Every parent knows sleepovers are not for sleeping. Sleepovers are for bonding, whispering, tickling, pillow fighting and tossing and turning until daylight. Having a sleepover can feel like the ultimate prize, a rite of passage for a child who finally feels old enough to have one. But for parents, it can feel like a punishing marathon. Communication and planning are key to ensure that the race to dawn goes as smoothly as possible. These seven steps will help guarantee a child’s sleepover is a pleasure for him and painless for the parents.

slumber-party

Start to Finish

Choose a late start and early end to the party. Usually, a sleepover can begin around 5 or 6 p.m. and leave plenty of time for pizza, games and a video. Pickup time in the morning can be as early as 9 a.m. The guests will be up at the crack of dawn (if they sleep at all) and will be ready for waffles and cinnamon rolls. Plan a simple breakfast and be firm with parents about a prompt pickup time.

Health And Safety

Get emergency contact numbers and ask about food allergies. The host parent will be responsible for someone else’s children for 12 hours or more and an overnight stay raises issues that a daytime play date doesn’t. If one of the guests has severe allergies and uses epinephrine, ask their parent how to work an EpiPen in case the child needs an injection. Tell parents in no uncertain terms that uninvited guests such as head lice or pinworms are not welcome at a party where kids may end up sharing pillows and bedding. Ask parents to be frank and discuss whether anyone has issues such as bedwetting, night terrors or sleepwalking.

House Rules

Hosting a slumber party does not have to be a free for all. Rules that seem natural to the host parent may be foreign to the party guests so let them know what is expected. If there is a plan to turn the lights and media off at a particular hour, let them know ahead of time. If all food and drink should be consumed only in the kitchen, tell the kids before cherry soda soaks the new carpet in the living room. Talk about whether pillow fights are allowed and make sure they understand that no one goes outside the house without telling the host parent first.

Off Limits

Be clear about where the party takes place. Guests should not wander through the house, rifling through work papers or experimenting with the make-up in the master bathroom. Restrict guests to the public parts of the house and let them know if they aren’t allowed upstairs in the bedroom. If they have access to the kitchen, tell them they may not turn on the stove or operate appliances without supervision. Serve plenty of snacks and be clear that they are not to eat other foods without permission or the gourmet olives may end up being used for target practice.

What To Pack

Send an email with a packing list to the parents of the guests. If the host parent supplies all the sheets and pillows, they will end up doing laundry for a month so request that each guest bring their own sleeping bag and pillow. Guests should pack pajamas, a toothbrush and a lovey if they have special item they like to sleep with. Finally, they should pack an extra set of clothes that they can wear the next day or use in the event of a spill or accident.

Choose A Battle Station

It’s best if the host parent can sleep within earshot of the party. If the master bedroom is across the house or up a flight of stairs, consider camping closer to the kids for the night. Sleep on the couch or in an adjoining room so it is easy to hear if a guest has a nightmare or is struck with the flu at 2 a.m. Make sure the kids know where to find the host parent during the night. Knowing an adult is nearby will be a comfort for those who may be nervous sleeping in a strange house and serve as a warning to any rascals who want to pillow fight ’til dawn.

Check Technology At The Door

Kids of all ages now travel everywhere with their cell phones, iPhones and iPads. Unfortunately, it’s hard to control how guests might use their technology in the middle of the night. The host parent shouldn’t have to police whether kids are using their cel phones to make crank calls or take unflattering pictures of sleeping friends. Make it an old-fashioned style sleepover and ask parents to keep the technology at home.