hour or so, but for the most part each family will have a certain time that their child is allowed to stay up until. Your child’s friend’s parents might call you with their own ideas, but regardless, set a later-than-usual-but-not-too-late bedtime for the children. It's a party after all so they should have a little fun.

When it’s lights out time, turn off the lights, and say goodnight. Make sure that all the kids hear you when you tell them to get ready fro bed and get ready to set in for the night. Let the kids know they can change in the bathroom or your child's room. Also let the guests know that they don't need to ask for permission to use your bathroom, that'll stop them from seeking you out in the middle of the night to ask your permission to use the facilities.

If you hear rowdiness, you can peek your head in to ask them to sternly take it down (without embarrassing your child too much!), but don’t go overboard. There will be whispers, but if they are being quiet and making an effort, let them have a little fun - without letting them know that you hear!

3 Be Prepared to Be Woken Up in the Middle of the Night

Make sure all of the kids know where your bedroom is, and to wake you up in the middle of the night if they need anything at all. Sleepovers can be difficult for some children, especially if it’s their first. Children might wake up in the middle of the the night with a nightmare, with a bedwetting incident, or just want to go home.

When a child has a nightmare, try to offer them the same amount of comfort you’d offer your own child; perhaps even offer them a special treat or tell them a story to calm them down.

In the case of, “I want my mommy,” give a call to the parents of the child and stay up with the child until they go home. Be sure to invite them over in the morning for breakfast so they don’t feel like they missed out on anything.

If the child has wet the bed, give them some new sheets, and tell them not to worry. Toss it in the washing machine if you can. Do what you can to help them keep their privacy about this sensitive incident.

2 Morning Wakeup and Breakfast

You don’t want the guests’ parents to be annoyed that their child isn’t ready. About two hours before pickup time, begin waking up the children. Turn on the lights and use your voice to wake them up; perhaps even play some music they like to get them up. Offer them promises of delicious food. (Food is a better way to get up than brushing you teeth!)

After breakfast, encourage them to get changed, brush their teeth, and get their stuff together. The final time before their parents arrive can just be a time for them to hang out, talking, laughing, and relaxing. No need to plan every last minute.

You might want to prepare a make-ahead brunch recipe - some of these ideas might be helpful. You’ll have plenty to do, so if you can do something the night before, it makes things easier.

Put on a large pot of coffee and boil some water for tea. Parents might want to stop in to chat while picking up their child. You might even want to have some muffins (try these recipes or these) or some sweetbread for them to nibble on.

1 After

Talk with your child about what worked and what didn’t. Hopefully, it’s mostly a chat about how much fun they had. But in the case you need to discuss the behavior of your child or one of your guests, talk to your child in an understanding way and let them know that there's an appropriate way to behave in front of guests or when visiting other people's homes. 

Try not to make out one of your child's friends as the bad guy, instead give them the benefit of the doubt that they act a certain way in a group and another when it's one-on-one.

In the case of any messes, ask for their help with cleaning it up. As fore mentioned, this should be a non-negotiable condition of the sleep over party. Again, you can give you child light cleaning duties.

Once things feel pretty normal, reward yourself with a mid-afternoon nap. Don’t worry about your child needing you - they’ll be napping too!

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