How to Host a Successful Slumber Party

Teenage girls at slumber party

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Slumber parties are a fun tradition and a rite of passage of growing up. Whether the occasion is summer fun, birthday party, holiday break, or socializing through an enrichment activity, here are some slumber party ideas to make sure the sleepover is fun, hassle-free, and ends with a snooze.

Keep in mind that you will be the caregiver for your child's guests overnight. You will need to ensure their health and safety.

Invite Your Guests

Your party's success starts with selecting the guests.

  • Keep it small: Limit the guest number to half of the age of the child. At age 6, invite three guests. At age 10, invite five guests, and so on. To ensure a successful slumber party, think small—and then plan big so that you anticipate and meet every need.
  • Invite an even number of attendees: It is practical to keep the number of guests even so there is no odd child out.
  • Get essential medical and contact info: Contact your guests' parents to ask about medications, food allergies, pet allergies, and challenges (physical, intellectual, or sensory). Ask for their contact numbers and preferred means to contact them while their child is in your care.
  • Prepare for homesickness: Talk to the parents in advance or when they drop off their children as to whether homesickness or anxiety is likely and how they would like you to handle it.

Prepare Your Home

Preparation is essential for a successful sleepover. You'll want to set up your home and party space to make the event safe and successful.

  • Sleeping essentials: Stock extra sleeping bags, air mattresses, clean sheets, pillowcases, pillows, and blankets.
  • Bathroom preparation: Have extra towels, washcloths, toilet paper, tissue, disposable water cups, toothbrushes, and toothpaste available for your guests. Make sure soap dispensers are full and have a toilet plunger ready—just in case.
  • Lighting and temperature: Check these in advance where kids will be staying. Be aware that portable heaters can be a fire danger and should be avoided.
  • Toys and other possessions: Discuss with your kids in advance as to which of their treasured items are to be shared and which ones need to be put away.
  • Basket of stuffed animals: It's a fun slumber party idea to offer a basket with an assortment of stuffed animals for kids to cuddle with at night. Believe it or not, even some tweens and teens still like to snuggle with something at night.
  • Childproofing: Use the party as a cue to go through a home safety checklist with fresh eyes. Ensure that tools, matches, fire starters, knives, sporting equipment, and firearms are secured and can't be accessed by playful children. Check electrical safety and ensure tripping hazards are eliminated. Secure any valuables or breakables that you'd be heartbroken to see smashed. Guests may want to explore, so make sure you have locks on rooms and storage areas you don't want them to access.

Plan Food and Drink

Once you know food sensitivities and restrictions, you can plan what to serve.

  • Drinks: You might serve small half-size cans of caffeine-free soda, bottles of water, or bagged juice drinks. Consider keeping an ice chest packed with drinks and water and encourage kids to help themselves as they become thirsty. Only offer water as it gets close to bedtime.
  • Snacks: Keeping in mind any food allergies and sensitivities, plan for rampant cases of the munchies. In addition to expected treats such as sweets or beloved junk food, offer an array of tempting fruits and vegetables with dip.
  • Breakfast: Plan a special breakfast the next morning. Donut holes and yogurt cups are fun for dipping. Homemade waffles and fresh fruit are favorites. Or, provide a "make it yourself" breakfast bar so guests can enjoy what they prefer.

Offer Activities

Structure helps set the pace for the evening. Discuss with your kid what they would like to do, and help to accomplish that. The activities need to be appropriate for the number of kids attending.

  1. Games and activities: Early in the evening, provide active fun such as shooting hoops, soccer, swimming, or jumping on the trampoline. Organize a backyard scavenger hunt or flashlight walk around the neighborhood after dark. Progress to more sit-down activities such as board games or video games.
  2. Music: Have appropriate tunes lined up for listening, singing along, karaoke, dancing, or air guitar.
  3. Wind down: Select an age-appropriate movie or video so guests can watch in their pajamas and ease into quiet time.

Be sure to supervise these activities for safety and be ready with a first aid kit for any accidents.

Set Ground Rules

When it's party time and you welcome the guests to your home, keep everyone informed about the party plan and any rules you expect them to follow.

  • Encourage your kid to serve as the host. Practice some key tasks in advance so that your child can accomplish them without you hovering. If the guests will want popcorn, for example, teach your kids how to pop it in the microwave in advance and dish it up to friends. Have plastic bowls and potholders handy.
  • Provide kids with a tour of your home at the outset so all guests know which bathrooms are to be used and where they are located, where extra linens are kept, any rooms that should not be entered, and any rules that need to be followed.
  • Establish a bedtime and quiet hours: Set expectations with your child in advance of the sleepover. Then make them clear to guests when they arrive.

A Word From Verywell

When the big night comes, relax, enjoy the kids, and just resign yourself that you're not going to sleep that much. Sleepovers can help to build friendships and foster independence among kids, and all too soon, your nest will be empty. The best slumber party idea is to have fun with them and relish the smiles.

By Robin McClure
 Robin McClure is a public school administrator and author of 6 parenting books.