As exciting as it is to host a kids’ sleepover for the first time, it can also feel a little overwhelming to imagine your home filled with a group of children you need to feed, entertain and—somehow—put to bed sometime before the next sunrise. But don’t worry, with just a little bit of planning, you can make your child’s first sleepover a rousing success.
#1 – Get Creative with the Sleeping Arrangements
A large part of hosting a sleepover is understanding how many kids you can comfortably accommodate. Having a good plan for where the children will sleep (or have giggling pillow fights, wrestle on the sofa, gorge on pilfered candy, stage dance contests, and anything else in lieu of resting quietly) can make the difference between a fun experience and a challenging one.
Your child’s bedroom may not be a realistic choice if you have a larger group of kids. A finished basement or rec room makes the perfect sleepover spot if you have one; otherwise, choose a room that can be easily closed off to maximize your privacy and limit how much sound carries through your home.
Alternatively, look to your living or family room for a comfy spot that can fit a bevy of kids. A sectional sofa can transform into a cozy bed for three or even four little guests. If you have a pull-out sofa or modular pieces, maximize the space by creating a large sleeping area and using the removed cushions as floor pillows for other kids.
If the number of guests outweighs the amount of couch real estate, not to worry—kids have a knack for sleeping on the floor. Just be sure there are plenty of soft surfaces, including comforters, pillows, blankets and cushions, and they’ll be able to sleep comfortably. Instruct everyone to bring a sleeping bag and plan for a 3-foot by 5-foot area for each child. Try to have them all nestled into the same space so no one feels left out.
For even more fun, invite the kids to build a huge blanket fort using the furniture in the room. Just remember that whatever they construct, you’re likely the one who will be putting everything back in order the next day. Tents or teepees are also good options for maximizing the fun and minimizing the cleanup.
#2 – Do Your Homework
If this is your first time hosting a sleepover, chances are some of your young guests are also new to staying overnight at a friend’s house. Some kids take changes to their routines in stride, and others can get homesick—or just plain sick. To best prepare for any scenario, be sure to gather information about each child, including the best contact information for parents/guardians, dietary restrictions, and any food or animal allergies.
Put all the guest information in one easily-accessible place so you have it readily available during the party. Make sure you clearly specify drop-off and pick-up times when you talk to the parents so there are no unexpected early arrivals or extended visits the next day.
For any sleepover, it’s always a good idea to have flashlights and nightlights close by in case a child needs to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or wakes up and gets disoriented sleeping in a new place.
#3 – Choose Your Foods
After you send invites (whether they are paper invitations or just a quick text), contact other parents about any dietary restrictions the guests may have. If there are restrictions, don’t be shy about asking for suggestions if you are unsure what to serve. Then, ask your own kid about what they’d love to eat at their party, and try to balance that with how much prep work will be required of you. After all, you may not want to create an elaborate three-course meal in the kitchen during the festivities.
Most kids—and adults—are happy with easy meals during slumber parties, such as pizza or spaghetti for dinner, and pancakes or even cereal for breakfast. If your child enjoys cooking, you might be able to make dinner prep a part of the party. Each guest can create their own mini pizza using a variety of ingredients, or add toppings to a big pile of noodles.
Think about what kind of snacks you’d like to offer before and after any meals you serve. It’s totally fine to have some sugary treats on hand—after all, this is a kids’ sleepover—but you can also offer snacks that aren’t too sweet to minimize over-sugared upset tummies. Think unsalted pretzels, cheese sticks, fruit cups or crackers.
To minimize the possibility of broken dishes, consider using dishwasher-safe melamine dinnerware and acrylic glasses instead of your everyday dishes. Opt for recyclable paper plates and plastic cups to reduce cleanup time, too.
#4 – Prepare to (Maybe) Entertain
The overall age of your group will influence how much advance activity planning you will need to do before the party starts. For youngsters less than 10 years old, brainstorm ideas to help them manage their time together.
During warm weather, encourage them to play games outside to burn off some of the excitement and extra energy. If the weather is not conducive to outside play, or if you don’t have easy access to a safe outdoor space, have some indoor activities ready to go. Some easy ideas include crafting with common household items (think empty toilet paper rolls or colorful pipe cleaners), board and card games, and cupcake or cookie decorating.
It’s perfectly fine, of course, to just let your kid and their friends play in their room with their toys. The key is to be flexible and have backup activities planned in case the group needs some structure.
Pick out a movie or two for the group to enjoy later in the evening—after dinner is a great time for this activity. Snuggled up together on the sofa, the kids can begin to wind down from the excitement of the party. For a fun twist on a classic movie snack, create a popcorn station. Make a big bowl of popcorn and set out a variety of treats that each child can add to their bowls. Anything is fair game, including gummy worms, chocolate candies, nuts or jelly beans. With a little bit of luck, the group may just fall asleep on the sofa before the end of the movie.
There’s no reason why hosting your first sleepover can’t be both fun for the kids and manageable for you. So, take a few deep breaths, get to planning and remember to have fun. Pretty soon, your child will be begging you to throw another slumber party just like this one.
Laura Love Bardell writes for Crate and Barrel, where she creates design-savvy content on the latest home-furnishing trends. Laura is a pro at hosting sleepovers for her girls and enjoys giving tips for how to use furniture creatively.
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