For many parents this idea, this desire to have a group of young girls or boys attend a ‘sleepover’ (early warning, despite the name there’s rarely a lot of sleeping involved!) may fill you with dread. But, provided you accept there will be noise at some level until the early hours and that no-one in the house will get much sleep that night, it can be a great experience for your tween and their friends.
We’ve put together a few ideas and tips to help keep things (just about) manageable and also to help your son or daughter throw a legendary tween sleepover party!
Before you even think about invitations you need to have a chat or two with your child about a few details and ground rules over the still ‘potential’ sleepover. If your son or daughter and their friends aren’t going to be able to follow a few firm rules then it’s game over before it’s even begun! Most kids will listen though, so on a day when you’re all in a decent mood and the party date is still a good four – six weeks away sit down and make some plans.
Important details that need to be set in stone and discussed include:
Numbers – tell your child how many overnight guests you think is manageable but will still be fun then ask him or her how many they were thinking of asking. If the numbers are wildly different you might be in trouble but most kids at this age are old enough to understand why you need to keep a number limit – not least due to available sleeping space!
Potential guests – While your child is still in primary school there’s a good chance you already know all his or her friends and are either comfortable with them all or have identified any possible ‘difficult’ children. It’s your decision on whether or not you’re happy to entertain a child whose behaviour may be questionable but whatever decision you do make, it has to be final.
Where they will sleep – your child’s bedroom, the largest room in the house, a play room or living room, there are no hard and fast rules, just make sure it’s doable and agreed upon.
Timings – what time the kids should arrive and what time they will need to be collected the next morning. One tip for the morning pickup is to make it not much later than 10am. Why? Because no matter how much fun was had the night before or whatever time they finally fell asleep, the children will have still woken up early the next morning and no amount of tasty breakfast will stave off the grumpiness and tiredness for long!
Food – will a take-away be preferred, snacks or some home-baked goods? This detail can impact the budget and time you’ll need to spend so it is worth agreeing early on. Also, if there’s going to be a film you need to consider tasty treats for that – you’ll definitely need some – and also midnight snacks.
Party favours – unlike previous parties where party bags are pretty much mandatory, they’re not for sleepovers. But some children might still like to send their guests home with a thank you, or they could do some crafts during the party that double up as take-home gifts. Either way a preliminary chat about this early on is a good idea again because it impacts the budget and also the sleepover if you are planning on crafts.
To theme or not to theme
This again depends on your child’s preferences, how much you’re happy to spend and how much time you have to devote to making any bespoke details or putting items together.
If the groups of friends who will be attending the sleepover have a strong agreement on a certain thing then it might be nice to reflect this in the decorations, activities, games and food you have but you don’t to go overboard with this. A few banners and cupcake toppers are often enough as the children will probably be so excited to be at a sleepover party!
If your child would like a theme there are lots to choose from! These include:
My Little Pony/Equestria Girls – they could each design a face-mask or decorate a pony or doll
Sports – football, rugby, gymnastics, golf, athletics, cycling…
Video games – if there’s a particular game the friends enjoy playing then use it as inspiration
Movie star/popstar – incorporate wigs or sunglasses, some sparkles and maybe karaoke
Animals – puppies, kittens, ponies, dinosaurs, creepy crawlies
Harry Potter – another fun one where wand waving and magic potion brewing could feature
Horrible Histories – this could be gory and include some spooky story-telling by torchlight
Circus – teams could build a big top or dress up and perform as clowns
Night at the movies – the kids could make their own snacks ahead of the chosen film and you could come round at the interval offering additional treats
If the birthday girl or boy chooses not to have a theme then together you can select a few things they like – colourful cupcakes, a few games and activities they will enjoy – and not worry too much about additional decorations.
There are, however lots of ways you can still tie the party together without sticking to a single theme:
As party favours you could give all the guests the same PJ bottoms, sleepwear or eye masks so they match
You could dip blown-up balloons in glitter and blue-tac them to the walls or ceiling
Set the sleeping and/or party room of the house up as a big tent or fancy bed with light sheets or gauzy material – be sure to secure them though as you don’t want to scare or excite anyone when they’re ‘trying’ to get to sleep
Create an outdoor woods feel and create a pretend campfire for stories or jokes to be told around
Have a photo booth and snap LOTS of pictures
If you’re having a few activities mix it up then put a slip of paper into a balloon, blow it up and write a time on it. At the designated time one of the guests can burst the balloon to find out what the next activity is.
Whichever type of invite you send out you need to be clear on timings, both drop off and pick-up. As stated above, don’t make the morning pick-up time too late as you probably won’t be feeling in the best mood to deal a group of upset or grumpy kids!
If the guests need to bring things then state that clearly on the invitation too. Sleeping bags and pillows are standard requirements for sleepover of more than two children so most parents will be expecting this. Also, any night-time comforters should be brought, teddies, blankets, a certain drink-cup, you don’t want any of the children to be upset about something like that.
Do ask if there are any dietary requirements or allergies. Make sure you have up-to-date phone numbers for all the parents. A good idea if you’re using an online invitation site such as Posh Tiger, is to get them all to list their numbers even if you already have them – that makes it easy to find them if you’re phone runs out of juice or for whatever unexpected reason.
Another thing is to chat about any other problems, do any of the kids still wet the bed, are they going through a nightmare/night-terrors phase and will they want to phone their parents at an agreed time to say goodnight or just to say hi. These are all little things you need to be aware of to help the guests have a great time and your child’s sleepover party to be a success!
Party games and activities
It can be a lot of fun to prepare party games or activities for the kids to enjoy during their sleepover but even though they will be awake for much of the night you don’t want to overstimulate them or make them feel there’s a strict schedule they must adhere to! It’s supposed to be fun and part of the fun for them will be just spending all this time together having a giggle and chit-chatting away without being told off by their teachers or having to cut a game or discussion short because it’s time to go home.
That said it’s still a good idea to have some plans and for the parents to be involved a little so they can supervise, albeit from a bit of a distance, and make sure no-one’s being left out or is unwell or upset.
At this age kids are dextrous enough to manage a lot of craft-type activities so you could have an hour set-aside for this. It could be making perfume or bath salts, or a food based craft so chocolate making, pizza making, baking or a no-bake treat. They could decorate t-shirts, socks, hats or bags. Or even construct an animal or vehicle from a particular pack. These can all be done for fun or turned into a bit of a competition with an appropriate prize for the winner.
Karaoke can be a fun activity – but if there are one-or-two guests who really aren’t keen then keep this short. 20 minutes is enough time for those who do like it to get a couple of turns but short enough that those who don’t want to participate don’t start to feel left out.
A bit of music and dancing is another good, fun thing to do. This lets them blow-off some energy – particularly if there have been sugary snacks and drinks consumed earlier. Even if everyone’s really enjoying this, don’t let it go on for too long, 45 minutes to an hour so probably long enough for this one before the party guests get too silly or over-excited. If a pillow fight occurs at this point, let them enjoy it but again if you spot anyone feeling unhappy intervene with a food or drink break or new activity.
A film is also a good idea, later on in the proceedings as it can help to calm everyone down but still feels like they’re enjoying something together. This might be a good time to get everyone into their jammies and nighties too. It’s a good idea to have a pre-selected movie so there’s no time spent ‘discussing’ options and pushing movie time back even further. Even though you won’t want them eating too many sweet treats too late in the night it’s best if you have some tasty snacks for them to enjoy.
If sugar and fizzy drinks have been consumed earlier in the party, this is the time to stop them. Sugar free squash, milk and water are all fine but this is another way to help everyone to calm down a little.
Do your best to leave them to it at this point, if anyone needs anything make sure they all know they can come and ask but otherwise they can be trusted to watch a film together – just make sure you can hear enough to know that no-one’s upset.
Time to think about bedtime
Once the film is over it’s probably a good idea to start thinking about getting everyone’s faces washed and teeth brushed and starting to settle down a little. Yes there will be a lot of talking still to come but if they can do it quietly in a low-light setting then there’s more chance they’ll fall asleep the right side of midnight or at least not too long afterwards!
Set up the sleeping room, help them arrange pillows, sleeping bags, teddies, cushions, night light, drinks – anything they are fiddling with and seem to ‘need’. A nice idea is to hand a out a few torches or remind them they have one if you included it on the invitations. Explain they can have a chat but it has to be quiet as you want to go to sleep and a sibling might already be in bed.
Then, as with the movie, shut the door and leave them too it. If you want to then do discuss a final lights out time with them but sometimes they really might fall asleep by midnight so that might need to be saved for if they’re getting rowdy when you expected them to run out of steam!
If it gets to a point where one or two children are disturbing the others make it clear that this behaviour isn’t kind or acceptable. If needs be have your own sleeping bag at the ready and camp with them if it’s all getting too much. There’s nothing like an adult’s unwanted company to stifle any unwanted late night discussions or giggles!
The morning after
Expect them all to be awake early! If there’s too much noise before 6am then ask them to keep it down for another 30 minutes or an hour or put them in front of the TV for a bit to give yourself – and them – some time to wake up and get your head straight.
When it comes to breakfast tell them when it will be eaten and remind them 10 minutes before-hand. A good idea is to set everything you have on offer out on the table so the children can choose their own cereal, toast, yoghurts, fruit or maybe you’ve made pancakes or waffles. Unless they ask for your help this is another time where they can look after themselves and you can get away from a herd of tweens and have shower or catch up on the news!
If everyone’s still in their jim-jams then an hour before pick-up ask them all to get washed and dressed. If they’re running around and being a bit silly simply take charge and send them into the bathroom one-at-a-time. Even if the kids want to stay and play all day, you probably don’t so having them clean, dressed and packed up is essential so their parents can be polite but make a quick getaway!
Plan for a quiet recovery day
Once everyone has left it’s tidy up time! Of course the birthday boy or girl should help but remember they’ve had an exciting party and not too much sleep so try not to be too hard on them! Putting toys away and helping empty the dishwasher is probably enough to expect from them. Also, it’s often quicker for you to just do a quick blitz, throw everything out and get the hoover out.
An easy day might be in order or at least a short one so that everyone can get ready for bed nice and early after the epic sleepover and late night you all experienced the night before!