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Sleepover Success

It’s going to happen sooner or later. You’ll be doing some mundane chore, mindlessly humming the theme fromSesame Street, and suddenly those terrifying words will shatter your Zen moment.

Can I have a sleepover?

Take heart! Slumber parties don’t have to be intimidating, expensive or exhausting. In fact, they can be a great way to get to know more about the kids your child is spending time with. These tips will help you keep your child’s sleepover under control. And who knows? You might even have a little fun.

Preparation Pays Off

Taking time to prepare for the sleepover is important. Throwing it together at the last minute is stressful, hard on the budget and likely to lead to a pretty bland party. Berkley Berry of Parties on the Porch in Plano recommends that you start by picking a theme — something simple like movie night, doughnuts, spa, cooking or glow-in-the-dark. (If you have younger kids, consider an “almost-slumber party” with all the activities and fun, but with a pickup time before bedtime.)

Once you have your theme, it’s easier to choose the invitations. Peyton Frank, lead party planner at Grit + Gold in Fort Worth, suggests Target or a free online template, or you can make your own. Mail them if at all possible — it saves hurt feelings in the classroom and ensures that parents actually get all the information. “Plus, invitations create an air of excitement and will have everyone talking in the days leading up to the event,” Frank adds.

On the day of the party, move furniture back so you have a big open space for sleeping bags and pillows.“You can even use sheets for a tent and hang lights for that sleeping-under-the-stars effect,” Berry says.“Plus you never know when a pillow fight might start and you certainly need room for that.”

Say No to Junk Food and Sugar Highs
Junk food and candy are all too common at sleepovers and almost always a bad idea. Who wants the drama of eight 7-year-old girls on a sugar high all at once? A couple of hours of sugary snacks and your guests will resemble a flock of hummingbirds on amphetamines.

Good news! There are some great (and super cool) alternatives to sugary snack foods. Anna Love, Ph.D., a North Texas nutritionist, suggests making fizzy drinks with real fruit juice and club soda to help limit sugar. She also encourages parents to keep ready-to-eat fruits and veggies available at any time and rotate the treats in and out to prevent over-indulgence. “Serving a little protein with the sweets can help avoid spikes and crashes, as well as reduce the impact on blood sugar, insulin and behavior,” she says.

Whatever you do,alwayscheck with parents to make sure there are no food allergies you need to be aware of.

Keep Them Occupied
Keeping guests occupied will go a long way toward maintaining control over behavior and minimizing the possibility of drama and hurt feelings.

If you’ve chosen a theme, try to stick with it when planning activities. AFrozentheme might have you making homemade snow globes and playing freeze tag, for example. A quick Pinterest search should turn up numerous craft ideas; just make sure they are age-appropriate.

Berry suggests putting digital cameras out to document the night. “You can make a quick and easy photo book of the evening and share online with the guests,” she says. “You could even go old school with Polaroid or disposable cameras.”

When it’s time to wind down, a movie can be your best friend. Just choose carefully and avoid violence or a lot of action.

Make House Rules and Enforce Them
Erin Myers, a Dallas area mom of three, knows from experience how important it is to make sure kids know there are house rules and are aware of the consequences for breaking them. It’s easy for a group of children to get carried away and become wild things if they don’t have some boundaries.

Enforcing rules isn’t usually difficult. “Simply pulling a child aside and telling him, ‘we don’t jump on the couch here,’ is usually enough to get them back on track,” Myers says. “If they really can’t seem to abide by the house rules, you may need to ask the parents to come and pick them up.”

Of course, plenty of adult supervision is the key to keeping things calm. You don’t want to stifle the fun by sitting in on the entire party, but do make your presence known by entering the room frequently. Bringing in a new bowl of popcorn, a movie to watch or more drinks is a great excuse for popping in now and then.

You Survived
Once everyone is awake, suggest that they get their things together and pick up a little before breakfast. Set a timer for five minutes and make it a beat-the-clock-type race.

Prepare an easy, serve-yourself breakfast buffet with croissants, fresh fruit and yogurt to make a quick meal before your guests get picked up. Paper plates and plastic cutlery mean less to clean up later on.

To make the party even more memorable, give the guests goody bags with small toys, crayons or some little keepsake as they leave.

And, voilà! That’s it. If you’ve planned well, there should be little cleanup. Your child is likely to fall asleep for most of the day, giving you time to put your feet up, slide a movie in the DVR and munch on some of those healthy leftover snacks.