Slumber parties or sleepovers are one of the most exciting events of any child’s life. As a parent, however, just the thought of planning for and hosting a bunch of kids can be more than overwhelming. Like many aspects of parenting, sleepovers are one of those “learn as you go” things where it gets easier with time and practice. It’s important to keep in mind that while this is nothing more than a bunch of loud kids and a huge mess for you, for your child it’s a big deal.
Sleepovers do not have to be mayhem and they don’t have to be something to dread. With a checklist of the major things and a few reminders about potential issues that could arise, you will soon be the neighborhood King or Queen of sleepover planning.
Schedules and Times
In order to make good arrangements you’ll need to know a few basic things every time. No matter how old your kids are, ask yourself the same basic things:
• How many are coming?
• What activities will they be doing – do times need to be scheduled?
• Are they going out? If so, what time will they be coming back and how is transportation being arranged?
• Are the activities appropriate for the value systems of each guest?
• Are all of the parents aware of what will be taking place?
• What time does the party start?
• What time is everyone expected to leave?
In order to maintain some semblance of sanity, make sure that all of your guests (and their parents) are aware of your schedule and times. Make sure they know what time to arrive and (perhaps most importantly) what time the party is over. Also make sure everyone knows what time “lights out” is, and that you are notified beforehand if anyone has scheduling issues.
For you as a parent, the night may be small and ordinary, but for your child, it’s the event of the year. The last thing you want is to have no entertainment, or nothing but movies and music that were made before any of the kids were even born. Let your child help out with the entertainment planning. Make sure you have clear rules as to what is and is not appropriate, and make sure that any movies and music that some parents may not approve of are completely removed from the party area.
Choose a few movies and have some popcorn and snacks on hand, as well as some fun music and even board games or video games. Kids are pretty good at keeping themselves entertained with very few resources, so don’t stress too far beyond providing just a couple of basics.
This is where it gets a bit tricky, especially if you’re planning a sleepover for a teenager. You’ve got to give them a space with some privacy while still remaining close enough to supervise. Let your child know that you will be checking in regularly and that the party will come to an abrupt end if rules are being broken. Teens all want their independence, but you have to keep in mind that you are responsible for every single child in your house; leaving them alone and hoping for the best simply isn’t going to cut it.
Still, your child does need space; who wants their parents hanging out at their party? If you have a separate living room or even an outside area that they could use while still allowing you to keep an eye on things, this is the best scenario.
Really the entire night is going to be centered around the food. Kids are like scavengers when there is junk food present, and you would be amazed at the amount of pizza, chips, and soda a group of hungry teens can consume. Rather than stress about running out of food, make sure that you have more than enough on hand.
Food tends to get expensive really quickly, so it’s best if you can plan ahead and buy things on sale or with coupons. It’s also a good idea to prepare quick things at home rather than ordering out. For example, a freezer stocked with frozen pizzas is going to go a lot further than a few ordered from the nearest pizza joint. Also keep in mind that no matter what you say, those kids are not going to sleep at a normal hour. When they stay up, they get hungry, so having food on hand is always a good idea.
Before you even begin planning or buying anything find out what you can about each child who is coming. Make sure that you are aware of any allergies, medical conditions, or anything else that could become an issue at the party. By knowing and planning ahead, you are prepared instead of panicked if anything should go wrong. Be sure to have special foods set aside for those with allergies, and make any special arrangements for other disabilities beforehand so that there is no need to make a spectacle of a certain child. Sleepovers are all in the planning, and special needs are definitely not something you want to overlook.