The day I have been dreading for years finally arrived. My daughter, with what seemed to be absolutely no warning, became a teenager. To celebrate her new demographic transition, she innocently requested a slumber party with just a few of her closest friends. Since she only mentions two different girls when I ask her about her day, I naively agreed to a slumber party assuming it would be a trio of girls. How was I to know that a soon-to-be teenager’s closest friends includes any girl whose first and last name she knows? When I saw the stack of invitations, already filled out and sealed in their envelopes, I willed myself to keep my breathing even, for fear hyperventilating might send the wrong message to my daughter about how excited I was to help her celebrate this momentous occasion.
Already committed—I’d agreed to the party and my daughter had the invitations ready to go—I decided to combat the stress bomb that was assembling itself in my psyche with detailed preparation. We created menus, sleeping arrangements, a list of activities, and an agenda for the day before and day of the party. I am happy to report that all the planning worked. The girls had a great time, nobody was injured, and my house was cleaner when they left than when they arrived! It was such a pleasant experience, in fact, that I’ve already agreed to let my daughter host another slumber party this summer JUST BECAUSE.
Don’t worry. I’m happy to share the secrets of our successful slumber party (along with tips to avoid a couple of pitfalls that we suffered through). Fear not, Wondermom Wannabes. Slumber parties can be just as fun for you as they are for the kids!
I know a lot of party planning sites recommend that you limit the number of guests at a child’s birthday party to the child’s age (e.g. 6 guests at your 6 year old’s birthday party). If you have a tween or teenager though, that makes for a large sleepover, which becomes an issue when you need to find a place to lay them all down to sleep. My recommendation is that you limit the number of guests to 7 invitees. At the most, you will have 8 children (your child plus 7 more) but more likely you will end up with 5 or 6 because not everyone will be able to come.
For dinner, keep it simple and popular. Pizza is an obvious choice here. We served 3 different Digiorno pizzas (cheese, pepperoni, and deluxe) but you could also have it delivered from your favorite pizzeria. If you are worried about keeping the kids entertained, turn dinner into an activity by having the guests make the pizza.
Depending on your preference, you can:
- Make your own dough and divide into individual sizes
- Use pre-made Boboli mini crusts
- Use Pillsbury pizza dough cut into smaller portions
- Use English muffins as the crust
- Diced Chicken
- Diced Ham
- Crumbled Bacon
- Diced Green Peppers
- Diced Onions
- Sliced Mushrooms
- Sliced Black Olives
- Diced Tomatoes
- Pineapple Tidbits
- Pizza Sauce
- Shredded Mozzarella
- Grated Parmesan
- Crushed Red Pepper
If this is a birthday celebration, you will probably serve cake and ice cream. If it’s not a birthday, I recommend again, that you keep things simple. Stick with cookies or brownies. You can also make dessert another activity by setting up a make-your-own sundae bar. All you’ll need is:
- Ice Cream (you can stick with one flavor like vanilla or chocolate, or offer options)
- Sauces(s) – chocolate, caramel, and/or Magic Shell
- Miscellaneous Toppings
- Mini chocolate chips
- Mini M&M’s
- Crushed Oreos
- Mini marshmallows
- Chopped nuts
- Gummy worms
- Gummy bears
- Fresh berries
- Maraschino cherries
Snacks & Beverages
Don’t forget that you will have your guests for MANY hours. Be prepared by stocking up on plenty of snacks and drinks. Suggestions:
- Potato Chips
- Chex Mix
- Veggie Tray with Dip
- Grapes or Berries
- Soda (2 or 3 two-liter bottles of caffeine-free sodas)
- Juice or Juice Boxes (enough for everyone to have 2 each)
- Bottled Water or Empty Cups and a Faucet
You should assume that you won’t get much sleep during the slumber party because even if the kids are well behaved, the mother instinct in you will keep you alert all night listening for sounds of trouble. Thus, you should plan to serve a breakfast that you can make ahead and easily serve the next morning.
- Breakfast Casserole and/or Baked French Toast
- Donuts or Donut Holes
- Fruit Platter
- Orange Juice
If you don’t want to clean up after half a dozen children, you may want to stock up on disposable dining supplies.
- Paper plates
- Plastic Utensils
- Plastic Cups
If it isn’t obvious from all my suggestions to make dinner preparation part of the entertainment, I am a big fan of encouraging the kids to entertain themselves with the party-throwing tasks. Consequently, my favorite slumber party activities involve the party attendees making their own party favors. Here are the best options for slumber parties:
- Buy some plain white pillowcases and several fabric paints or fabric markers. Party guests can use the paints/markers to decorate their keepsake pillowcases. You can do the same thing with t-shirts.
- Arm the guests with disposable cameras, or entrust them with a digital camera. After the party, collect all of the pictures and create a picture CD, scrapbook, or group photo that you deliver with the thank you cards. I have a friend who is swift enough to snap a group picture at the beginning of the party, print and frame the pictures while the kids are eating, and presents each child with a framed photo as they leave!
- A popular craft among kids and tweens is the terra cotta pot gumball machine. For under $5 each, every child can leave with their own gumball machine candy dish. For instructions, click here.
- Purchase craft kits or supplies from your local craft store. Depending on the age and interests of the kids, they can make their own jewelry, create decorated door hangars or photo frames, or assemble small woodworking projects (several kid-friendly kits are available at Lowe’s and Home Depot).
Other essential slumber party activities are:
- Movie: Choose one that is age-appropriate. Need help? Check out Mommy Bear Media for family-friendly movies, including reviews.
- Game Time: If you have video game consoles, games like Just Dance or Wii Sports are great for small groups and get the kids moving (which will hopefully tire them out so they will actually get some sleep). Popular low-tech games are Twister and Hullabaloo.
- Pranks: Stay ahead of mischief makers by offering activities that satisfy their desire to use shaving cream and freeze clothing items.
- Purchase shower caps, shaving cream or whipped cream, and Cheetos (or a similar item). Have guests pair up into teams of two. Have the players form 2 lines, 4-5 feet apart, facing each other. Teammates should be standing directly across from one another, each wearing a shower cap covered in cream. Players toss Cheetos at one another attempting to get them to stick to the shower cap. The team with the most Cheetos stuck to their caps wins. If it isn’t obvious, this game is best played outdoors.
- The day before the party, soak 2 or 3 t-shirts in water. Bundle each shirt into a tight ball and put them all in the freezer. At the party, divide the guests into teams. The first team to completely unwrap their frozen t-shirt wins.
When hosting a sleepover, don’t forget to:
- Exchange contact information with parents so that you can reach them in case of an emergency and they can reach you.
- Remind parents of pick-up time to make sure you can have children ready for an early pick-up (if necessary) and so that you don’t end up entertaining your guests for added hours the next day.
- Manage expectations: Tell the children well ahead of bedtime what time you will turn the lights off and thus, signal that it’s time to go to sleep.
- 30 minutes before pick-up time have each guest collect ALL of their belongings so that you don’t have to spend the next week delivering items that were left behind (like I did).