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Happiness Is a Slumber Party

Last year, my daughter attended her first birthday slumber party, and she had the time of her life. For her birthday this year, she wants us to host one. I'm excited about it myself!

Last weekend, I took my daughter to her favorite tween store's post-holiday clearance sale, and we chose some party favors for her guests. (And also some cool new fashions for her, such as these boots "like Mama wears." Oh, my heart!)

The cashier at the tween store asked me if I had planned lots of activities for the party. "Nope," I said. I have absolute faith in little girls to come up with their own sweet little games and activities. No helicoptering or parental micro-managing of fun will happen under my roof! I'll set up a safe and welcoming environment, set the ground rules, give a tour of facilities and refreshments and playthings, and let them do as they please, within the guidelines (no unsupervised use of online devices, for example).

The way I see it, slumber parties are a valuable opportunity for children to exercise their independence and decision-making skills and to deepen friendships. I want to give them as much freedom and empowerment as I can while keeping the environment reasonably safe and healthy for them.

My daughter is already a champ at getting along with others and working out social conflicts without too much adult intervention. I'm proud of her kindness, confidence, generosity, and discernment, and I want to give her this opportunity to take the lead in offering hospitality to our guests.

She has helped me plan and prepare for a wonderful celebration. There's nothing like guests coming over to motivate us to tidy up. It even works for seven-year-olds! My daughter loves organizing objects, and she even did an audit of her toys and filled up a 3 x 4-foot box with toys she would like to donate, to allow for uncluttered spaces where her guests can play. Most of the give-away toys are very nice things that have been favorites for a year or more in the past. I can see my daughter taking pleasure in passing them along to younger children who may love them as much as she did, and that's such a healthy attitude. She also set aside a few things that she asked me to put away if I didn't want to give them away--toys that had been mine and my husband's when we were children. "I don't need these anymore," she said, "but I didn't want to mix them in the donate box in case they are special to you."

We are so proud of our girl! I'm absolutely prepared to deal with a sleepless night and a potential mess of a house to give her the slumber party she wants to share with her friends this year.

We are going to do things her way as much as possible, because she is our resident expert on what second-graders are into these days. Together, we've come up with a plan to create the greatest chances for a successful weekend of fun with school friends, many of whom have never been to our house:

  1. We made it clear in the invitation that the sleeping-over is optional. For a variety of reasons--medical, emotional, cultural, etc., which don't need to be our business--not all of the children will be able or willing to spend the night at our house. Not every child or family is ready for an all-night party. And that is okay. Those who can't sleep over can be included in the afternoon's activities.
  2. We'll have a mix of healthy food options and treats. Instead of the expected cake and ice cream, we'll present an ombré arc of mochi balls--one for each child--representing the Super Blood Wolf Moon lunar eclipse that will take place that weekend. Aside from a bottle of lemon/lime soda that unexpectedly came free with a pizza we just ordered, there won't be many other processed sweets. We'll have lots of nibbling choices: fresh fruits, popcorn, healthy meals with veggies in them, crackers and cheese and cold cuts, and dependable kid favorites like mac and cheese. In the morning, we'll have a breakfast bar with many choices to accommodate diverse tastes and dietary needs.
  3. The party will begin with the usual rituals: snacks and introductions, the birthday song, the "cake" and ice cream, the presents, the doling out of party favors to guests. We'll keep to a schedule at the beginning to make sure none of the guests who aren't sleeping over will miss out. After that...
  4. We'll set out toys, games, and activities and let the girls decide what to do. They can stick together in one group or split up. They can try everything or abandon everything we've set out in favor of running out back to play freeze tag. Do you remember attending sleepovers in which the parents organized and led a bunch of activities? Me neither. I figure all we parents have to do is stand back and be available for assistance as needed.
  5. We'll set up two sleeping areas, one on each floor of the house: one for those who could use a quiet place to actually go to sleep at a familiar hour and another for those who would prefer to stay awake giggling long into the night.

Mmmm, black rice and fruit and nut bowls, anyone? Or perhaps a Mickey Mouse-shaped pancake?

Because it's winter in Michigan, the sun doesn't rise until about 8:00. Only the most party-hungover guests will be at risk of missing the glorious sunrise from our living room window the next day. And for those who do, the memories they've made during the night will probably be well worth it.

This is our very first attempt at hosting a slumber party, so we're trying to stay flexible in our expectations. Have you hosted a slumber party for young children during the past decade or so? If so, what are your best tips for an enjoyable night? Or hilarious fails--please share those too, if you dare. I'll report back later this month on how ours goes!


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