Posted ByMolly Blake
Your kids are excited to have their friends sleep over, but you're exhausted just thinking about rowdy kids being up all night. Here's how to make slumber parties a dream for you and your kiddos.
Does just thinking about having a gaggle of kids sleep over at your house make you break out in a cold sweat? Between figuring out activities and food, the late-night giggling and a bleary-eyed morning after, a slumber party can be exhausting. But kids love them -- and you love your kids -- so form a solid game plan, and your whole family can emerge from a slumber party with smiles on your faces. Here are seven tried-and-true strategies.
- Set Expectations Early
Start out with a frank conversation with your child about the event. Discuss the number of kids you'll invite, figure out the sleeping arrangements and set ground rules for cell phones and other technology. Start by inviting a small group of children, especially if you're new to sleepovers. If parents express concern about their child making it through the whole night, then compromise, says Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a clinical psychologist, professor for The Great Courses series Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids and co-author of "The Unwritten Rules of Friendship." "Allow the child to attend the party until 10 p.m., and then arrange for them to be picked up," she says.This lets everyone join in on the fun, but helps you avoid a midnight meltdown.
- Plan Ahead
Think about activities that will be fun for all the children invited. Corrie Silvers, owner of party-planning company Teacups and Trucks and former family life director with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, suggests picking a theme and using that as a springboard for everything from games to crafts -- even food. Whether you have a theme or not,shop ahead of time for food and activity supplies. "Avoid running around at the last minute," says Silvers, and you'll feel less stressed.
- Set a Schedule
Have a plan for the evening and "keep it moving," says Silvers. "You do not want the kids running around your house with nothing to do." Schedule something every 15 to 20 minutes. For example, make personalized pillow cases, play a game, learn a magic trick and then play a fun word game like Mad Libs. If the weather permits, squeeze in a few minutes outside so the kids can burn off energy with a scavenger hunt. And don't forget the calming power of a favorite movie (approved by all parents, of course!) to settle everyone down. Depending on your child's age, check on the kids at least once an hour -- under the auspices of bringing more snacks, of course.
Need some activity ideas to get you started? Check out 8 Scavenger Hunt Ideas for Kids.
- Eat Healthily
Since slumber parties are longer than your average playdate, plan to feed everyone dinner, breakfast and a snack. Put everyone's mind at ease and check with parents about any food allergies or preferences. Go easy on the processed snacks -- instead, choose healthful eats and munchies, so the dreaded sugar crash doesn't spoil the evening. One idea? Instead of potato chips, set out some seasonings and spices to let the kids make their own sweet or savory flavored popcorn.
- Keep It Homey
Make it clear that blankies, stuffed bunnies or other favorite sleep aids are welcome. Stephanie Himel-Nelson, a mom of three boys aged 10, 9 and 1, makes guests feel at home by letting them choose "everything from activities to pizza." Do your best to make your guests feel like they're at home, especially if this is their first slumber party.
- Ease the Kids Into It
Invite the moms or dads to stick around for an appetizer before they head home for the evening. This will give the kiddos a chance to settle in and feel comfortable in your home. Plug in a few extra nightlights throughout the house, particularly along the path that leads to the bathroom, or stick some glow-in-the-dark stickers on the ceiling and walls.
- Take Misadventures in Stride
Susan Sternitzke, an Arizona mom, allowed her daughter and her son to each invite a friend to spend the night. Despite doing all she could to make the party guests feel at home, around 3 a.m., one guest padded into her bedroom and asked to go home. "I called her dad, and he and I met at a fast-food restaurant located in between our houses," says Sternitzke.
After you've survived the night, don't forget about breakfast! Make sure there are enough eggs, English muffins and pancakes to go around, or splurge and celebrate the super fun (and successful) night with a special treat. Himel-Nelson pulls out her secret homemade donut recipe and says the promise of the goody keeps her kids and their guests on their best behavior. "I think most of the boys stick around for the breakfast donuts," she says.
Need some extra help organizing or setting up the party? Hire a babysitter or housekeeper to help out for a few hours.
Want some healthier options? Try these 7 Easy Breakfast Ideas.
Molly Blake is a freelance writer and the mother of two girls.