Is there anything children love quite so much as having friends stay for a sleepover? There's no better way for your child to develop and strengthen their friendships, but the prospect of taking responsibility for a group of excitable children all night can be daunting for any of us.
Here are a few tips for keeping sleepovers fun, safe and free of stress free: and for making sure you get some sleep yourself, too!
o Keep the numbers manageable. Do not invite too many children. Large groups can get over-excited and boisterous. You'll end up stressed, and no one will get any sleep. Eight is about the maximum number that's feasible, but it may well be less for you, depending on the size of your home.
o Talk to the other parents. Many parents worry about their child going to stay with other people, especially if they do not know them very well. Send out invitations and call the parents of your child's friends to discuss arrangements for the sleepover: what time their child should be dropped off and collected, what food will be provided, and what allergies their child has or what medicines need to be taken. This will help reassure the parents that their kids are in responsible hands.
o Prepare in advance. Kids have better if they have plenty to occupy them, so think beforehand about what activities you can organize. Remember not to get them too worked up before bed, however, as all that adrenalin will have you all up into the small hours. For your peace of mind, remove anything valuable from the bedroom that could get broken or damaged, and anything at all which might prove dangerous.
o Gently set down some rules. While you do not want to spoil their fun, children at a sleepover need to be clear about boundaries. When the guests first arrive, establish straightaway that this is your home and that they must treat it with respect by following any house rules, such as taking shoes off indoors. Make it clear that there will still be a bedtime, even if it's a little later than usual. You may select an age-appropriate film for them to watch at the end of the evening to calm them down before bed.
Sleeping arrangements for sleepovers
You may not be blessed with a house full of empty spare rooms, but do not panic – there are plenty of ways to accommodate young guests. Investing in a sofa bed or futon is one option, or a trundle bed on wheels that slides out from under a regular bed. Obviously if you're inviting a larger group of children they will not all have a proper bed, but most will be so excited to be staying over that they'll happily make it with a sleeping bag on the floor.
Another option for older children is to allow them to sleep in the garden in a tent, which will be even more of an adventure for them. Make sure everyone brings torches and warm clothes, and that they can get back into the house easily if they get scared, if the weather turns bad, or if they need the toilet.
Many children are perfectly comfortable sleeping in strange surroundings, but younger or more sensitive children may find it unsettling, especially if they have not sent much time away from their families before. Let your guests know that you're available for them to talk to if they feel homesick or can not sleep.
If they want to go home, try to calm their fears before you decide to call their parents. Something as simple as providing a nightlight will often save bundling a tearful child into a car for the ride home at one in the morning.