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In Your Dreams


The thought of hosting a slumber party is a common source of parental headaches. Uncertainty over what to feed the guests, what boundaries to set and what condition your house will be left in prompts many to put their foot down and ban sleepovers at their home.

But try to imagine a sleepover free of food fights, hurt feelings and stained rugs. Sound too good to be true? Guess again. These tips will help you and your children host a stress-free slumber party that is sure to please.

1. Start out right. Be up front with your child and his guests. Clearly communicate your expectations for their behavior and spell out the schedule for the night’s activities so everyone understands your expectations. Let them know what time is “lights off”—and stick to it. Make sure that parents know when pickup time is the next morning and whether or not you’re providing meals, snacks or both during the sleepover.

2. Know what page you’re on. “My 7-year-old daughter and her friends watched an R-rated horror movie at a friend’s sleepover,” says Candace Brandish of Baldwinsville. “I never thought someone would show an R-rated movie, especially a horror movie, at a first-grade sleepover.” Make sure you understand the personalities and phobias of guests and discuss entertainment or activities that may be questionable with parents.

3. Decode their psyches. Many times the pressure to fit in prompts children to act out at slumber parties, which can dampen the fun for everyone. Consider the kids on the guest list and how they relate to each other to head off potential hurt feelings and tears. Provide plenty of activities—and a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior—to dissuade would-be sleepover spoilers.

4. Forage for food. Janet Shanks is the mother of three grown children and vice president of Weight Watchers of Central New York. She suggests looking at traditional sleepover foods in a different way. Dice potatoes and bake them at 425 degrees for 45 minutes on a baking tray coated with low-fat cooking spray to serve a healthy alternative to french fries. “Turkey burgers served on high-fiber burger buns and low-fat ice cream with chocolate syrup are great sleepover snacks,” says Shanks. “Low-fat popcorn provides fiber and is low in calories, and fruits are also tasty finger foods.”

5. Twist old favorites. Twister Dance DVD by Hasbro reinvents a favored sleepover activity. Charades, karaoke and dance contests give the children a way to expend their energy and encourage them to be spent and sleepy by a reasonable bedtime.

6. Giggling girls. Marie Ortiz of Manlius keeps samples of nail polish and lip gloss on hand for when her 7-year-old daughter’s friends spend the night. “Their entertainment usually revolves around hair and makeup. They love to decorate themselves in glitter and high-gloss,” she says. A supply of cotton balls, disposable swabs, hair bands, ribbons, clips and beads keeps young girls entertained for hours experimenting with “new looks.”

7. Boys will be boys. Give budding scientists a bucket filled with various non-toxic household supplies to provide hours of “experimenting with potions” over the bathtub or utility sink. “I give each one a flashlight and a comic book or two at the pre-designated lights-out time to encourage them to stay quiet and in their sleeping bags,” says Brandish.

8. Timing is everything.
Consider what activities your child has participated in the day before a sleepover, or what he might have on his schedule the day after. Many have found Friday-night sleepovers during the school year are easier to manage because the kids already have had a full day’s activity of school and tire out earlier. This also gives them the rest of the weekend to recuperate from the late-night festivities before another school week begins.

9. Soothe anxiety. Offer homesick kids a series of steps before you make the call to their parents to pick them up at 2 a.m. Have the child sit quietly with you in another room, or pick out a comfort object from a special stuffed animal shelf. Offer them a private area to make the phone call to parents. Often the chance to collect himself soothes a reluctant child and provides the necessary time to calm down and enjoy the rest of the sleepover. 

10. Capture the moment.
Suggest everyone bring a disposable camera to snap candid pictures throughout the night. Older kids can commemorate the event using one-time-use camcorders (sold in most photo departments and supercenters) that hold up to 20 minutes of video and sound.             




© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York