You’ve broken down and against your better judgment have decided to allow your older toddler or preschooler to host a slumber party. Unfortunately, the threats of hyper children running amok in your home or a spilled glass of grape juice are the least of your worries. Home sickness, boredom and a minor misunderstanding can all turn an otherwise successful sleepover into a full-fledged drama fest. Prevent a complete breakdown — and the inevitable midnight call to an annoyed parent — by planning ahead and keeping all the kids well-fed and occupied.
Start planning your sleepover at least one month in advance. This may seem excessive, but the more thought-out the event, the less likely you’ll have a group of screaming children running around destroying your home. Create an insanely detailed itinerary that is filled with engaging activities, from a make-your-own pizza bar and fashion show to a kid-friendly film and pre-bedtime story.
Create a realistic guest list. Your child might come home with a list that includes every kid in his daycare or playgroup, so it’s up to you to keep it simple. Consider only inviting children who’ve been to your home on previous occasions or the kids of your close friends and neighbors. The American Psychological Association also suggests only inviting kids who know and get along with each other.
Speak to the children’s parents beforehand to get the inside scoop on how to handle their child’s foibles. For instance, if the child has suffered a severe case of homesickness in the past, ask how her parents handled it, and if they want to be contacted immediately. Is the child going to be OK sleeping in the basement, or is it better that everyone sleeps in your child’s bedroom? If a punishment is warranted, ask the parent what is an acceptable way to discipline the child, such as using time out or loss of privileges. Go ahead and ask every probing question you can think of to ensure the kids are all relaxed and comfortable at your home.
Lay down some house rules once the party goers show up. For instance, let them know your bedroom and the basement are off-limits, but also let the kids know you’re available at all hours in the event of a fight or a bad case of missing their mommy.
Break up any arguments immediately and if one of the kids is teasing another, let him know that your house is a “no bullying zone.” If the child continues to tease, gently and appropriately punish him according to his parent's wishes. If the fight has erupted over a disagreement about which Fresh Beat Band episode to watch or whether to play dress up or decorate cupcakes first, "Parenting" recommends allowing the kids to vote. The majority gets the first choice, but that one dissenting voice that wants to watch a different video gets his turn next.
Comfort a child suffering from homesickness as much as possible, but know when to give in and take her home. If the child is adamant about sleeping in her own bed, drive her home, if possible; otherwise wait for her mom and dad to pick her up. Occupy her with a story or video until mom and dad arrive.
Set a bedtime, and stick to it. Let the kids know that bedtime is at a certain hour and give them plenty of reminders throughout the night. About 30 minutes before bedtime, get everyone settled in their sleeping bags and read them a goodnight story. If you hear any late-night giggling, let it go. Just remember that your child will just have to live with fewer hours of sleep, or give yourself a break and take a well-deserved nap with your groggy toddler or preschooler after everyone goes home.
- Think long and hard before agreeing to host a slumber party, especially if it’s your child’s first. Is he ready for this? Should you hold off until your toddler or preschooler is a little older?
- Allow everyone to wake up on their own schedule. Provide a quiet activity and a healthy breakfast for early risers, but avoid meltdowns by allowing late-sleepers to get that extra hour of rest.