Tips for an easy (and successful) tween sleepover

Do you remember sleepovers? As a tween and teen I did sleepovers all the time. But my kids don’t.

Yes, this crazy pandemic life is definitely partly to blame. But we were very busy with extra-curriculars, in the ‘before times’.

Related: Tips for surviving a busy family schedule.

Now, we’re enjoying more ‘at home’ time, and we managed to host our first multi-kid sleepover! Keep reading to learn what worked for us, and how you can host a successful and fun sleepover.

My youngest daughter, Rose, turned 11 this month and somehow convinced us that she could have a sleepover in our basement. Our original plan was to take one friend to the movies for her ‘party’, but after she went to a sleepover (her first school friends sleepover), she HAD to have one for her birthday.

We are now on the other side of it, and I have to say it went pretty well.

She had three friends over, we did go to a movie, and they stayed up a good portion of the night. But it seems like they all had fun.

With one successful sleepover under my belt, I can share what worked for us, so keep reading…

Try these tips for an easy (and successful) tween sleepover:

Keep it small

If your home is anything like mine, more than two extra people significantly fills your space. We relegated the kids to our basement, and three plus my own was a little tight. At least by my standards. Of course they loved it and were happy to be segregated from the rest of us…

It can be hard for kids to decide who to invite if they’re social butterflies like Rose is. We let her choose one friend (since that was our original plan, and she has a ‘best’ friend), then expanded to three because she had two other friends at the top of her current list.

There was no drama with her choices, but I know there can be – especially among pre-teen girls. If it had become too dramatic, we were ready to return to the one-friend-only sleepover, and maybe host a few other girls for a party earlier in the day.

We did get some “I’d really like to invite so-and-so,” commentary, but Rose knew more would be too tight a fit. Instead we suggested a hang with just that friend another time. We haven’t hosted that yet, but one or two kids for a ‘hang’ is pretty simple after a sleepover party!

Designate a space

Our basement is often a catch-all for my husband’s work ‘stuff’. Bins of junk emptied from his truck, tools, and assorted stuff that I can’t put away (because it doesn’t have a home inside my house) builds up, and as a result we don’t use the basement too often.

We’ve gotten better over the years, but in order to sleep four girls down there we needed to put some time and effort into cleaning up the space. And Rose was absolutely required to help.

It didn’t take as long as I thought it would to get it habitable – and I even was able to decorate a bit. And, three weeks later, I am still using the space and it’s not yet reverted to it’s former messy state!

All this to say: find somewhere you can put the kids so that if they stay up they won’t keep you up all night.

Pro tip: If it’s a summer sleepover, consider putting them outside in a tent.

Make sure the kids know they’re responsible for the space (if they’re old enough to ‘get’ that.) The girls did a nearly-decent job of cleaning up after themselves before they left. Of course a vaccum and full sweep for dishes was done after they left.

Plan activities

As kids get older, the idea of ‘activities’ changes. We planned to take the kids to the movies (the ultimate activity with tweens, it seems), and then let them dictate their own fun into the night hours.

Some suggestions we provided: video games, movies, board games – all easy to do themselves and fun! Some of the girls brought their own board games.

Related: Budget friendly birthday party ideas

I include ‘snacks’ as an activity, because it requires pre-planning. We bought two different snack options for them to enjoy into the night. The other girls brought candy. The snacks and candy turned into a real activity, as we had to sweep up popcorn and Nerds the next day…

I made breakfast in the morning, so that was a 30 minute event (for them to eat and chatter the whole time.) They chose to go to the park after breakfast, before parents returned to collect them.

We used to host ‘park parties’ when the kids were young. We’re blessed with a park across the street from our house, so it’s a really easy way to keep kids occupied. And now that they’re tweens, they can come and go from the park at their leisure.

*Note* – I did not discuss gift opening with Rose ahead of this party, and once all three girls were here she ripped into her gifts before I was done speaking to the parents who dropped the kids off. Usually we make a thing of gift opening! I think there was a bit of peer pressure to get into them right away…

Don’t forget the cake!

I made cupcakes from a mix for this party. The making is no more involved than a cake — except it takes longer to pour it evenly into the muffin tins — but the eating is much less messy.

We weren’t sure if the kids would sleep in, or what might occur throughout this whole experience, so we planned ‘cake’ for after breakfast. It ended up being pancakes and blueberries for breakfast and cupcakes one and a half hours later. Of course no one complained!

My teen decorated the cupcakes with store-bought icing and a Ziploc bag. Easy and fun! We have assorted tips, but she just chose one and got creative with the piping. The kids thought they were cute, and we ate the leftovers for a few days. (I froze some of the batch as well because we didn’t need 24 cupcakes for four tweens and three others – who didn’t really eat lunch-cake.)

To make it even simpler, just buy a cake or cupcakes. The kids don’t care!

A few post-pandemic notes:

  • Be open to sharing details with other parents, such as how big the party will be, vaccination status of your family, and any other related questions. This is no different than being considerate of families with allergies or dietary concerns.
  • Kids might choose to mask sometimes or all the time while in your home. Their body, their choice. Be respectful of these new health measures, and teach your children tolerance.
  • Consider cancelling if anyone in the family has any illness or symptoms, and be aware others may cancel last minute as well. If you’ve scheduled something like a movie or destination party, have a backup (family members work well for this) to fill the space.

Have you hosted sleepover parties? How did you survive? Share your best tips and tricks in the comments – I love hearing from you!

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