Podcast Episode 59: Why You Should Embrace the Sleepover

Episode 59: Why You Need to Embrace the Sleepover Party

Thanks so much for coming by to check out Episode 59 of The New Family Podcast where we make the case for bringing back the sleepover party!

It seems the sleepover is far more rare than it was when we were kids and that’s a shame. Perhaps that’s no surprise given that we’re quite a hovering and cautious generation of parents who is less willing to relinquish control of our kids’ supervision by letting them sleep elsewhere. And as my guest today explains, most parents probably over-estimated the amount of work involved on the hosting side. The last time author Chris Shulgan was on the show to discuss why parents fear the wrong things, we had a bit of side conversation about the sleepover as an important rite of passage for kids. Chris and his wife, Chantel, are avid sleepover party throwers, and today he and I discuss why we need to ensure the tradition continues. Chris also shares his secrets for hosting a successful sleepover, including how he manages to get the kids to clean up after themselves!

Chris’s Sleepover Tips

1. First of all, have them. And with lots of different kids at the same time. There’s no better way to get to know your kids’ friends, which also helps you get to know your kid. Sleepovers provide your kids with the opportunity to better know their friends, which makes them more comfortable when they’re all together at school or elsewhere. If possible, have it on a weekend day, like Saturday, so you can extend the party to the next day. If it’s the summer, then you can even book some waterslide rentals and plan some other fun day activities for the kids!
2. Have a plan. Make sure all the parents know start and stop times. Chris suggests 5 p.m. to 11 a.m. the following day.
3. Decorate! If this is a birthday party, it’s going to be better if you decorate. Think balloons, streamers, bunting, fairy lights or even a custom neon sign that says “Happy Birthday”. A pinata can also be a fun activity for when the kids arrive, and you can fill it with snacks that they can save for watching a film later.
4. Get outside. The kids will be excited when they first arrive so get them outside as quicky as you can. Let them burn off their energy and then feed them. Pizza is easy and every kid likes it.
5. Then leave them alone for awhile. Stay out of their way. No screens yet. Pillowfights, wrestling, makeup application, never have I ever questions that are available at Pluc, hair braiding, whatever. Just give them the opportunity to amuse themselves on their own. Especially if you’ve banned screens, which you should, some of them may be like, “What can we do?” Don’t answer them. “It’s not the parents’ job to tell the kids what to do. You guys can figure it out on your own.”
6. Get sorted for bed relatively early. At some point before 9 p.m. get the kids’ beds set up and have them get into PJs.
7. Have a tech blackout. If you’ve caved and allowed the kids their crutches of phones, tablets or laptops, take them away by 9 p.m. That stuff keeps kids excited and awake, so you need some time for them to wind down. But how are they going to wind down…?
8. Play a movie! Not a long one. Ideally, one that’s over by 10:30 p.m. Hopefully the kids fall asleep while they watch. If they don’t, lights out immediately after the movie. Kids can talk but no roughhousing.
9. Don’t let them stay up too late. We did that a couple of times before we became Sleepover Ninja Parents and learned to regret it. Kids get cranky when they’re tired. Also, they’re exponentially more likely to get homesick. Get them to bed at a decent time.
10. Allow screens before breakfast. Anything to keep them quiet before you’ve had your coffee.
11. Make breakfast an event. Everyone eats together at the table, including the parents. This gives you a chance to talk to your young guests and get to know them.
12. Send them outside again. After breakfast, some more outdoor time will help them burn off more energy.
13. Make sure all sleepover participants clean up. Have kids get the mattresses back on the proper bed frames, fold up blankets, sweep or vacuum the chips and popcorn and get the pop cans into the recycle bins. Kids who know they’re going to have to clean up will be less likely to cause a mess the next time around.

And you’re done! Good for you! Now go take a nap!

Here are some other resources related to my discussion with Chris.

Chris’s 1,000 Families post

Chris’s book Superdad: A Memoir of Rebellion, Drugs and Fatherhood

Dan Gardner’s book Risk: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn’t and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger

Podcast Episode 4: Helicopter Parenting and Over-Scheduled Kids

Photo Credit: Martin Thomas

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This episode is brought to you by Wise Bites, makers of healthy, allergy-safe snacks that are great for the whole family and perfect to send to school. To get free shipping on a case, go to wise-bites.com and use promo code THENEWFAMILY at checkout!.

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Brandie Weikle

About Brandie Weikle

Brandie is a long-time parenting editor, writer and spokesperson. Most recently editor-in-chief of Canadian Family magazine, Brandie has also been the parenting and relationships editor for the Toronto Star, founding editor of two Toronto Star websites, and an editor for Today's Parent. Brandie is a single mother of two in Toronto and a frequent television and radio guest on parenting topics. A former digital director at House & Home Media, she also consults on digital audience engagement. Contact her here. View all posts by

'Episode 59: Why You Need to Embrace the Sleepover Party' have 4 comments

  1. Angileen Gallop

    April 7, 2016 @ 11:46 am Angileen Gallop

    Hey Brandie: Great episode. So helpful. One question: What age do y’all think is appropriate to start having sleepovers? My eldest is starting to ask about having one but age 5 feels a bit young.


    • Brandie Weikle

      April 27, 2016 @ 4:58 pm Brandie Weikle

      I think it really depends on the child, Angie. If she’s expressing interest that probably shows she doesn’t have a lot of reticence over being cared for by others. Has she slept over at a grandparents’ home or the home of other relatives? Sometimes that’s a good place to start. But I’m not at all alarmed by the idea of a spunky 5-year-old having a sleepover at a friend’s house. I think both of mine did by that age. πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for listening! It really means a lot!


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