Pajama Party Giggles

By April Schweitzer

The Hassle-Free Guide to Throwing the Best Slumber Party Ever

Giggles, pranks and ghost stories. Some of the best memories of childhood sleepovers are the impromptu moments. No matter how much planning, time and money go into orchestrating the perfect event, the big hit of the evening might end up being a spontaneous midnight game of flashlight tag. Part of the excitement of a sleepover is bending the rules a little – staying up late, eating junk food, watching more movies in one night than ever before… The best plan for the perfect sleepover requires balance between thoughtful preparation and a laissez-faire attitude that gives the kids the impression that they’re running the show. Follow our guide to the perfect party and not only will you survive the big night, but you’ll create memories that will be treasured for years to come.

The Numbers Game

Before deciding on a sleepover for your child’s next birthday or big event, you need to make sure your child is ready for the excitement. There’s no magic age for a first sleepover. It is important to make sure your child feels comfortable with a change from his normal bedtime and sleeping habits. Spending the night at Grandma’s or a cousin’s house is a good trial run. Also, consider your child’s personality and sociability. Does your son or daughter tire quickly of playing with friends, prefer to play alone, or have difficulty sharing? If so, hosting a whole group of friends overnight might be an overwhelming and frustrating experience. Many 6- or 7-year-olds will enjoy having a friend spend the night, but a sleepover will probably be more successful if the children are 8 or 9 and ready for the independence of staying overnight with a group of friends. Even if you feel your child is ready for a slumber party at a younger age, be sure to discuss the idea with his friends’ parents before sending out the official invitations. One local teenager, Carrie Winecott, recalls that her favorite activities at slumber parties were flashlight tag and makeovers. “If the kids are so young that they need activities planned for them, they’re probably not ready for slumber parties,” she said. “The best time I had at slumber parties was when we did more self-directed stuff like paint our nails and watch movies.”

Once you decide to go ahead with the party, the next step is to create a guest list. Less is definitely more! First, consider your space. How many sleeping bags will fit? Do you have room for your child’s closest friends? Consider whether guests will be comfortable with each other. Make sure no one feels left out. A slumber party may not be the best time to introduce a friend from the old neighborhood to a whole group of new kids. Three to seven guests is enough without getting too chaotic.

Help Your Child Be the Master of Ceremonies

While you may not get much sleep the night of the party, don’t feel like you have to organize every activity and direct all events. Let them stay up late, sneak midnight snacks, and play a few goofy pranks. Just make sure the party is running smoothly.

With your child, plan a few fun, kid-directed activities give a little structure without making party goers feel like they’re on a schedule. Liven up the evening with a little help from the kids. Instead of ordering pizza, let the kids top their own personal crusts. For dessert, have an ice cream sundae creation contest, or put budding chefs to work baking brownies or cookies. Give older kids all the basics to make cookies as well as small bowls of mix-ins like chocolate chips, M&Ms, nuts, raisins, candy bar pieces and so on. Remember to ask parents if their children have any food allergies! Let each child add her favorite toppings to part of the batter, and see which concoction is the favorite. Party favors offer another chance to get the kids involved. Instead of filling goodie bags with dollar store trinkets, get your guests involved in tie-dying T-shirts, decorating picture frames, making jewelry, or putting together their own wooden planes or cars. Other activities that are great fun but require minimal adult participation include old standbys like makeovers, scavenger hunts, board games, solving mysteries, movies, science experiments, dress-up and karaoke. Videotape the kids doing a dress-up modeling show or performing karaoke music videos. They will be giggling all night after seeing themselves on television. When it gets dark, send the kids to the back yard for a game of flashlight tag. “It” tags hiding players by catching them in the light. Flashlights are also helpful for getting the kids to go to sleep, says Denise Cerniglia, mom to 9-year-old Max. “I give the kids flashlights and then turn off the lights. I tell them that if they stay in their sleeping bags they can use the flashlights to talk as long as they want, but if they get loud, and I can hear them from my room, it will be lights out. Having the room dark seems to mellow the mood, and they get excited about using the flashlights.”

Don’t Forget…

When guests arrive:

- Be sure to get phone numbers, including pager or cell phone numbers, from parents.
-Confirm pick-up times the next morning.
- Ask parents about ALL allergies or medications.
- Make sure guests have brought everything they need. Have a few extra pillows, blankets, and even an extra toothbrush on hand, just in case.
- Plan breakfast the next morning for your bleary-eyed partygoers. A buffet of cereals, fruit, pastries and bagels should satisfy every taste bud. And be sure to make your coffee extra strong…you’ll need it after the late night!

April is a freelance writer, teacher, mom, and aveteran of many slumber parties.

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