In our house we don’t do sleepovers and here’s why: When my 10-year-old son had two friends spend the night for his 10th birthday last summer I found him wide awake playing Xbox at 3:30 a.m., his friends fast asleep. This was something we thought we were going to be trying again for a long time. But as he and his sister are getting older and begging for another chance, I set out to gather the best advice I could find on how to do sleepovers right, or at least how to survive them. So while it’s hard to find an official expert on sleepovers I went to the best sources I know, fellow moms who have mastered the art of the sleepover. Ahead some Do’s and Don’ts for the sleepover shy.
DO plan, plan, plan, then have a backup plan. Too much downtime can mean trouble. Communicate with your child and together come up with a plan of events for the party. Be creative!
DON’T invite only two kids, that makes it a group of three and someone will always be left out. Four to five is a better idea.
DO remove clocks from the room they are sleeping in. Much of the drive to stay up late is trying to make it to a certain hour of the night. Without a clock, they’re more likely to fall asleep naturally, when they’re tired.
DON’T choose a movie that parents might object to. Your son may love the latest PG-13 action flick but his friends’ parents might not be fans. And because it’s hard to pick the latest movie that everyone hasn’t seen, consider showing a classic.
DO have distractions ready for the inevitable down time: Nail polish, painting supplies, bubbles, or a Flip camera to make their own movies.
DON’T let them form groups or cliques when it’s time to arrange sleeping bags for bedtime. Make a big circle or let them spread out in the room. This will avoid whispering and ganging up on each other.
DO know that there is a good chance that someone will want to call her mom around midnight. Have her wait for 15 minutes and find a distraction or serve a snack. If she still wants to call, no worries, it’s not a failure on your part, just a common slumber party occurrence.
DON’T assume that just because the lights are out at midnight that they are asleep for the night. It is likely that someone will wake up a few hours later and try to get the rest of the crowd up as well.
DO provide alternate evening plans for any siblings in the house. Siblings love to wreak havoc on sleepovers. Have your spouse or a friend bring him or her to dinner and a movie.
DON’T let sleepover teens bring their cell phones to the party. Have a bucket by the door where they can deposit them. This will prevent late night calls or texts or (possibly inappropriate) picture taking.
DO try to agree on a bedtime, even if it’s not exact. ‘Lights out at midnight, then just an extra half-hour of TV."
DON’T forget to have a variety of breakfast supplies on hand: Small, single serving size cereals, pancakes, waffles, cinnamon buns, bagels, bacon, fruit and orange juice.
DO set a firm pick up time for parents the next morning, otherwise, for stragglers, your party could turn into a 24-hour event. Better yet, offer to drop kids off in the morning, this way they’re up and out and you’ve saved their parents a trip.
DON’T forget about the also popular "sleep under" option. Friends come over with their PJs, have dinner, watch a movie and are home by 10.
DO agree on a sleepover schedule. Not the night before a game or important event, once a month, small numbers of kids, etc.
DON’T be surprised that once you’ve opened the door to sleepovers, every Friday afternoon at 5:01 that finds your child at a friend’s house will lead to a call asking to sleep over.
Lucy Probert is a Bergen County writer and mom.
Pre-Teen Girls Sleepover Tips
From Angela Cautillo, Ridgewood mom of two and Managing Director of Duxiana New Jersey
1) Keep it to as few guests as possible and have another adult to help out if you can.
2) On the invite be sure to remind guests to bring a pillow, blanket/sleeping bag and a toothbrush.
3) Dinner doesn’t have to be included, have the party start a little later and include cake for dessert.
4) Have one or two activities planned. Angela bought standard pillowcases in white at T.J. Maxx as well as iron-on letters and put each girls’ name on a case. They used fabric markers to decorate their own (personalized) pillowcases.
5) Take a group photo of the girls in their PJs.
6) Have a few movies on hand as well as a big bowl of popcorn (but be prepared to find kernels all over the floor).
7) Try to start bedtime procedure early, since it will take them a while to stop the giggling and talking.
8) Have breakfast planned. Make pancakes and put out a bunch of toppings for them, like strawberries, bananas, chocolate chips and whipped cream.
9) For party gifts, Angela gave them each photo boxes with their names on top and inside included a frame for the group photo, nail polish, lip balm, note pad with a pen and a chocolate lollipop with the birthday girl’s age.
10) Be prepared for tired children the next day and tired grownups too!