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Are you hosting a pajama party for a throng of kids, and you’re wondering how you can keep the cute little monkeys both occupied and under control the whole night long? If you’d like to know how to prep for a kid’s slumber party, follow the steps below for a fool-proof sleepover the kids will enjoy!
How to Prep for a kids Slumber Party
Here is our ultimate 8-step guide for how to wear the kids out, prepare your house and pets for the affair, prep food and games, and expect the unexpected!
1. Set Up The Sleeping Arrangements — In Advance!
The first step for how to prep for a kids slumber party? Starting with the sleeping arraignments. It’s a simple step, but we promise — it will save you a headache later when you’re too tired to function!
We’ve learned from experience why it’s best to set up the sleeping bags well before it’s time to sleep:
- A child might have forgotten their favorite pillow, blanket, or toy, causing them to cry for their parents in the middle of the night.
- You can ensure you have enough blankets and pillows for everyone, so you’re not woken in the middle of the night.
- A child who’s nervous about sleeping in an unfamiliar place will feel better seeing that they have a comfortable place prepared for them.
Setting up the sleeping room can also double as a game. Have the kids set up their own incredible pillow and blanket fort with every extra material you can find in the house. Help them move furniture and chairs, prop up sheets, and pass out flashlights. Arrange the fort with a movie set up nearby for an exciting makeshift theater!
2. Set Up A Designated “Rumpus” Area
If you give the group of kids a place that they’re explicitly allowed to bounce and jump around in, you can control the chaos to some degree. If you don’t give the kids a designated area, we promise: they will use your entire house as a hide and seek/tag/make-believe fortress, and nowhere is safe from their reign.
Put away the fragile decorations! Hide them in the parent’s room. Even consider taking artwork off the walls — you don’t want your Kinkade painting to fall victim to some errant whipped cream splatter.
The larger the rumpus room, the better. A finished basement, for example, is ideal. If you clear out the living room and re-allocate some of the furniture to another room, you can easily make enough space. Have fun decorating your rumpus room with cheap party supplies, like balloons and streamers.
3. Wear Them Out: Easy Game Ideas
More often than not, kids will make their own fun. You’ll lose them for hours to a make-believe restaurant or palace, or you’ll simply give them a ball and a trampoline and let them tire themselves out.
This is the best-case scenario, however, and it doesn’t always come true. If you invite some of your child’s classmates that they don’t know too well, or friends who don’t know each other, you’ll need some activities to help make everyone feel comfortable and included.
Don’t forget to prepare way more games than you need. You can’t predict which games will be a hit and which will flop, and it’s important to let the kids decide for themselves which ones they want to play. Some simple games will unexpectedly occupy them for hours, while they’ll breeze through others in five minutes. Give them tons of options, and you won’t run into the dreaded lull!
Here are some super easy game ideas for slumber parties:
- Making an epic blanket/pillow fort (as mentioned above)
- Heads Up!, a free phone app (you only need one phone)
- Pie Face, a simple game to smash your face with whipped cream (prepare accordingly!)
- Scavenger Hunts
- Jigsaw Puzzles
- Lincoln Logs
- Sidewalk Chalk
Never force the kids to finish a game that not everyone is having fun with. If you notice a kid is feeling unhappy with a certain game (e.g., a preteen who’s uncomfortable in their body and doesn’t want to play dress-up) distract them with another game or snacks before changing the game. Never single out a kid for not participating — they’ll feel even more uncomfortable if they’re called out.
Staying up all night during a sleepover is practically a rite of passage. As a parent, you’re almost powerless to make them stop giggling and actually fall asleep. The best thing you can do is give them a dark room and exciting activities to wear them out beforehand!
4. Pick the Right Movie
Watching a movie is not only an essential sleepover activity, it’s also a great way to have the kids wind down. Rather than giving them unlimited access to the Netflix account, we recommend you choose a series of age-appropriate movies in advance —preferably on DVD, so they don’t sneakily watch an R-rated film after you’ve gone to bed.
The right movie can also make a kid feel comfortable and relaxed. Don’t let them choose a movie that’s too scary or thrilling if you can enforce it. Pick a series of parent-approved movies that are familiar and crowd-pleasing, and have them vote on their favorites.
Some great ideas for sleepover movies are:
- How To Train Your Dragon
- Finding Nemo
- The Secret Life of Pets
- Old-school sing-along Disney movies
- The Lego Movie
5. Separate Your Pets — Preferably Far, Far Away
Dogs and a rowdy bunch of children don’t often mix. Additionally, a cat or dog whose territory has been invaded is likely to become anxious and upset, especially if they’re young.
Even if your pet is an angel, you can’t guarantee that a child won’t do something to provoke it — some small children who have never had pets can be accidentally harsh to an animal. They might treat it like they would a stuffed animal, squeezing and cuddling it, causing your pet to retaliate. The last thing you want is for your child’s friend to go home with an injury from your pet, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
We highly recommend separating your pet in a different room, or, better yet, getting your dog to stay the night somewhere else. If you can’t get a pet sitter, here are some quick and easy tips for how to ease your pet’s anxiety when people come over:
- For a dog, ensure they get plenty of exercise. Exercise helps keep your pet from stressing and helps them sleep at night. Before the party, ensure they get at least 1 to 2 hours of exercise. If you have a cat, play with them as much as you can beforehand.
- Create a cozy, quiet nest. Pick the most soundproof room in your home and fill it with your pet’s favorite blankets, toys, and other comfort items. Additionally, give them a distraction, such as a peanut butter-filled Kong or a new chew toy.
- Slowly introduce the guests. Under your watch and control, let the children get a sniff and/or give a pat to your pet at least once during the party. Allow your pet to investigate the newcomers, if only briefly. This works wonders for helping your pet understand the new smells and sounds in the house and calming their anxiety.
Make sure none of your guests have pet allergies in advance, too!
6. Prepare Way More Food Than You Need, And More For Picky Eaters
The food at a sleepover is always a highlight when we think back to our own childhood memories. Our best suggestion is to keep the food simple and quick to prepare because you probably won’t have a lot of time or energy on the day between all the chaos.
Here are some tried and true party snack ideas for sleepovers:
- Pizza! Is there a better party food in the entire world? To make it even better, prepare easy pizza dough and have each kid add their own toppings. It’s a fun activity and it’s just as delicious as the pizza you order.
- Lots and lots of snacks. If a kid is too shy to say they don’t like the meal, they at least won’t go hungry. Make sure you add ample amounts of healthy options, like veggie platters and fruit salads, so they don’t make their own stomachs sick.
- Taco or pasta bars. Letting kids make their own meal is a great way to make everyone happy! Set up a buffet-style bar for tacos, pasta, sundaes, cupcakes, popcorn, or snack mixes, and let the kids be creative.
- NOT caffeinated soda. Beyond the obvious unhealthiness, caffeine is both bad for children and a guaranteed way to keep them up all night and make them cranky in the morning.
Don’t forget breakfast! Make sure you’ve bought the classic pancakes, eggs, bacon, and cereal in advance, and you can set up an assembly line to feed all the kids running on hopefully-more-than-two hours of sleep.
It’s a great idea to contact each parent and ask if their kid is a picky eater before you shop for ingredients. If a kid becomes grumpy because there are no chicken nuggets, their hunger and mood might affect the entire party. Since you’re not their parent, it’s not your place to discipline them or force them to finish their plate — so it’s best to simply prepare for their pickiness in advance.
Bonus tip: ALWAYS ask the parents if their kids have any allergies or dietary restrictions! You don’t want an upset stomach or a trip to the ER — or an upset parent!
7. Collect Contact Details
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include this safety tip in a thorough sleepover guide. It should go without saying that you should have the contact details for each child’s parent or guardian before a party, but busy parents can often forget. Another situation that can occur is your child inviting a kid over from school and forgetting to tell you!
Here’s what to do: keep track of each child entering the party as they enter, and try to meet the parents in person. Make a list of each attendee, their guardian’s name and number, and any allergy or intolerance notes. This helps you account for any stragglers and have a readily accessible contact sheet in case of an emergency. The biggest key to planning how to prep for a kids slumber party? Preparation.
8. Having Your Pajama Party During Corona Times?
Our short and sweet advice to this is “don’t.” All the classic sleepover activities — pillow fights, communal snacks, and board games — are perfect opportunities to spread the virus. Figuring out how to prep for a kids slumber party looks a bit different nowadays, but there are ways to blend safety and fun.
However, if you’re confident you’re following restrictions and/or have already had a vaccine, here are some extra steps you can take to stay safe:
- Have everyone wash their hands before and after any activity.
- Give them sanitizer after eating.
- Ensure enough distance between sleeping areas.
- Avoid the aforementioned activities or any activity that has kids touching the same objects.
- Keep the party as small as you can, preferably no more than 3 children.
- In close quarters, have them wear face masks.
So long as you use this guide as a checklist for essential preparations, your child and their friends are almost guaranteed to have an excellent time. Take a step back and let them foster their own independence and social skills as a host. You might not get the best night’s sleep, but you’ll be helping your child make special memories that will last a lifetime!
Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness, but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and world of fitness.