6 Tips for the Perfect First Sleepover

Discuss it With Your Child First – Are They Ready?

Some children are independent and socially prepared for sleepovers at a young age but, for others, the thought of spending an overnight with a group of friends can be stressful. There is no right or wrong age for kids to begin attending slumber parties, but it is important that your child does not feel pressured into the event.

It’s better for your child to have a positive first experience than to risk an upsetting or potentially embarrassing incident that may turn them off to the whole idea of sleepovers. If your child asks permission to have or attend a sleepover, then this is a clear sign that they’re at least interested. On the other hand, if your child receives an invitation to a slumber party for a friend’s birthday or another occasion, it is important to make sure they are comfortable with the idea before committing them to something they are not ready for.

Try Being the Host First, and Start With Just One Friend

Once you have determined that your child is socially ready for a sleepover, consider hosting one at your home before sending them off to a friend’s house. Having one of their friends sleep at your home gives your child a taste of what to expect at a sleepover, but with familiar surroundings. While slumber parties with a group of children can be an engaging and socially enriching experience, it is good to start slowly in order to minimize potential conflict or anxiety and maximize the chances of a positive experience. Once your child has been able to spend a night with a friend in the comfort of your own home, it won’t be long before they are excited about the chance to have the same fun and exciting experience at a friend’s house.

Create an Agenda

Having a clear plan of action for the sleepover will enable you and your child to be prepared for a great night. A sleepover agenda should be a fun-filled plan that you prepare with your child. Coming up with a list of options for foods, games, and activities together with your child can get them even more excited for the event. Have allotted times for these activities predetermined and keep the evening on course. A sheet of poster board or a dry erase board with what’s in store for the night will give your child a sense of order, and it’ll give you a chance to keep things running smoothly and get them to bed at a reasonable, predetermined time. The fewer surprises and deviations from the agenda, the less likely a meltdown will be.

Be Prepared

Make sure you prepare what you can before your guest arrives. Sleeping arrangements should be understood in advance, and any bed-making or room-cleaning should all be taken care of. Getting your child to participate in these tasks may help them understand that there’s more to entertaining than just having fun. If the slumber party is taking place in a family room or shared common space, lay out blankets, pillows and bedding in advance. Pull out a stack of appropriate movies for watching, or lay out games and other activities for the night where they can be easily accessed.

Also, be prepared for the unexpected. Have an extra (new) toothbrush handy should your guest forget to bring one. Make sure the children know where the bathroom is and how to get there from where they will be sleeping. A nightlight or a flashlight is also a good idea, should your guest wake up in the dark and have trouble finding your bathroom. Sleeping in an unfamiliar environment can be disorienting and there is always a chance there could be a night-time accident. Incorporating an incontinence protection product into the sleeping bags or slumber party bedding can be a lifesaver for children who may wake up wet, saving them from the embarrassment of a wet sleeping bag or bed sheets, and saving you from having to clean up a mess.

Food, Food, Food!

Pizza is a popular sleepover staple, but there are literally hundreds of fun possibilities when it comes to what to eat. Remember, the experience should be fun so try to incorporate a fun theme into the cuisine – no pot roast! Snacks after dinner while watching TV or movies should also be carefully considered. Popcorn can be a smart choice over sugary snacks that can keep kids awake well past bedtime, and be sure to select appropriate refreshments without caffeine or sugar (diluted juice instead of sugary soda).

Breakfast the next morning should be rich in protein and readily available when the kids wake up. The less down-time while waiting for meals to be prepared, the more on-track your successful event will be. Muffins, granola bars, and fresh fruit are perfect choices and incredibly easy. Be sure to discuss what you plan on serving with the parents of your sleepover guest ahead of time in order to account for any food allergies, and to be sure everyone is comfortable with what will be served.

The Morning After

It is good to keep the next morning relatively low-key without a lot of hustle and bustle. Having an established pick-up time is important to give everyone a sense of structure. Be sure to leave ample time after breakfast to pack up your guest’s belongings and try to incorporate the morning after clean-up time into the agenda. If the evening’s activities included arts and crafts, remember to send your guest’s project home with them, along with all of their neatly packed belongings. Have everything by the door and ready to go ahead of the established pick-up time, and build in a 5 or 10-minute time buffer just to ensure that your guest’s parents are not waiting too long when they arrive to retrieve their child.

Introducing your child to sleepovers at an age-appropriate time can be a wonderful way for them to gain social skills, self-confidence, and independence. Hosting a friend in your home can be an ideal springboard to the next logical step of your child spending the night at a friend’s house, which can lead to group sleepovers and even longer supervised experiences away from home (eventually). Create an activity-filled agenda with your child and make it fun for everyone! Your son or daughter and their friends will be asking to have more sleepovers in no time!

We’d love to know what has worked for you in the past when preparing your child(ren) for their first sleepover. Were you the host or did you send your child to a friend’s house? What kind of preparatory techniques did you use to alleviate any associated stress or anxiety? Would you call the first sleepover a success, or were there things you learned to do differently for the next one?


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