This past Saturday night was our Night Owl Sleepover, and as always, I learned a few things during this party. A few of those things I learned the hard way. Here’s how to host a slumber party without losing your mind.

1 – Keep your guest list small.

This one I learned from a friend’s experience. She had invited 12 or so girls to her daughter’s 8th birthday sleepover, and the “sleeping” portion of the party was a wee bit chaotic. My friend had planned well, and had her mom on hand to help, but with that many girls, it was just tough to reconcile all the needs and wants at bedtime. I had just six girls (including my two) and thought that would be manageable. It was still a challenge.

2 – Limit choices.

Limit them extremely. Like, don’t have choices. I know that may sound draconian, but when was the last time you tried to get six children to agree on something? If I gave the girls choices between two things (like two movies) they just could. not. agree. and it was very dramatic. (Who knew “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” could inspire passion?) But when I made cheerful announcements of what they were going to do next, all was well.

3 – Beware of free time.

I really had thought they’d have the most fun when planned activities were over and they were left to play, but that just wasn’t always the case. Eight-year-olds equal difficult group decision-making and drama. Here’s a snipet of a typical conversation:

  • Let’s play cheer!
  • Yea!
  • I’m 17 and my name is Bethany.
  • I’m 18 and I’m your sister.
  • No!
  • Yes!
  • Well I’m the coach.
  • I’m the dad and you’re my puppy.
  • Me, sensing a fight brewing: How about you all just be on the cheer squad and you’re all 17?

My suggestion made cheer uncool and they made up a different game: animal shelter, which involved every stuffed animal we own, but everyone was happier with this game.

4 – Remove anything you don’t trust the kids with.

When I left the room to let the girls have some free time, I took with me fabric markers, nail polish, and left over cake. When I popped in later to check on the girls, I took the gumballs with me, too. “My jaw hurts,” said one of the girls. “I have four pieces of gum in my mouth.” One of our activities was doing facials, and so I had Neutrogena facial wipes on hand. It didn’t occur to me to remove those. Read to the end to find out why I TOTALLY failed when I did not remove the facial wipes.

5 – Make frequent surprise visits.

After all our planned activities, I tried to watch a Lifetime movie in the living room while the girls played in the basement playroom. (If you haven’t seen it, Jodi Arias is very creepy.) But I hit pause a lot to check on the girls. That’s when the cheer game came to an abrupt end. They had decided to practice “flying.” Um, no. It had not occurred to me that I’d need a “two feet on the ground at all times” rule, but I guess I did. On the other hand, it was pretty funny to walk in on their farting contest.

6 – “But I want to …”

The big offender with this line was one of mine. (Hanging my head in shame.) You can pretty much count on someone who’s overtired and amped up all at the same time reaching her melting point. For Baby A, it was who she slept next to and precisely how far apart the sleeping bags were from one another. Her friends didn’t want her to cry and tried hard to accommodate her, but she just couldn’t get over herself. I had to pull her out of the party for a while to calm down.

When I told this story later, one of the other moms said she would have plopped herself down in the middle of all the sleeping bags, and shushed anyone talking until group sleep was achieved. She figured that her presence would have put a damper on the drama, and she was probably right.

7 – Wear them out.

Nothing mine did before sleeping time was tiring. If you actually want your guests to lay down and attempt sleep by midnight, maybe start earlier with pool time or outdoor play time or anything that will tire their energetic little bodies out. Hyper kids meant I was standing at the top of the stairs at 4:45 a.m. flashing the hall light to get their attention and using my “firm mom” voice. “It is time to get in your sleeping bags and stop talking and go to sleep…”

8 – Learn the magic words.

Now I’d said that sentence several times before: “It is time to get in your sleeping bags and stop talking and go to sleep…” I’d said it kindly but firmly, I’d said it standing in the room, I’d hollered it down the stairs, and it really just had no effect. But at 4:45 a.m. I added the magic words: “… or I will call your mothers to come pick you up.” Ta-da! Why didn’t I think of that at 2 a.m.? You get added points if you say the magic words while holding your cell phone.

9 – And finally: have extra toilet paper in plain sight.

My children have used the toilet for many years now. They know where extra toilet paper is stored in each bathroom and in the hall closet. This fact did me no good when they ran out of toilet paper at some point during the night.

The next morning after everyone had left, my husband checked out the basement and then said to me, “The toilet is all yours.” It was filled with Neutrogena facial wipes. An entire, brand new package of 25 wipes. Now picture me with kitchen tongs and a garbage bag, fishing the wipes out of the toilet so our plumbing wouldn’t explode upon flushing. New kitchen tongs are now on my shopping list, and I will never, ever host another children’s party without an extra roll of toilet paper sitting on the back of the toilet.

And that’s what I learned at the sleepover.

How bad did I scare you? If you’re a brave lady, and you still want to host a sleepover, check out my Night Owl Sleepover Party Plan. It will give you all the steps you need to make your party pretty. (And you’ll have this post for back-up.)

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