The sleepover, also known as a slumber party if multiple participants are involved, is an event enjoyed by children and teens across the world. Somewhat a contradiction in terms however, as very little sleep actually occurs. Sleepovers are a time for kids to feel grown-up, enjoy a special closeness with their friends, and to laugh…a lot. My son had his first sleepover this week, at his friend’s house. It was only the two of them and they live just five doors down from us. Still, this was huge for my six year old and a pretty big event for me too. Sending your child off for their first sleepover, with overnight bag and words of advice, is a huge flashing neon sign that they are growing up.
There’s no set age when it’s okay for kids to begin having sleepovers, and children vary greatly in terms of when they (and their parents) feel ready. For many children, a sleepover at a friend’s house is their first time away from home. It’s a chance to spread their wings and practice for longer separations such as camp or special trips. What’s important is that the child feels ready. The first time they do decide to stay at a friend’s house, assure them that they can call you if they change their mind. As it turns out, my son didn’t change his mind and had a really fun time.
So how do you know if your child is ready for a sleepover? There are a few things to consider before packing them off with their sleeping bag. Are they quite independent at bedtime, or do they rely on you for special cuddles and a set routine? Have they ever slept over at a relative’s home, staying with grandparents or cousins for example? Are they comfortable with the other family? A first sleepover is better if it’s with a close friend. And can your child survive on very little sleep?!
It’s one thing sending your child over to a friend’s house, but what about being the one that’s hosting. For the uninitiated parent, it can be quite a challenge to have other people’s children to entertain, feed, put to bed (good luck with that), and wake up to the next morning. I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing the invited guest or guests wisely. It’s a good idea to start by hosting one-on-one sleepover’s, and let’s face it only the very brave end up hosting eight to ten kids in one go.
If you’re the one hosting, you need to think what to do with siblings. It’s your child’s slumber party and they want to be the focus for the night. Their younger siblings will likely feel left out, so will need some kind of special treat, perhaps a "sleep over" in your bedroom. Older siblings, it’s best to pack them off to someone else’s home for the night.
Less-than-healthy snacks are an inevitable part of sleepovers. For the movie there will be pizza, popcorn, chips, and candy. Then there’s the snacks the kids bring for that “midnight” feast. You can offer fruit and something healthy, but really you’ll be wasting your time. Relax for one night and let the kids indulge a bit. It’s a good idea to check on them every so often. Under the guise of "bringing more snacks," pop in to their room every hour or so, just to make sure to everyone’s getting along. You have to of course pretend you expect them to sleep, maybe calm them all down by turning lights low and putting on a quiet movie. They’ll protest, but it wouldn’t be a sleepover if they didn’t.
beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson moved to Beijing in 2010 from the UK with her husband and son. Her daughter was born here in 2011 and both her kids keep her happily busy. In her spare time, Sally loves to stroll through Beijing’s hutongs and parks. She is a (most of the time) keen runner and loves reading: books, magazines, news, and celeb websites – anything really. Sally is also a bit of a foodie and loves trying out new restaurants.