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Guide for trouble free sleepovers

Posted on 09 April 2018

More commonly referred to as “work of the devil,” a sleepover can strike fear into the heart of even the most fun loving parent.  It’s not unusual, given the mayhem, mess, lack of sleep, and subsequent grumpiness the following morning, to hear parents across the UK hiss “never again” through clenched teeth at 5am on Sunday morning.  

Sleepovers are one of those things parents endure for the sake of their child’s happiness. Parents in the know suggest taking a military style approach to the event to make it more tolerable. We’ve gathered intelligence from those battle-hardened parents, on how to control, plan, execute, and exit a sleepover. 

Take control

When considering who to invite remember smaller numbers are easier to control, and while the age at which a child is ready for a sleepover will vary, the general consensus among parents seems to be seven years old.  

First sleepovers can be a big deal for younger children and hard work for you.  Run through the following checklist with parents of children you are thinking about inviting to assess how “sleepover-ready’ their child is. Readiness signs include being able to put themselves to bed without relying on a special bedtime routine from their parents, having successfully completed a “dry-run” at a relatives house, how comfortable the child is with your family, whether they are comfortable with being apart from their parents, can they survive on little sleep?  

Guest list decided?  You’re ready to move onto the invitation. Cover off the small details to make life easier for yourself.  Ask guests to bring a sleeping bag / duvet and pillow. Specify drop off and crucially pick up time.  Sanity levels are best preserved when guests arrive no earlier than 5pm and leave no later than 10am.

Plan

Do the maths, based on this suggested drop-off/pick-up time you will be hosting a seventeen hour event, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. While teenagers may be happy to doodle around entertaining themselves, younger children need structure or will direct their excitement into destructive behaviour.

Wear them out with a physical activity before dinner. Swimming, trampolining, or a run around the park, are great energy burners. Bring the tempo down after dinner with calming activities such as craft, board games or a relaxing film.  

Decide on an age appropriate bedtime with slack built in for teeth cleaning, plus half an hour of high jinx after lights out. Communicate this time from the outset of the evening to manage expectations.  


Stock up on rations, buy in extra rations for teenagers with hollow legs. Don’t forget breakfast, save yourself some effort with older children by laying out a help-yourself-buffet the night before. 

Execute

At drop-off direct all bedding and worldly goods to the designated sleeping room. Remind older children they are responsible for their things and for packing them away the following morning.

Before the other parents scarper, ensure you have their contact numbers and have agreed how to deal with a homesick child or in the event they wet the bed.   

Stage an early intervention to de-escalate arguments, teasing, or your child feeling overwhelmed, before they blow up into problem situations.

Every parent will thank you for returning a child that has slept well. It is therefore your duty to enforce bedtime at the pre-ordained hour with the rigour of a SWAT team. Stick to a strict routine of teeth, toilet and lights out with half an hour of permitted hi-jinx, which will inevitably involve a midnight feast of sugar. Repeat teeth cleaning and toilet routine then issue a dire warning as you turn the lights out that anyone caught talking will be removed from the room. Stand outside the door to make clear your intention to carry your threat through.

Light the way to the toilet in case a child needs to go in the night and leave comics / books out to keep earlier risers entertained.   

Exit

Once up, dressed, and breakfasted, have your guests pack their bags and stack these with sleeping bags in a line by the front door. 

Exhale when the last child has left and as you spend the day managing your doubtless grumpy child reflect on the fact they will soon grow up and fly the nest, leaving you to miss their noise or perhaps savour the quietness of a still house.