Whether you call it a sleepover, pajama party, slumber party or sleepaway, an overnight party for tweens puts you in the planner's seat. If you're expecting a group of teenagers to entertain themselves for an entire evening, promptly drop off to sleep and wake refreshed the next morning, you haven't hosted your child's friends before. From the guest list to the games and the house rules to the food, make sure you cover every aspect of the get together in advance.
Review your child's guest list with her before you help her send out invitations. Ideally, you want her to invite children she knows well—friends she sees at school or in the neighborhood—whose parents you know. Help her create invitations on your home computer and print them out for her to distribute, or allow her to send out digital invitations from her smartphone. Limit the list to the people she initially wants to include, even if one of them can't attend, and require an RSVP of some kind from each child's family. While your child hands out invitations, touch base with each prospective guest's family so you can trade contact information and confirm who's allowed to pick up each child.
When you first verify arrangements with the invitees' parents, check on food allergies so you can take sensitivities into account in the menu you plan. Let where you serve sleepover food help determine what you serve. A sit-down meal at your dining room table can center around any of your child's favorites that you're willing to prepare for a group, including baked or roasted meats from your range's convection oven accompanied by fresh-vegetable appetizers that you slice and hold in a flexible temperature-controlled refrigerator drawer.
If your child wants to serve dinner in her room, plan a no-drip, no-mess menu that won't wind up on the carpet. To serve customized drinks, a refrigerator that produces on-demand carbonated water through the freezer door simplifies the task of making flavored sodas for the entire crowd, using all-natural ingredients and skimping on the sugar.
A sleepover provides an obvious opportunity to screen one or more movies for your child's guests. If you plan to allow the party to sleep in your media room, you can use your main TV and home theater setup to provide entertainment. You can play DVDs or Blu-ray discs on a home theater setup, or stream a suitable film through wireless networking that allows a smart playback setup to access online content. Check parental controls before you turn youngsters loose with a multifunction remote control, however, to assure that your child and her guests stay away from age-inappropriate content. Along with onscreen amusements, plan a set of board games or a craft project that keeps the group together, avoiding the prospect of it splintering into cliques.
Set hard-and-fast rules for what you will and won't allow as part of your child's sleepover. To put a stop to late-night calls and texting, collect guests' smartphones and place them in overnight storage, either in a carton in your bedroom or a locking desk drawer. Establish a lights-out time and stick to it, checking in on the party and enforcing the curfew. If you do allow guests to use media players during the evening, warn them that sleep time means quiet time. Insist that the entire group stay inside unless you supervise them, calling a halt to opportunities for one or more guests to sneak away on an unsanctioned "field trip."
Photo Credits: Alexa Smahl/Demand Media
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