Growing up, a particular group of friends and I had a lot of slumber parties – we rotated to a different house each weekend, for months at a time. My biggest memories are of knitting (which I was, and am still, completely crap at) watching endless programs of Monkey Magic and Battle Star Galactica (the old one with that handsome Starbuck and Apollo, so good) and cooking a variety of almost edible creations such as cakes, baklava, noodles and savoury mince. There was lots of talking about boys, books, our dreams for the future (no, really!) as well as a few seances (yes, we were those girls). Fun times!
My children also love a sleep over, and I thought I might share some tips that have worked for me. I mostly like to let the slumber party be led by them and stay right out of it, but I’ve also found that a bit of direction from me can head a bit of nastiness off before it starts. It’s an unpleasant truth, but kids can be bloody horrible to each other, even their so called friends, especially when overtired from staying up too late or the next day when they are a bit sick of each other but their parents haven’t picked them up yet.
So, I’m not claiming 100% success, but here goes.
Firstly – boys and girls seem to be very different. I know – shocking!
Things that may happen at a girls slumber party; trash talking each other/ganging up on one girl/attempting to leave the property and visit an unknown friend ‘who lives just around the corner!’/crying from different girls at different times/graffiti inside the house (I wish I was making this up)/ flirting with any male inside the house/calling home at midnight in tears.
Things that may happen at a boys slumber party; the host refuses to take his headphones off or share a device/mild arguments over what movies to watch/some discord over not everyone wanting to do the same thing at the same time.
Maybe this is just my kids? Knowing these things are likely to occur I can attempt to distract them before hand, with a very loose agenda. I also like to set some ground rules such as No Leaving The Property, Everyone Is Friends Here, No Fucking Graffiti Teagan, Windows Are Not Doors, and limiting device time. The boys want to play computer games together and of course this is OK, but if there are more than a few it doesn’t work so well. Also, if a child ever needs to go home of course they can, but sometimes other parents need to be told this! Two of my kids have been in the awful position of wanting to come home from a slumber party but the parent in charge refusing to let them! I don’t know what the hell this is about but it’s not cool.
A full tummy might not mean a happy child, but an empty tummy definitely means an unhappy one. Check beforehand with the guest’s parents to see if there are any allergies or other issues – for example; my son has an egg intolerance, his best friend has textural issues and wont eat anything remotely bread like, which includes pizza. Menus that have been popular for us include nachos, hot dogs, spag bol, lasagna, and home made sausage rolls, if anyone objects to that I send the hubs down the road for hot chips from the local fish and chip shop. I also like to have a variety of nibbly snack type things like popcorn or crackers for movie marathons, and buy some fancy ice cream with perhaps a few lollies stuck on the top. Sah fancy! Weirdly, children appreciate your Pinterest inspired efforts more than anyone but I know from bitter experience that anything on skewers is not suitable for boys, even though they love it. Someone will get hurt, possibly your upholstery. Having a ‘secret’ stash of midnight snack food is always welcome and I can pretend I don’t know about it. Breakfast the next day is where Mr BC can shine as pancake chef.
Mostly they won’t want or need you to organise fun for them, but it pays to have a few diversions up your sleeve, for when it’s starting to look pear shaped.
- Design a pillow case – provide each child with a plain white cotton pillowcase, and set the table with a variety of fabric pens, material scraps, glitter pens, iron on transfers (don’t let them near the iron, do this for them!), embroidery thread and needles, feathers, and buttons. This is great for when the kids are a bit tired but not yet ready to sleep, and it keeps them sitting together and talking. It also gives them something nice to take home the next day.
- Decorate your own picture frame, using the same principles as above. Maybe take a group shot and print a copy out for each child to put in their frame before they leave. Oh look, you made some memories!
- Treasure Hunt – this takes a little effort from you but then keeps the kids active for hopefully a little while. Make a list of generic things that you know to be in your property (ie an autumn leaf, a white pebble, a left shoe, etc) and have a small prize ready for the winner, perhaps some lollies to share.
- Movie Marathon! This is so easy with Netflix. Be aware that what is OK for your children might not be OK for another’s – check with mum or dad first to see if PG films are OK, because they might not be. Teenage daughter watched Men in Black at age 5, and literally had nightmares for weeks about monster cockroaches; a friend of Mr 11’s finds Harry Potter too scary. Old classics are fun. My kids love Ghost busters, City Slickers and The Princess Bride, and I’ve yet to meet a child that doesn’t like that ancient classic The Party, starring Peter Sellers. Birdy num num anyone?
- Old Board Games. In this digital age, I find that lots of kids have no idea what fun board games can be. Luckily we have a stash of Mastermind, Trouble, Cluedo and a variety of others to choose from.
- If they really need to get outside, try taking them to a local bush walk, for a walk on the beach or trip to the dog park. This is a particularly good idea for the next morning, when perhaps they need some fresh air and distraction from themselves. It’s also another opportunity for a Treasure Hunt if anyone is interested.
Have an exit strategy
Be the one to drop the children back home, so you wont be left waiting for hours for their parents to show up. If this isn’t practical because there are more children than can fit in your car, perhaps the parents most likely to arrive on time can take take some other children home for you, if they live close to each other? At the very least, have a pick up time clearly agreed on. It’s my experience that some parents (not all!) think of this time as free babysitting, and drag it out as long as possible, which isn’t fair for their tired children, or tired you.
- Make sure you have everyone’s phone number. Mum’s, Dad’s, the sleepover guest’s. Just in case. Have your phone handy in case someone is trying to call you.
- Ask everyone to bring a pillow and sleeping bag or doona, so you won’t have to worry about laundry afterwards.
- Be kind to yourself and relax, the kids are going to eat junk and stay up too late, it’s OK. They are probably happier if you stay in your bedroom and binge watch your favourite show, so do that. Just keep an ear out in case you are needed.
- Stay home. My daughter has been to sleepovers where the parents have gone out to dinner because ‘What could go wrong with a houseful of 13 year old girls?’ Please don’t be that parent.
So have I left anything out? Got any tips to add? Did you have sleepovers as a child, and did anything crazy happen? Do you have any sleepover stories that are fit to share?