4 Tips For Hosting a Successful Sleepover

It starts with a playdate, and before you know it, your kids will be asking if they can extend the time spent with their friends to a sleepover. While slumber parties can be lots of fun, they're also a lot of work, if you take on the task of hosting the event, entertaining and feeding the gang, and keeping them safe. Here, readers offer advice to help ensure that as a parent, you're prepared for the overnight activities and not up worrying about the event all night.

Consider Your Child's Age

Parents say the best age for a sleepover is generally around ages 6 and 7, because then kids are old enough to sleep away from home and not have nighttime bed-wetting accidents, but young enough not to get into too much trouble. "Seven is a great age for innocent fun," says Shelly S.

Limit Participants

Once you determine that your child is age-appropriate, carefully consider who to invite. If you're hosting a sleepover for the first time, many moms suggest starting with just one guest and increasing the number as you get more comfortable.

"One is easy, two is tough because they can easily exclude the third person, and three is probably a good number of participants to feel like a party," Carol C. says.
Debra H. agrees, saying that three is a number she feels comfortable controlling while "saving her sanity."

Jessica I. says she initially hosted more guests than that — the sleepover seventh birthday party she threw for her daughter included 15 guests — but in hindsight says she would stick with no more than four or five guests so it's easier to maintain control of the event.

Ready the Provisions

Sleepovers generally involve dinner and/or before-bedtime snacks, an activity or two, a movie, and breakfast in the morning. Several parents suggest creating a party around a theme — a spa night where girls can give each other makeovers and manicures or a camping party where kids can build and play with silly string around forts. Be sure to designate where the kids can lounge, knowing that after the activities are done they will likely will want to congregate around a movie, stay up late at night chatting, and sleep in the same room.

To make mealtimes easy, many moms suggest ordering pizza, having popcorn with a movie, and setting up a breakfast station with different types of cereal for the morning. But Lisa D. reminds that you should ask parents if their children have any food allergies.

If all that organizing sounds like too much work or if you're not ready to open up your home, some moms, like Tesheba S. suggest renting a hotel room for a night, where kids can enjoy the pool, eat pizza on the deck, and you don't have to worry too much about cleanup. "Our daughter went to a hotel party last year and had a ball," says Maria D., noting the hit of the party was the breakfast buffet the next day."

Establish Ground Rules

On the day of the actual event, ensure safety by setting ground rules. Make sure you establish a pickup time and collect an emergency contact number for every guest. At Lisa D.'s house, in addition to talking to parents and getting the emergency contact number, she had all the party guests "quickly sit down in a circle and listen to the rules of the house," she says.

Most parents suggest setting the pickup time for 10 to 11 a.m., which gives kids enough time to sleep in and pack up after a long night.

At Jannie C.'s party, she said having parents pick up their children at 10 a.m. "worked nicely," but she suggests that you also "have a plan for any guests who are early risers," so they don't get bored or go hungry.

Remember to keep the party in perspective, readers agree. After all, participants in the sleepover are going to have more fun chatting and staying up all night rather than getting sleep. "Just be there to supervise and not let things get out of hand," Nancy D. concludes.