When you’re the Mum to an only child, sleepovers are sometimes less work than looking after your child solo – with a built-in playmate, Flea’s sleepovers usually mean her and her bestie spending the entire evening in the playroom.
Frankly, I’m only needed to phone for pizza, buy in enough snacks for a midnight feast, and ensure the fridge is stocked with cold drinks.
But last month we had a particularly ambitious sleepover, attended by Flea and her four best friends (AKA The Awesome Foursome).
It turns out that hosting five 10-year-olds in a small Victorian terraced house is a bit more high-maintenance than our sleepovers of old – but it was also a LOT of fun.
Here are my tips:
All the Burgers
We abandoned takeaway because honestly, feeding five girls this way is ridiculously expensive and there’s always one who doesn’t like cheese, one who won’t eat anything spicy, one who eats sweetcorn, but not onions… you get the idea. Instead, I grilled a stack of flattened chicken breasts and beef burgers, and put them in the middle of the table with buns, salad, dressings and sauces. Job done.
If you’re collecting kids from school, make them leave school bags and gym kit in the car – or you’ll spend the next two weeks looking for Kid 1’s missing hockey sock, Kid 2’s lost tie, Kid 3’s trainer… you get the picture. Even with precautions, expect to send your child into school on Monday morning with a lost property bag.
When we have kids sleep over, my approach is always, “make yourselves at home”. If someone wants a drink or a snack, I am happy for them to help themselves – so I stock up with cartons of sugar-free drinks, small bottles of water and chopped fruit in the fridge at kid height.
Make Dessert Entertainment
I stacked up on American candy while we were in California and pulled out a tupperware box stuffed with sweets instead of dessert. Foreign food? That’s dessert AND entertainment in one. Especially once I showed the girls how to set up their camera on a tripod and they made their own YouTube video of them tasting American candy. That’s a thing, apparently.
Contain them in One Room
Flea’s bedroom isn’t big enough to hold five kids, but her playroom is. I move the spare laptop up there and let them play DVDs and then the lounge remains a mostly adult space. Containing children means there’s one space where they can play, make a complete TIP and it’s all out of sight and mind for you (until the next morning). My policy on sleepovers tends to be, “I don’t care what you’re doing so long as everyone is kind to everyone else, and nobody leaves the room until at least 7am.”
Lots of Spare Bedding
Make sure there’s loads of spare bedding – for a sleepover, we move all the toys in Flea’s playroom to the edge of the room and put down two inflatable double beds from Tesco (bargain buys, and have lasted for YEARS). Then we throw in some sleeping bags and pillows. Flea’s new Harry Potter themed Snuggle Sac was a BIG hit – these amazing bags combine a cosy, soft sleeping bag with a compartment for a full sized pillow and they’re a bit more roomy than most kids’ sleeping bags. And as an added fun fact – they’re exactly the same ones that Harry and his friends sleep in during the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Snuggle Sac was commissioned to make them for the film).
Internet Switch Off
When I was a kid, you took board games on a sleepover. Now all the girls bring iPads, laptops, iPhones and the like. If you want anyone to get any sleep, turn off the router at midnight. It helps add a little something if you do an evil laugh just as you pull out the Ethernet cable.
Do stealth goodnight kisses. In our house, there’s a rule – we always, always have a bedtime cuddle. Obviously, I can’t be seen to cuddle Flea in front of her friends, so I sneak in the bathroom while she’s brushing her teeth and give her a quick squish. Although Flea and her bestie have been having sleepovers since they were both five, so when it’s just the two of them, I’m allowed to actually show affection in sight of Flea’s friend, who looks at Flea sympathetically and says things like, “My Mum is JUST the same as yours.”
Stock up on mini boxes of cereals and individually wrapped pastries for breakfast. Usually these things are not given house room on the basis they’re over-priced but faced with someone else’s breakfast habits, there’s a good chance none of your usual options will suit (like, we never have jam in the house, but lots of Flea’s friends don’t like Marmite. Weird.) Mini boxes of cereal mean there’s bound to be one thing every can eat.
The last tip is perhaps the most important – your role in a sleepover is facilitator. You should on no account attempt to make conversation with anyone attending the sleepover, unless you are offering food or drink. Although if you do happen to have a spare iPhone and you share an iMessage account with your daughter for safety reasons, I think it’s entirely reasonable to pretend to be your own child and send messages to her friends that say things like, “Don’t you think my Mum is just the coolest ever? She’s my bae.” Not that I would ever do something like that. Obviously.
Do you have any top sleepover tips?