Seattle's Child

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Sleepover survival guide: Tips for parents (and kids)

Have fun and maybe get some sleep while your kids have the best sleepover ever.

Sleepovers. They’re a childhood rite of passage, and can be quite an ordeal for parents. What if the kids don’t sleep? What if they argue? What if they try to consume insane quantities of sugar?

We checked in a with a few local parents and experts (who are also parents), and learned that there are ways to mitigate the damage, and maybe even get a little sleep yourself that night.

First off, how do you prepare? Well, you might first focus on acceptance. Embrace the chaos.

“They’re pretty raucous. You’ve got to be ready for a lot of running around,” says Andrea Castro, a Central District mom of 12-year-old twin boys. “You just have to deal with it. They’re going to run around your house and be super loud.”

“I think it’s tricky because you want them to get some sleep,” says Tali Rausch, a northeast Seattle mom of three tweens.

“But also, it’s time to have fun, right? Pushing some boundaries, hanging out with your friends in a relatively unique setting that they don’t get very often,” says Rausch.

At her older son’s 12th birthday sleepover last year, Rausch had the idea of collecting kids’ tablets and smartphones at the door, and, at bedtime, removing an even more basic source of stimulation: the room’s light bulbs. She provided a nightlight so kids could still get around safely as needed.

Rausch says her 10-year-old daughter is young enough that handheld devices aren’t much of an issue yet, but chatting often keeps up all the kids at her parties, anyway.

“I think that the more you can minimize technology, the better,” says Jane Schmidt, a Seattle parent coach at Parent Coaching Northwest. Schmidt advises setting tech ground rules for the party ahead of time: “You put all of their phones in one place and just have fun.”

Sometimes, the kids just don’t sleep, and parents might have to go in. “There have been instances where I’ve had to go in at 1 or 2 in the morning,” says Castro. “If you can fall asleep, just let the noise happen. The next day, don’t plan anything!”


Sofia Staggs, far right, and friends toast with 7-Up and cranberry mocktails at her recent sleepover.

If your kid is the one going off to a party, have a talk about boundaries, no matter how well you know the family and kids they’ll be spending time with — or how old they are. “I have the conversation, this body is your body,” says Schmidt. “Just make sure they understand — ‘If you ever feel uncomfortable, that you can always contact me and I’ll come get you.’”

Rebecca Michi, a Seattle-based children’s sleep consultant, suggests holding a sleepover on a Friday, so kids can recover before they need to get back to a normal school schedule. “You’ve got a couple of nights there before,” says Michi.

On food, parents seems to agree: Take it easy and order pizza. Keep it simple. Keep the food coming. And as Castro says, give them the sweet stuff earlier in the evening, so the sugar doesn’t keep them up all night.

For younger kids, a general lack of experience with the whole slumber party concept could make a birthday party with a group of friends a little overwhelming.

“Having the first sleepover ever is easier if you have somebody come to your house,” says Michi. Get kids used to the idea of having a simple sleepover before throwing a big birthday slumber party, with cake and ice cream and 10 kids.

Schmidt advises always having a contact sheet with all the parents’ numbers, in case of emergency — and in case a child decides they want to go home. Also, make sure the other parents get a heads-up if you’re planning to show a PG-13 movie.

She also suggests discussing with the kids how to pass the time if they’re up really early alone the next morning and unsure what to do with themselves. Maybe they can read. Play a game. Turn on the TV in another room.

So how to survive all the late-night antics before day breaks?

Rausch says just remind yourself that “eventually, they’ll go to sleep.”

More on birthdays


Birthday Dreams gives homeless kids an important gift: a party

How to have a successful party for a child with autism or sensory sensitivity

Laser tag and nerf wars: Have your cake and zap it, too! 5 places to check out


About the Author

Jillian O'Connor

Jillian O’Connor lives in Seattle with her husband, two sons and a dog named after the Loch Ness Monster.