How to Plan a Sleepover That Works

Sleepovers are not just moments of pure excitement and fun, they are an exciting milestone as your child enters his or her “growing up” stage. As any sleepover veteran will know, the more kids you add to a sleepover mix, the livelier the night it will be, and the less actual sleep will occur. Our advice for beginner sleepover hosts is to start small.

The secret to success is planning, this way you can keep an eye from a distance while your child is entertained by the company of their little guests. All with minimal effort on your part.

Start by making sure you’ve got some fun sleepover activities planned.

Set up snacks and a few games and you’re ready to roll. Oh, and a healthy dose of pillows and blankets of course. This list is the perfect recipe for a sleepover adventure that is manageable for you and memorable for the kids.

1. Set Ground Rules

From the outset, setting basic ground rules will avoid you having to police the proceedings.

No leaving the house, no teasing, no playing with fire, no ghost stories or whatever seems appropriate for your environment and age group. Briefing your child before their sleepover guest arrives is usually all that’s needed to keep house rules and order in place.

2. Are Your Guests Sleepover Ready?

Spending a night away from home, especially for the first time, can be a big deal. Check with the parents of your little guest that they are okay with sleeping out. It’s no fun returning a crying child to its parents in the middle of the night. Parents should be available in case of such an eventuality.

3. Be Prepared for Little Challenges

Doing a little research beforehand can be wise. See how the children interact with each other at a playdate. This way you can ensure the tiny personalities are a good combination when they spend long periods of time together.

Once the night is underway, if children feel homesick and misses their parents, distractions (and bribery) work wonders. If you have a treat or surprise promised for the morning, that may be the perfect incentive for them to work through the problem.

For younger children, bed wetting could be a problem, depending on the age of your little guest, ask parents beforehand.

Some children may be scared of the dark, especially in a place they don’t know very well. Have a night light on for young children and have several flashlights handy for added fun and security.

4. The Right Number of Guests

We recommend starting with two kids at a time and working your way up from there. This way, sleeping arrangements are also a breeze. Pull out or pop up your trundle bed and you’re set.

If you are confident you can handle a larger group, even numbers are a good idea and avoid anyone from feeling left out. For smaller kids, a trundle bed can easily accommodate 4  children sleeping head-to-toe. It will feel like indoor camping!

A sleepover party with lots of children can be overwhelming for small guests and their host, it takes some pretty serious coordination to get everyone fed and to bed with a smile on their faces.

5. What is the Best Timing?

The best time to start a sleepover is later in the afternoon, that way, the children have not spent too much time together and they are super excited to have an overnight play date. Guests can arrive in their pj’s to cut down on bathtime admin.

Have a definite start and end time for the party.  This keeps the occasion special and parents collect their children at a set time in the morning.

6. Set an Event Schedule

Break up the time into different activities. Dinner can be a pajama picnic. For little girls, making it a teddy bear picnic will make it magical, and for boys, turn out the lights and bring out the camping flashlights.

A cute and helpful idea is to blow up balloons and label them a time and an activity. Each time a new activity starts, they can pop the balloon. This also works well as a countdown to bedtime.

7. What’s on the Menu?

Sweets, treats and snacks are absolutely expected at a sleepover and are unfortunately a key ingredient to its success. But where do you strike a balance?

If you need a time and effort saving option, order Pizza and paper plates. It’s a guaranteed winner with next to no cleanup. Have snacks like popcorn and crisps around for them to nibble on and water and fruit juice instead of soda.

Mini Hot Dogs or Burgers are always a hit. Prepping all the ingredients for a mini-meal that they put together not only creates an activity, but it also gets them fed while having fun.

For dessert, cut fruit that the kids can dip into a melted pot of chocolate. It’s a clever way to get them to eat something delicious, but healthy while limiting the amount of sugar. Again, it’s a hands-on activity, so they are entertained while they fill up their tummies.

8. Pre-plan Activities

The novelty and excitement of a sleepover is generally all that’s needed to have kids entertaining themselves. To help things go smoothly, planned intervals with activities adds structure and will keep them stay happy for longer.  Here are a few winning ideas.

  • Build a fort. This could kill two birds with one stone, entertainment and sleeping arrangements for the night.
  • Make their own dinner. As mentioned above, a little prep on your side and dinner time can be a highlight.
  • Play balloon stomp. An affordable classic that will have them in giggles.
  • Dressing up. This is one for the girls. Simply throw in a few of your older dresses and some costume jewelry.
  • Treasure hunts. Hide a few party favors around the house and have them hunt them down in the dark. Flashlights and a treasure map is a great addition if you have the time.
  • Crafts for girls. Depending on the group, they can decorate inexpensive pillowcases with fabric pens. Plus, they get to take something special home with them.
  • Video games for boys. Regardless if its Minecraft, racing or shooting games, boys love to compete with friends and its great fun.
  • Makeup and nail painting. Girls of any age love to be pampered, with a few products and varnish colors, they can give each other mini makeovers.

If you prefer that the kids get really tired, so they get in a good nights’ rest, you can plan a physical activity like swimming or sports. It’s a good idea to plan a calming activity as a transition to bedtime.

9. Select a Movie Backup

Although the idea of a sleepover is not to place the kids in front of a screen, having a movie on standby is an excellent plan. This is just in case the idea of the slumber party is wearing thin and guests are not quite getting along.

If the TV and trundle bed are in the same room, they can get comfy on the bed and just doze off to sleep. A movie is also a great transition activity to get the kids ready for bedtime.

10. Set a Bedtime

Kids need their sleep, but the thrill of a sleepover means staying up way past bedtime and enjoying a midnight snack. But how do you find that perfect sweet spot between being the cool parent and the responsible/ boring parent?

One way is to set back the clocks in the house, this way the children can enjoy the idea of being up late, but still get the sleep they need. A countdown is also a good way for them to get used to the idea over a period of time.