OK, you weakened and agreed to it – the dreaded sleepover. You just need to face facts and realise there's no going back now. So, before you open your front door to your 'special guests', check out our top 10 survival tips.
1. Keep numbers small
Unless you've got a degree specialising in stadium and arena crowd handling and flow control solutions, avoid inviting more than four children – maximum - for a sleepover.
Any more and there's bound to be tears and tantrums – and that will just be from you.
If it's the first time you've hosted a sleepover, best to stick to one overnight guest so you can get a sense of what you're letting yourself in for.
2. Your house, your rules
With any luck, adults don't come to your house expecting to draw on your furniture with felt tips, to eat a choc ice while playing on your computer and to ignore you when you ask them to stop – so there's no reason their children should be any different.
At the very start of the sleepover explain that, while you want them to have a really good time, there are certain rules you expect everyone to stick to. Keep the rules short and simple.
These ones are good: be nice to each other, don't run round the house with muddy shoes and wash dirty hands rather than wiping them on the cream sofa. Simples
3. Keep in touch
Make sure you've got the grown-ups' mobile numbers before they leave their children with you. And, while you're at it, check where they're likely to be should a problem arise – you don't want to discover they're on a luxury mini break 200 miles away just after you've promised their homesick little one they can go home at three in the morning. Believe me, this has happened.
4. Run them ragged
It's vitally important that you sap the energy of all your sleepover guests before bedtime. Obviously you can't present it like this to the little ones involved or they'll think you're a real spoilsport. Instead, you need to frame it as 'a really fun activity that no-one in their right mind would miss' – something like a treasure hunt which basically involves running a couple of miles or a game of What's The Time, Mr Wolf? which involves running a couple of miles.
So long as they have to run a couple of miles, any game will do.
5. Make it a switched-off sleepover
It's a sad fact of life these days that most children have better mobiles and portable media devices than adults. Rather than come face to face with the fact that an eight-year-old has a Smartphone while you have a pay-as-you-go brick, it's better to make it an electronic-free sleepover.
An added benefit is that the children can play together as a group rather than sit around in the half gloom, eyes fixed on a lit-up screen.
6. Sugar sense
Remember the days when children had to eat the 'boring' stuff like the sandwiches at a party tea before they were allowed to tuck into the crisps and biscuits? Well, now's the time to bring back that tradition!
Start with some sensible stuff like sandwiches, hummus and carrot sticks, cubes of cheese, mini sausages and chopped up fruit before setting them loose on the sweet stuff – unless you enjoy peeling hysterical children off the ceiling at midnight, that is.
7. Plan for an emergency
It's important to remember that hosting a sleepover requires you to be more than a cook, a chef and a child psychologist. You also need to be a nurse, an entertainer and a security expert.
Make sure you've got First Aid supplies like plasters, ice and antiseptic lotion to hand. Have a few extra games and a DVD up your sleeve if things start going awry. And, most importantly, make regular head counts to ensure everyone's safe and still in your house!
8. Make it a movie night
If they can't agree what game to play or are at risk of breaking off into little groups, pop in a DVD. Everyone will feel happier piled onto the sofa with a new movie to watch and a bowl of popcorn to share. Turn off the lights and show them to their seats by torchlight to make it even more special!
9. Bedtime calm
Devise a game that will encourage everyone to calm down before bed. Sleeping Lions still works a treat for all ages. You could also get them to lie on blankets on the lawn star-gazing or to lie on the living room floor with cucumber on their eyes and twinkly spa-style music playing – basically, anything that involves lying down is good.
OK, it's not going to work for those determined to stay up all night – but, hey, it's worth a go.
10. What to do with children who just won't go to sleep?
Obviously, the whole point of a sleepover is to avoid sleeping for as long as possible, but these tactics just might help...
Make sure the bedroom's lovely and warm as this will make your guests feel much sleepier. You'll need plenty of blankets and pillows, too.
Consider moving the clocks forward an hour or two. Some children are quite happy to go to sleep once they're satisfied they've stayed up till midnight.
Think about reading a story – some children can't resist nodding off.
If none of these work, you'll just have to resort to the usual threats – "I'll call your parents...put you in another room...etcetera, etcetera." Sorry about that.
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