Written by: Valerie Hazelrig
It’s finally happened. No, my daughter hasn’t got pregnant, pierced or tattooed: She’s asked to have a sleepover. According to my fellow mothers who have dealt with such alien scenarios, sleepovers become popular – especially with girls – from the age of about eight.
So, alongside the endless rounds of birthday parties and after-school activities, I now have to worry about inviting a horde of giddy girls, tooled up on Haribo into my modest-sized house when all I really want to do is curl up in a ball and let them bury me beneath their sleeping bags until morning.
Fortunately, there is a commonsense way to survive sleepovers, and with a little preparation, imagination and discipline, the night can be a rip roaring success.
As your guests arrive, get them together en masse to explain the rules of the sleepover. Firstly, no child must leave the house, for no reason, whatsoever, unless there is an emergency. And the first part of the word ‘sleepover’ is a clue – they will actually be sleeping, and there will be a sensible time for lights out, and a final call for drinks, food and bathroom use.
Explain to the group that while they are in your house, you will act the part of their parents. This means that you have the power to enforce rules and also be there for anybody who gets homesick, lonely or physically sick.
At the end of your mini lecture, add that you know they will be helpful and respectful – it’s a nice touch, and also reinforces your message.
So, now onto the fun bits, and how to host a sleepover that will go down in history as the best EVER:
Think of a theme for the party
This is a great excuse for the kids to dress up. Some suggestions are Hawaiian, Western, holiday, crazy hair, or hats. Do something cheap – a Queen Elizabeth the First theme may be pushing it a bit.
Decide on the guest list
Set a limit for the maximum amount of guests – how many young bodies do you have space for? Will it be a mixed-sex sleepover? Consider inviting an even amount of people to make games fairer and easier. And remember parental politics – don’t miss out a child who’s invited your child in the past.
Stock up on snacks
It can be tempting to buy a trolley-full of pizza, crisps and naughty treats, but you may want to provide a healthy alternative, such as salad dips, and home-made delicacies. Popcorn is cheap and healthy, providing you don’t mind finding it down the back to the sofa for the next six months.
Lay on a good mix, cater for specialist diets, and please, for St Raphael’s sake (for Raphael is the patron saint of nightmares) do NOT give them anything with caffeine in, including fizzy drinks, Red Bull, or double espressos.
Have a mini photo shoot
Cameras at the ready, it’s time to snap how cute they look in their pink PJs, and if the kids have dressed up, you will certainly want to record their efforts. Post the pictures to Facebook, and may be think about creating a communal album that other people can add to as well.
They say children’s concentration spans are rapidly diminishing, but have you ever seen a child play Angry Birds? Point proven. Set up the Nintendo Wii, put on a particularly addictive game, and let them wear themselves out on the Balance Board.
Ask the children to tidy up in the morning
This is a genius tip because you would be a fool not to take advantage of a room-full of kids’ seemingly unnatural energy levels first thing in the morning. Give them a few bin bags and dusters and watch them cleaning up.
Buy some earplugs
Let’s face it, despite laying down the law and asking the kids to behave, squealing and giggling throughout the night is part of the fun of a sleepover. Invest in a pair of earplugs, and try your best to drown out the noise. Your children may be able to survive on less sleep than you, but lack of sleep makes parents grouchy, and you don’t want to turn into a bleary-eyed and cranky monster. Also, make it clear they can only disturb you during the night in the case of emergency or sickness. Sweet dreams.
If you take this simple set of rules into consideration, a sleepover can be a thing of joy and pleasure for all – and you’ll have them queuing up to come back for more. If you dare…