Attending a sleepover is a rite of passage for every child. But for parents, hosting this all important activity can be a real challenge and you’ll probably have loads of questions before handing out those first tentative invitations.
Is your little one ready for a sleepover?
Are their friends going to behave?
Will they keep the neighbours up?
What kind of mess can six overtired ten-year-olds make?
What sleepover activities and food are you expected to lay on?
And how many tearful arguments are you likely to referee?
With thought and preparation, however, creating a memorable (for all the right reasons) children’s sleepover can be a total breeze. With that in mind, we’ve gathered the most experienced overnight hosts here at Bensons for Beds HQ to help us create the definitive guide to your child’s sleepover.
From the most boring practicalities like making beds and preparing for homesickness to the fun stuff – picking themes and choosing activities – we’ve got the inside scoop on staying up late. So read on for valuable sleepover advice and our top ten tips for helping your kid’s special night go off without tears, tantrums or trauma.
What You Need to Know About Kids Sleepovers
Hosting a sleepover, especially for children you don’t know well, is a big responsibility.
Here, we answer some of the big sleepover questions to help you to decide whether to take the plunge:
What’s the right age for a sleepover?
All children are different. Some will attend sleepovers as toddlers, others won’t be ready until well into their teens. A small online poll of mums concludes that eight is the age at which most parents are comfortable first allowing their child to sleep at a friend’s house (i).
You know your child better than anyone. If they’re raring to roll out that sleeping bag they’ll probably be fine. And honestly, if you put off that ‘yes’ for too long it could result in more sleepover anxiety in the long term. Our advice? Be first to host. This gives your child the chance to get used to slumber parties in the comfort of their own home.
What day is best to host a sleepover?
School nights should be avoided for sleepovers. As much as you’d like to think that the kids will go to sleep at a sensible time, the reality is usually very different. The excitement of having a sleepover can be enough to make it difficult for children to go to sleep to sleep at a reasonable time, which is not what you need on a school night! Sleepovers are best held on Fridays or Saturdays, or during the school holidays.
How many kids should I invite to a sleepover?
You know how it can go. You plan to invite one or two close pals for a quiet get together and before you know it the whole class is on their way.
When it comes to those first sleepovers, we advise reigning it in. One or two close friends are less likely to cause havoc than a whole houseful. And if it’s just your little one’s besties there’s less risk of arguments, tears and overexcited 1am screeching. As children get older and become seasoned sleepover veterans, those larger parties will (hopefully) become less problematic.
Should parents join in?
Some parents are naturally anxious, some have been through difficult parenting challenges, some simply know that their little one struggles in new and different settings. So should you invite overprotective parents to get involved with a sleepover?
It depends. Inviting a whole bunch of kids? You probably don’t have space for mums or dads too. But if it’s just one close friend and a mama you’re happy having a glass of wine and a chinwag with it might just be a good way to ease a nervous pal into a new situation.
That said, do keep in mind that a sleepover is an opportunity for children to learn to navigate new social skills and find independence, something that’s difficult with an overbearing parent in tow.
Should I set a bedtime?
A flexible curfew is the best bet for happy sleepovers. After all, there’s no forcing excited children to sleep. Set expectations with your child before friends arrive and later, let the group know when pyjamas should be on, lights should be out and quiet voices must be used. A gentle reminder thirty minutes before curfew and a firm, friendly nudge when it’s inevitably missed should keep things under control.
It’s important to remember that sleep won’t happen on demand and that an extra hour of chatter won’t ruin anyone’s week.
What To Do at a Sleepover
So, you’ve decided to invite your kid’s friends to spend the night. How do you find fun things to do at a sleepover without creating middle of the night chaos?
1. Theme your sleepover
From board games and pizza to a posh sleepover with makeovers and a chocolate fondue, there are all sorts of themes you might choose for your child’s sleepover:
- Stargazing sleepover: do you have a secure garden? Camping outside can be a real adventure for older children and keeps your house noise-free. For bonus parenting points add a (supervised) campfire
- Fairies or football: younger kids love a theme. Wear them out with an afternoon of five-aside or a fairy hunt in a local woodland before settling them down for a group bedtime story
- Seasonal sleepovers: whether it’s a Christmas sleepover surrounded by fairy lights or an Easter extravaganza complete with (torchlit?) egg hunt, be guided by seasonal events for easy décor and activity ideas
- Karaoke and disco: is there any better way to amuse a group than with a karaoke machine? From Disney ditties to pop hits, kids of all ages will happily spend hours caterwauling into a mic. Willing to invest in a few coloured lights and create a carefully curated playlist? You’ve got yourself the best disco in town!
2. Keep things age appropriate
When you think back to your childhood sleepovers you might well recall ill-advised viewings of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Ouija board scares. If you’re hosting a children’s sleepover the last thing you want to deal with is nightmares and annoyed parents. It’s sensible to pre-plan and keep any potentially controversial items hidden away.
Lock streaming and gaming accounts as well as computers and tablets so children can only access age-appropriate content. Turning off the Wi-Fi at a certain time can not only help to keep kids from clapping eyes on scary scenes, it can also act as a bedtime reminder.
With older kids and teens be sure to pre-check with parents if your sleepover gang has their sights set on a scary movie or a console game with a high age rating. Not all parents have the same outlook when it comes to these things so it’s well asking the question to avoid recriminations.
3. Prepare quiet activities
While karaoke sessions, scream-inducing movies and breaking out those dance moves are tonnes of fun, the time will come when you really want those kids to hit the hay. Choose a wind down window a couple of hours ahead of your preferred bedtime and turn off the flashing lights, dial down the music volume and put away those noisy games.
Calm pre-bedtime activities might include games of Uno or Dobble, putting on soothing face masks, watching a classic movie (The Little Mermaid, Annie or My Neighbour Totoro for younger kids. Grease, The Goonies or Clueless for tweens and teens) or building a pillow fort ready to clamber into for a cosy night’s sleep.
As the adult in charge you’ll find that hosting a sleepover isn’t all fun and games.
There are a few things you’ll definitely need to consider:
4. Find sleepover space for everyone
However large your home it’s likely that finding an appropriate space for snoozing friends will prove challenging. Here are some of our favourite ways to make the most of sleepover space:
- Sleepover nests: instead of individual beds create a ‘nest’ by laying out mattresses, duvets, pillows and blankets in the centre of a room. For added cosiness add fairy lights or create a tent with a washing line and sheets
- Use another room: modern children’s bedrooms can be super small, with barely space for a playdate let alone a sleepover. Allowing your child and their friends to sleep in a living, dining or playroom adds a sense of adventure while giving them space to stretch out
- Indoor camping: got a tent? Pop that canvas up anywhere in the house – a large hallway may even do the trick - to create a fun home for the night
5. Choose sleepover-friendly furnishings
We know you won’t want to invest in new furniture for a one-off event. But what if sleepovers become a habit? Many kids like to organise regular sleepovers with a special friend. And having an extra bed for sleepover emergencies can help make adult dinner parties go with a pop (and why not consider a sofa bed for over-the-limit adults?).
You’ll find plenty of options out there to make small sleepovers a comfortable prospect. We love a trundle bed, like the Hip Hop 3-in-1. Bunk beds, meanwhile, make the most of high ceilings for double (or even triple, in the case of the Trio bunk bed) deckering sleeping kids.
6. Good food for sleepovers
Food is a vital part of any sleepover. A midnight snacks area is a must, as is dinner and breakfast. While you might be tempted to load ‘em up on junk food, many kids won’t react well to sugar and other additives, which can keep many kids wired ‘til late.
Not only is it a good idea to pick up nutritious snacks, it can also help to involve them in making healthy but delicious food. Grab some pre-baked pizza bases with bowls full of good-for-you toppings for a pizza party that combines kid-friendly food with a fun activity. Or host a sleepover Bake Off for homemade treats, sugar levels you control and friendly competition.
7.Prepare for additional needs
Often your children’s friends will have additional needs you’ll have to be aware of. These may be allergies to bedding or foods, sensory issues or sleeping problems. Be sure to reach out to parents ahead of time to ask whether their children require special accommodations. Most parents will make sure their kid comes with everything they need for comfort but if you can provide anti-allergy bedding and sensible, nut-free or gluten-free food for kids who have to have it that’s extra parenting points to you!
Button Shop hypoallergenic Mattresses
When Sleepovers Don’t Go to Plan
Slumber parties are rarely smooth sailing, especially for younger kids at their first sleepovers.
While it can be a good idea to let children learn to problem solve for themselves there may be those instances where you’ll need to step in.
8. Dealing with homesick kids
Most children will barrel into an opportunity to sleep in a new environment, but occasionally a guest will struggle to settle. Common causes of homesickness are:
- Nightmares: children who experience nightmares may be more sensitive to sleeping in an unfamiliar place.
- Bed wetting: kids who sometimes wet the bed can be understandably nervous about sleeping at a friend’s house.
- Shyness: kids who have difficulties interacting confidently may find a whole night with friends daunting.
Being prepared can help you to navigate homesickness. Suggest friends bring a favourite teddy or another item for comfort. And if you’re informed of bed wetting or similar issues keep them under your hat. Create an opportunity for that child to privately prepare special bedding or underwear without making a fuss.
Most importantly make sure you have a parent’s phone number so you can FaceTime or even make plans for a premature pick up.
9. Be ready for late night noisiness
Although one late night probably won’t kill you, when a herd of children are thundering up and down stairs laughing and whispering at 3am you’ll probably want to put a foot down.
Some parents find that identifying the likely ringleader (be honest, you can usually tell) and giving them a special responsibility, like being in charge of laying out beds or letting everyone know when it’s bedtime, can help keep the whole group in check. Setting expectations with your own child before friends arrive is important too. Let them know that they shouldn’t be afraid to speak up if someone is making poor choices.
Lastly, be prepared to follow through on threats. Don’t say ‘I’m going to call your parents’ if you’re unwilling to give the parents a dead of night ring. Instead try ‘I’ll have to let Mum know that you haven’t listened to instructions when she comes to collect you tomorrow’.
10. Expect arguments
A sleepover requires children to spend more time together than they ordinarily would. They’re likely to be excited, sleep deprived and, despite best efforts, hopped up on sugar. It’s a combination that can often result in squabbles.
If tears and tantrums ensue you may feel the need to step in. Don’t be tempted to take sides and don’t pry into who said what and why. Simply suggest that the group find a compromise (can’t agree on a movie? How about we pick a completely different one together?) or introduce a distraction (hey! Who wants to help me fire up the popcorn machine?) and watch as everything’s quickly forgotten.
And if all else fails? Don’t be afraid to separate the group without isolating one child. Sometimes a little space is all it takes to calm things down.
Hosting a Sleepover with Bensons
Domino Wooden Triple Sleeper
Ready to become the unrivalled master of the sleepover? Now that you’re bursting with great ideas for appropriate entertainment, sleep-friendly food and keeping those little horrors under some semblance of control, it’s time to get your home kitted out for the big night. Ok, so you could just insist everyone brings their own sleeping bag but why risk forgotten bedding and late-night complaints? Hop online or Pop into your local branch of Bensons for Beds and pick up pillows and duvets so every guest is cosy, warm and comfy. Not least because if those kids are able to get ultra-snuggly there’s more chance of them dropping off earlier, which means a better night’s sleep for you. Buying a pack of Simply by Bensons Twin Pack Anti-Allergy Pillows means that you won’t have to break the bank to keep your guests comfy.
It's not just bedding you’ll be thinking about if you’re planning to make sleepovers with a bestie or two a more regular occurrence. If your child is a real sleepover enthusiast, we can help you to pick the ideal furniture for a fun, guest-friendly kids room. From high sleepers that maximise floor space to trundle beds that make sleepovers a breeze and fold out beds for last minute guests, we offer a range of great kids beds to make your child’s bedroom into the ultimate sleepover venue. We can also help you to measure out your little one’s bedroom to ensure a perfect fit, make convenient plans for delivery of new furniture and even to finance new purchases should you need to.
Visit your nearest Bensons for Beds showroom, shop online, or give us a call on 0808 144 6160 to place an order or to get advice from our friendly and knowledgeable team.