When your child wants to host a slumber party, the twinge you feel at her request may be a reaction to the responsibility that's involved as much as to the realization that your little one is not so little any more. If you set ground rules in advance, insist on a manageable-sized guest list and plan ahead for the rest of the family's itinerary, you can create a memorable evening of fun for all.
Choose simple dishes that don't rely on intricate preparation steps or fall apart unless you serve them within minutes of completion. Stay away from any dish that makes a huge mess if someone spills it or—perhaps most importantly—contains ingredients to which one of the guests is allergic. A slumber party makes a great venue for little chicken pot pies, sandwiches that don't disintegrate into piles of condiments and lettuce, or grilled cheese sandwiches accompanied by fresh veggies. Soufflé, lasagna and soup make riskier choices. If you're sure you can corral the party at your dining room table long enough for a regular meal, your choices expand exponentially. Otherwise, limit your menu to food you don't mind serving from dishes on the bedroom floor.
Regardless of whether you track the information on your smartphone, computer, tablet or a sheet of paper, obtain full contact data for each guest's parents, preferably before they drop off their child at your door. Along with phone numbers, you may need schedules—for parents who work the midnight shift or share custody—and a photo of the person who's picking up a child who'll go home with someone other than the parent who dropped her off. If one of your guests takes medication for an ongoing condition, verify that she has her prescription with her. Although you need easy access to your guests' parents, think twice about allowing the children to use their smartphones during the party. Without their digital connections, they keep their focus on the group rather than on posting comments on social media.
Plan to keep your guests together as much as possible throughout the time they spend with you. If your child's bedroom can't hold the entire group comfortably, set them up in your family room, rec room or guest room. With all the invitees in one room, you reduce the chances that little groups split off, leaving someone feeling left out. For the same reason, encourage your child to formulate a guest list with an even head count, and know the invitees well enough to get a sense of the party that will result. To give the partygoers some autonomy, suggest they serve themselves sparkling water through your refrigerator door or retrieve fruit from a bowl on a kitchen counter for a midnight snack.
An HDTV makes an ideal addition to the party "venue," especially if your child wants to screen a movie. Set up the parental controls on any technology you include in the party room so Wi-Fi® access to streaming entertainment doesn't serve up fare designed for older audiences or unlock access to pay-movie channels. If you include an audio system in the room, your guests can listen to tunes from a playlist your child sets up in advance, either on an MP3 player or tablet that docks with the system or wirelessly from the family computer.
Photo Credits: Anne Dale/Demand Media
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