Slumber party advice
October 24, 2014 2:42 PM   Subscribe

My daughter is having a slumber party for her birthday. I'm used to (and comfortable with) normal birthday parties: planning lots of fun activities, yummy things to eat and keeping order with bouncing children for a few hours, but I'm worried about having a half dozen 7 & 8 year olds sleeping here. Those of you have done it -- what's your advice? Anything that would help this go well?

I've seen this question, but it's more about what activities to plan and I'd like to glean a bit more advice than that.
posted by Margalo Epps to Human Relations (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Have phone numbers written down for all the parents in case of emergency, and have at least 2 adults in the house so that you could drive one of the kids home if necessary. Let all the kids know where to come and find you during the night if they need to, and ... uh, don't expect any peace and quiet :).

Expect someone to be in tears at least once during the event and make sure there's a quiet space for kids who need a break to chill out. Plan food that is easy to modify around likes and dislikes. Put signs on bathroom doors so that people don't get stumbled in on during the night.

Oh, and arrange a relatively early pickup time the next day. In my experience, the morning after was the worst part of a slumber party. Guests who are still hanging round after 9 am really impede the cleanup, not to mention they are all sleep deprived and cranky. Get them up, give them breakfast and get them gone.
posted by yogalemon at 2:56 PM on October 24, 2014 [21 favorites]

One horrible night in my life (not really), I went to bed and left 10 boys in the living room, sleeping I thought. Not so. They were running around and doing crazy boy things. The next thing I knew, my son woke me up to tell me that the odd lady from downstairs was at my door complaining about the noise.

I apologized as well as I could. Then I sat in the living room with them - forever - until I was sure they were asleep.

In my mind, I still conflate that night with the scene in Soylent Green with the guy sitting all night with a shotgun, guarding his house.

So, stay up until you're sure they're out.
posted by JimN2TAW at 3:12 PM on October 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

When we threw a slumber party for our son a few years ago, we set up a tent in the back yard and let him and his friends sleep out back; I use the term "sleep" very loosely. They played with their flashlights, told stories, threw pillows at each other, and acted like a typically wild bunch of 10 year old boys, which was fine. Thankfully, it got kinda cold as the night wore on and they had to hunker down in their sleeping bags, so they quieted down before midnight. Served up a massive amount of pancakes the next morning, followed by parent pickups and goodbyes. All around success, and most of the mess stayed in the tent. Yay!

Our daughter went to a pair of slumber parties this year, and in both instances the main activities were cooking dinner (with lots of help from the girls), followed by movie->dessert->movie->bed. One party substituted charades for one of the movies. Having each girl do an individual art project -- weaving book marks, decorating a clay planter, making bead bracelets, etc. -- is something we've done for non-slumber parties and I imagine it would be fun to do as a group activity, maybe instead of one of the movies. But there's nothing wrong with ending the night with a nice, passive, chill activity like watching a movie.

Plan on a big send-off breakfast in the morning, and/or maybe a morning walk if your weather and neighborhood are suitably accommodating. But whatever you do, make it clear to parents that they MUST come and get their child by a specific time.

Good luck!
posted by mosk at 3:31 PM on October 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: One kid will get homesick and want to go home. Expect it and don't take it personally.

Have an extra of anything you can think of, toothbrushes, pillows, blankets, nightgowns, etc.

Confiscate anyone's jewelry as they come through the door and give it back to the delivering parent. Otherwise a ring, earrings or a bracelet will get lost, there will be hysterics and drama. No one needs it!

Feed them early then cut them off. No non-stop noms. Otherwise someone will eat too much and get sick. Also a thing no one needs. Additionally, kids wound up on sugar will bounce off the walls late into the night. Ice Cream and cake no later than 8, and don't expect anyone to be sleepy before 10. No CANDY! Halloween is next week.

If you can do something after dinner that's active and tiring, do it. Get a playlist of group dances, and teach them, Macarena, Electric Slide, The Hustle, Chicken Dance, Cupid Shuffle, Harlem Shuffle, Hokey Pokey, you get the idea.

Plan activities such that you've got something quiet and soothing going on later in the evening. I recommend a movie, something they all love and that doesn't involve screaming and yelling. I'm sure there's a Disney thing that fits the bill, Frozen might be too young, but you know your kids better than I do.

Buy a multi-pack of cheap night lights. Make a runway to the bathroom so that no one is stumbling around in the dark. Also, some kids are afraid of the dark, so they won't go amiss. You can get them for about $2 apiece at the supermarket.

Plan something easy to fix for breakfast. If you can go out for donuts or bagels, do it. Don't make eggs or bacon or pancakes or anything that requires messing up the kitchen. You will be too tired and plainly OVER IT to be bothered. Echoing have parents come get them at nine.

It can be fun, and it will be fun, just supervise more than you think you need to and have a plan for how the evening will flow.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:31 PM on October 24, 2014 [8 favorites]

It sounds like you're already on the right track by planning so much to do and having tons of goodies to eat! (The only "bad" sleepover I've ever been to was the one where they didn't serve dinner, despite it having started immediately after school on a Friday afternoon?!) Perhaps the biggest "heads up" would be to be flexible (of course!) because the most popular activities may be the unexpected ones (and vice versa.)

I think a key to things feeling "special" to elementary kids is novelty factor, stuff that's familiar enough to feel comfortable but different enough to feel special and unusual. I remember thinking how cool it was to sleep in one friend's living room with its conversation pit (hardly something unusual but different for me!) or getting ice from a fridge's built-in ice-maker (now I have one and it's lost its excitement, sadly!) Likewise, most small challenges could become part of the general adventure when dealt with quickly and effectively in a low-key way. With any group, not everyone's going to love everything at all times but I wouldn't worry too much as people will probably (hopefully!) get over the bumps and remember the good stuff.

Perhaps you could also set a soft and hard deadline for lights out? Most people will want to stay up late, as in later than usual, but chances are a time, like, two hours later than usual is OK. (But you know your daughter and maybe she's a night owl or maybe they're fine staying up all night so you can be the best judge!) However, if you do want to set a limit, you could tell people as they're rolling out their sleeping bags at 6 p.m. that 11 p.m. is lights out but at 11 say that you're extending it to midnight since it's going to well. At 8 or 9 (or most ages, really!) kids like having freedom and independence but most are grateful for some supervision and many may even be relieved if you'd say lights out so they don't have to be the one who says: "Sorry but I'm tired and want to go to sleep!" Along those lines, how do you feel about setting some basic ground rules once everyone's arrived? I'm thinking about three or so to set the tone. (Stuff like "Don't go into other people's bags" or "You can stay up as late as you like but don't wake people up once they fall asleep." Something with social media or movie choices?) Maybe you already do this or have some in mind?

You know your daughter and her friends so I'm sure the sleepover will be fine to great! It's awesome that you are hosting it: a sleepover party is so much work and stress for parets but such a wonderful experience for kids, especially at that age! Good luck and please let us know how it goes!
posted by smorgasbord at 3:33 PM on October 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

You think they are going to sleep?

At some reasonably late hour you announce its quiet time and go to bed. They can stay up telling ghost stories or talking about Justin Bieber or whatever. As long as you can't hear it you are fine.
posted by COD at 3:33 PM on October 24, 2014

I am an experienced slumber party mom. So much so that my kids now causally have 5 friends sleep over and I don't even care. (they are older now so don't need planning.) Here are the two absolute best planned activities we ever did.
Age 8: Our babysitter dressed like a fortune teller. She sat behind a gauzy cloth in a room filled with candles, and emerged to gasps when the girls entered. She told all their fortunes, read their palms and pretended she knew what the Tarot cards meant (all good things, of course). Kids talked about this for years. You need a pretty cool person who is not you to do this.
Age 10: Rented a karaoke machine that hooked up to the TV. They spent hours putting on make up and fancy costume clothes from the costume chest, then sang their hearts out for hours. It was totally worth the karaoke machine rental.
Also: scavenger hunts are great. We do clue-based ones where they have to find things that aren't necessarily obvious, like "find a fairy hat" or "find something cast off by an old pirate." They find leaves and branches and have an art table to paint it up to look right. Really fun.
Other than that: yup, pizza, decorate cupcakes, have a quiet place for the one kid to sleep who has a melt down and just wants to sleep.
posted by third rail at 3:36 PM on October 24, 2014 [13 favorites]

Do not plan anything for your family the day after the sleepover. Your child will be exhausted, and cranky.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:52 PM on October 24, 2014 [9 favorites]

I think the most important thing I learned from my daughter's first slumber party was that don't try to fight it unless it is either destructive or harmful. Otherwise, just keep telling yourself that this too shall pass.
posted by 724A at 3:55 PM on October 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

some kids have a really hard time staying up past their usual bedtime. Sitting/lying on sleeping bags while watching a movie later in the evening allows these kids to doze off without having to "go to bed". It helps if this is a favorite that everyone is seen before and is happy to see again.
posted by metahawk at 3:57 PM on October 24, 2014 [8 favorites]

When my girls were that age, we made sure to have at least one major activity. We've had henna tattoos (MAKE SURE THE PARENTS CONSENT TO THIS!!!!), make-up makeovers, Dance Dance Revolution contests (want some old DDR mats? come and get them!), and videoing of people doing lipsynch and dancing to various pop music. One year we had a magician who was also a bubble performer.

It's awful to have to say this, but be conscious about the concerns that people have around adult male - young girl interactions. Once it was nighttime, the only adult allowed in the area where the girls were was mom, as we didn't want there to be any opportunities for misunderstandings.
posted by jasper411 at 4:32 PM on October 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Make sure that they are aware at the start what the expectations will be for 1) time to go to sleep, 2) quiet(er) time before sleep (to calm them down a bit), 3) behavior, 4) what to do if they're worried/can't sleep. Oh - and what the boundaries are. Rooms that are out of bounds, whether or not the yard/porch/etc are ok... things like that are going to totally vary from household to household.

Have good contact numbers for all parents, what their expectations are if their child wants to come home (do you call them or drive child home - generally the expectation is that they give you a good contact number, you call them, and they come pick them up), know if the child has done overnights before and how they usually do. (Kids that are on their first couple overnights are more likely to have problems... some parents will know and state if their child is likely to have issues.) Also be clear on whether or not there are any known medical issues. (The better you know the family, the more likely you are to already know these things - but it's a good idea to touch base.)

For that age group, especially - decide on a time that would be a good breaking point for those that "would like to come, but can't hack overnight or whose parents don't allow overnights" - because with that many invitees, chances are you'll have one or two, unless they've all been kids that have over-nighted with you before individually. Plan major activities before the break point, and smaller, quieter ones for after.

Don't be surprised if there are some who aren't allowed to overnight, and don't take it personally. Some parents never allow them, some parents have a "must be this old first" age, some must have met you and/or know you better as a family first...

Be prepared to give each parent a note or email or something they can refer to if needed that includes your contact info for the night, in case there is an emergency, and be very clear what time you expect their child picked up.

And don't expect to get a ton of sleep. But if you have a decent group of kids (which honestly, I don't even really want my kids spending time with ones that aren't), then you shouldn't have any major problems. We do 5-10 kids on a somewhat regular basis, more occasionally, and honestly, the last time I had a dozen teen boys over, they left the house looking like they hadn't even been there.
posted by stormyteal at 5:43 PM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

"I think the most important thing I learned from my daughter's first slumber party was that don't try to fight it unless it is either destructive or harmful. Otherwise, just keep telling yourself that this too shall pass."

This is sage advice for all parenting situations. I was a parent for only five years though we did run a day care as well.

Early they will be running around like maniacs - the inevtable laughing will be followed by the inevitable crying. Alliances will be formed and broken. There will be love, there will be hate, there will be kid evil which is the most evil. When you hear them having fun go to the children and yell at them, this is the best way to arrest the laughing -> crying cycle. I'm serious here - you will need the authority later. So long as there are no compound fractures or spurting blood it's ok. At a certain point they will be exausted from socializing. You get to go to heaven if you can handle this phase.

Now is your cue to have them "jammie up" - their cue to settle a bit - and put them in front of the tv with two movies. Expect that one will not want to stay [this was my daughter, we used to plan on picking her up at one AM from an hour away at her cousins house, I did this at least twenty times].

There is never too much light. Make it easy to find the bathroom.

I miss being the Dad dude. Have fun.
posted by vapidave at 7:06 PM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Turn off your wireless internet and take away their phones. Have lots of movies (pre-approved) and snacks. Plan on no one getting any sleep. If you have a good size yard, send them out into with flashlights to eat up some time. Girls fight. There will be at least one at any given time pouting because someone hurt her feelings. You will have to talk to her and comfort her. Once you have her settled, there will be another one. All night long.

I always invite my little second cousin to sleepovers for my girls because she manages to get everyone to brush their teeth and go to sleep, while keeping them from squabbling, which is pretty impressive for a 10 year old to do to a bunch of girls ranging in ages from 7 to 11. I wouldn't have a party without her.

The next morning, every surface of your home will have something pink and sticky on it. Girls leave the prettiest messes. Ignore the mess and go to bed. It will be there for you when you wake up.
posted by myselfasme at 8:51 PM on October 24, 2014

Best answer: A little bit of novelty goes a long way! For my 9th birthday slumber party my mom emptied out my room of furniture and put 4 or 5 mattresses on the floor (with sheets and pillows of course) and then filled the room with helium balloons, with the multicolored ribbons hanging down.

It was 9 yr old girl heaven.
posted by egeanin at 5:13 AM on October 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

There will be at least one at any given time pouting because someone hurt her feelings. You will have to talk to her and comfort her. Once you have her settled, there will be another one. All night long.

Quoted for truth. Pay attention to the social dynamics of the night. I think in my 20-something years of slumber parties, there haven't been many where some type of "Lord of the Flies" insanity didn't evolve as soon as lights went out.

There was one particularly heinous party (with boys) where the parent was gone for less than five minutes and in that time, the other boys duct-taped another kid like a mummy, covering his mouth and then some bright idiot decided to try to cover his nose to see what would happen. The mom returned with birthday cake just as the kid was about to pass out.

Anyway. What I'm saying is very often, even the most delightfully behaved kids go a little nuts during a sleepover so you really, REALLY need to keep an eye on them. Make sure one girl isn't being shunned or otherwise picked on or tortured. (Seriously, I don't know what insane voodoo happens, but some kid...and it won't be yours...decides it's their biological imperative to become very, very mean and start separating out the herd.)

So have a plan for two sleeping spaces in case it gets out of control and kids need to be separated. Girls who just want to go to sleep or are getting scared of the mob mentality will be grateful.

Make sure pickup the next morning is EARLY and expect your daughter to be cranky as hell the next day. If you leave the kids to their own devices all night, don't be surprised if you end up getting a call from another parent telling you her kid was teased or otherwise made to feel badly.
posted by kinetic at 5:23 AM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: It went well. No tears or homesickness. (And none of the kids have cell phones.) And thanks to Cliff Mass, we had enough flashlights for when the power went out. We had muffins for breakfast (that I made and froze on Thursday), some orange slices, tiny sausages, and leftover pizza on offer as well.

I'm most grateful for the advice to send them home early -- I told parents at drop-off yesterday a firm 9am (rather than the looser 9-10am previously mentioned to them). They did still get picked up over a span, but more of them near 9, which was a blessing. Also, it stopped pouring enough this morning that I sent the peppy ones out to play in the yard.

I was most worried about getting enough sleep (I actually get ill on too little), but the girls actually went to sleep at 10 and didn't wake me up until 7.
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:27 AM on October 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

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