Sleepover Survival Guide-Top Tips for Sleepover Parties.

My two daughters tackled an extreme sleepover this week - sleeping on cardboard outside with their church youth group to raise money for DENS, a local charity supporting homeless people.

My older daughter (17) has done this annually for a few years now but it was my younger daughter's first time. (She's 11) She was understandably nervous as we had some snow recently but as well as doing good for other people she got a glimpse into what homeless people endure night after night.

We sourced excellent sleeping bags, some dry cardboard boxes and they both had new hats and gloves - luxuries many homeless people don't have. There was also be a good supply of hot drinks all night long from the adults supervising the sleep out.

Of course, most sleepovers involve considerably less risk of frostbite and much more popcorn and TV.

I have endured hosted many sleepovers over the years as it's a fave for birthday parties among my children. It's a cheap and relatively easy option as long as you set some ground rules.

Here are my top tips for hosting a sleepover.

  • Keep it small. I would suggest no more than 5 or 6 children including your own unless you have many spare bedrooms. More than that and you are unlikely to get any sleep yourself as the larger the crowd generally the louder the noise!
  • Allocate sleeping space. For bigger parties we have a sofa bed in our lounge and another long sofa. We add memory foam mats so everyone has a space. We also have a cabin bed with a built in, fold out double sofa bed underneath which is great for occasional small sleepovers. When choosing beds it's worth browsing a good online store like The Sleep Station where you can pick up versatile beds, guest beds and spare mattresses which are very handy if you can store them. (underneath the main beds?
  • Consider your catering carefully. Tempting as it might be to offer crowd-pleasing sugar laden treats remember you do want them to sleep for at least part of the night. Homemade popcorn is very cheap to make. Buy kernels from supermarkets and pop in a small amount of heated oil in a large saucepan with a tight lid (or hold he lid on). Add a sprinkle of sugar and a small amount of butter for a sweet, but not TOO sweet treat. Offer hot chocolate or babyccinos (warm milk with a dusting of cocoa powder) instead of fizzy drinks.
  • Set strict time limits. Set an arrival time and a pick up time so you are no lumbered with tired children the day after your sleepover. During the sleepover give the guests clear guidelines about what time "lights out" is going to be. Set a TV or internet access timer so that they can't game/watch tv all night. Obviously this is going to be later than a normal bedtime but at least once the screens go off they are more likely to sleep at least a couple of hours.

The ideal age to start sleepovers is tricky and very much depends on your child and their friends. If it's a first time for any of your guests make sure their parents are available to pick up if they become distressed. Sometimes a quick call home will settle a homesick child but sometimes there is no option but to abandon the plan and try again when they are ready.

I had a daughter who was happy to sleepover at age 4 and another who still isn't keen at all at age 11. Only you can know when it's the right time for your child.

Disclaimer: Collaborative post.

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