Slumber parties are a fun rite of passage for children – and a big responsibility for parents. They should be age appropriate and handled with care. Children are generally ready to be away from home for this type of sleepover at around 9 years of age.
When hosting a slumber party for younger children, ages 9 to 11, up to four guests is a good number. Invite them to bring their favorite stuffed animal or toy. At this age, parents should be mindful that some children will be more comfortable with a night away from their parents than others. A child might have a meltdown, so be prepared. Some children may be excited about the idea of a sleepover and then find they’re just not emotionally ready to sleep in someone else’s home.
Offer an anxious child warm milk, herbal tea and warm food to help them relax. If that isn’t enough to calm the child, it’s important to be sure prior to the party that theparents of your guests will be available in case their child becomes upset as the evening wears on and begins to withdraw or cry. The child should be encouraged to call mom and dad, and, if necessary, the parents should be ready to pick up their child and take them home. For children ages 9 to 13, I recommend “lights out” at 10 or 10:30.
At ages 12 and up, five or more guests is a happy number. Coordinate with the other parents what will take place at the party. Be aware that, as the hosting family, you’re liable if anything negative happens under your care. Parents need to be vigilant (and realize it most likely will be a sleepless night). If you have liquor in the home, be sure it is safely locked away. Be realistic — kids will be kids and they are super curious about many things — no matter how amazing they are. I know it sounds invasive, but check your guests’ bags when they arrive to be sure they’re not bringing anything unwanted to the party. An alternative would be to ask the children’s parents to check their bags as they are dropping them off. They, too, want peace of mind. As they get older, children may stay up and talk, but it’s still a good idea to have lights out at around 10:30.
Remember, children need sleep to support their growing bodies. Teens experience a shift in sleep patterns and will most likely crash around midnight and then sleep until 11 or 12 the next day. I recommend letting them sleep. Children around 9 years of age will wake up around 7 or 8 a.m., even if you allow them to stay up later than their normal bedtime.
At the end of the day, you want a fun, positive and healthy experience for your child and your child’s friends. Being proactive and hands on will ensure that your slumber party is just that.