"Mom, can I have a slumber party?"
These words can strike fear in any parent's heart.
These overnight parties often devolve into all night free-for-alls, in which the sweetest kid by day turns into an insolent monster by night.
Slumber parties, at least with nice kids (and you don't let the not-nice ones come), can be quite pleasant, actually. So long as you follow the rules.
This slumber party survival guide can help ensure the night is a success (and survivable) for all.
Put the slumber party kids in sleeping bags in the family room. The sleepover contingent won't want to include the sibling. And there's no reason to force the issue (sibling). It's not his or her slumber party. Yet.
If you can arrange a playdate or sleepover for him, too, great! If not, plan an evening's activity, such as a family movie, that will keep him with you - and out of the way of the slumber party kids (who will have another adult supervising them, naturally).
No, you don't have to have every minute of your child's slumber party scheduled. But you should have a general plan - such as a dress-up theme - so the kids don't turn to their own devices.
Give your child some good-host guidelines before the guests arrive: if TV's okay, how long they can watch, and an appropriate lights-out time. (You'll notice I didn't say bedtime. We have lots of slumber parties at my house.)
Remind her that solitary pursuits, such as gaming, e-mailing, or talking on a cell phone, prevent interaction instead of encouraging it. Suggest board games or have a theme, such as a spa-themed-sleepover, which will, by its very nature, provide related activities for the group to enjoy.
Start the party at dinner time and end it after breakfast the next morning. Try to go longer successfully at your parental peril.
Check in with each slumber party guest's parents. Let them know what to pack (things like a sleeping bag, a favorite pillow, PJs, and a toothbrush); what time to drop the child off; and what time to pick her up the next morning.
Give the parent an idea of the scheduled activities, so they'll know what clothing is appropriate.
If you plan to watch PG or PG-13 rated movies, this is the time to clear the same with the parent. (And never show any PG-13 film that you haven't reviewed. They can be very, very naughty.)
Make sure you have the parent's cell phone number in case you need to reach them during the night.
Prepare really cool - or hot - treats for party time. Bake gooey chocolate-chunk cookies, order extra-cheesy pizzas.
Stock kid-friendly party foods for the big night. Leave nothing to chance here as kids get hungry, especially near midnight.
Unless a midnight trip to the grocery store is your idea of relaxing, plan for this and any other cravings your kids might get a hankering for. This is one slumber party survival guide rule you definitely don't want to skip.
Stay within earshot of the slumber party kids at all times in case squabbling or other problems flare up among the kids that require a referee.
Plan more sedate activities for the hour or two before bedtime, such as watching a movie, to get the kids to dial down to a level where sleep is a realistic possibility.
Make it clear to all your soon-to-be-slumbering guests that kids who don't at least lie quietly after lights out can expect a midnight call to their parents. And do it.
Let the kids know when you're going to bed and that you expect them to dial down the activity volume accordingly.
This is the time to reconfirm your previously chosen bedtime. With this slumber party survival guide, a good time can be had by all - and everyone involved can get some sleep!