When you start hearing this question “Mommy, can we have a sleepover?”, it’s time to start preparing for the fun to begin. Summer is the perfect time to embark on this milestone with loose schedules and lazy mornings. So what age is a good age to start sleep-overs, and what do you do to ensure a successful night?
Our house is a little nutty with at least four kids on any given morning. Sometimes sleepovers are helpful when I do them in twos – the big girls each get to pick a friend and on a different night, the boys get to pick a friend (my boys are just 5, so these are few and far between). I always let the kids pick a Redbox movie and sleep in sleeping bags in the playroom. That way they feel like they have their own personal space. And I always cook a big breakfast the next morning: pancakes, fruit, bacon & eggs so I at least send the friend home with a full belly even if they are completely sleep-deprived. One thing is certain, you’re kidding yourself if you think your kids will get a full night’s sleep in any sleepover scenario, so just roll with the punches and let your kids enjoy their big night out!
According to parenting.com, age alone doesn’t determine sleep-over readiness. Sometimes your child may say she is ready, but she’s not. Here are some signs to help you determine if the time has come:
• Expresses unqualified enthusiasm (but be aware of zeal accompanied by trepidation).
• Has successfully “practiced” at a relative’s or a family friend’s.
• Sleeps at home without repeatedly asking for water or using other sleep-stalling tactics.
• Handles separation easily, whether parting for school or being left with a babysitter.
• Voices mild doubt that’s easily resolved — say, an issue of not knowing where the bathroom is.
• Needs elaborate bedtime rituals, such as three stories, a bedside lamp on, a door open, or a certain tape playing.
• Depends on middle-of-the-night comfort in your bed.
• Regularly wets the bed. This can be really embarrassing for the child, especially if they are older bed-wetters (I was one of them myself, so I can relate!)
• Only wants to host a sleepover, not be a guest.
• Clings when you leave him, and seems averse to new experiences.
• Displays anxiety that the friend is a bully (or some other concrete sign of discomfort).
And when that big day does come, here are seven signs to ensure success:
1. Talk it over with your child. Discuss who — and how many — to invite, along with ideas for activities and food. For 5- and 6-year-olds, one guest is best; for older kids, more can be better, but keep the group small enough to easily supervise — six to eight kids, max.
2. Nail down the details. Invite the guest(s) well in advance, specifying the starting and ending times, and tell the parents what to bring (a sleeping bag, a stuffed animal, etc.). Offer younger kids the option of staying overnight or only for the evening.
3. Tell the parents what’s planned, including any videos and outside activities. Get a contact number if they’ll be out that night, and ask about their child’s food allergies or other important information.
4. Set limits. Tell children your house rules (no running, jumping, or screaming; where snacking is allowed; what’s off-limits) as you give a rundown of the fun that’s to come. Hint at a surprise or two. Let them know when lights-out will be (and give a ten-minute warning before it comes).
5. Keep ’em busy from the get-go. Have a simple crafts project ready, or get everyone dancing in the family room.
6. Feed them early and often. Serve a finger-food meal soon after guests arrive. Get them involved in the preparation: Do-it-yourself pizzas (using prebaked crusts and prepared toppings), subs, a taco bar, and fruit smoothies are all great options.
7. End with a flourish. Have an easy breakfast, such as juice and muffins. If everything clicks, try one last activity. Bring it to an early finish, at around 10 a.m.
What age do you think is appropriate to start with the big sleepover? Do share!