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My Secrets to Successful Sleepovers

As the father of three kids, Randy Florke has learned a few things about sleepovers. Discover how a few thumb tacks and a bit of fabric can save your home and your sanity. You'll be a hero to your kids and you'll hug yourself as you watch them do the cleanup.

As the parent of three children, two younger ones and one older, I feel as though I know a thing or two about dealing with sleepovers. I’ve gathered some insight over the years (other than the fact that boys are easier than girls), about how to make a sleepover successful.  Success here means that both the parents as well as the children emerge happy (no tears, no broken bones, no destroyed furniture, no indelible Sharpies on the walls), when everyone leaves.

I used to go with the flow and basically cover my ears and eyes until the experience was over.  Loud, messy and fatiguing, I would take a deep breath when the last kid left and swear I would never do it again!  But once I learned that if I planned the experience a bit and actually put in some effort, the children actually behaved better and I saved myself the inevitable chore of putting the house back together afterward.

For me, a successful sleepover starts with a schedule.  It might include a few simple activities like, “We are going to play in the park for the first hour, have pizza and soda and then we will return home for movies, games and lots of chatting!”   But more than the schedule, my best trick is in creating a special place to stage the sleepover (preferably a place where the kids can contain themselves and not trash your house!).  This alone can make the overnight better.

My proven solution is to go to the local discount store and purchase some fabric. For my son, I would try and find a camouflage print or racing car "themed" fabric and for the girls, either a simple mosquito netting or silky pink fabric. I would buy enough fabric to cover and drape all kinds of spaces and then, I would take some inexpensive, simple thumb tacks and attach large strips of fabric from the ceiling of their bedroom around their entire bed so that it created a 'tent like' feeling. I would find that they would end up spending ninety percent of their time inside this bed tent or "makeshift cave" (!) and therefore the rest of the house would stay pretty much intact. (Note: before I devised this fabric trick, my kids would typically take all the living room furniture and pull the cushions off, draping everything with sheets and blankets or, even worse, they would empty an entire closet and use that as a makeshift fort. I would end up spending half of the following day post-sleepover, picking up the house!) If you feel like spending a little extra money, you can try to be even more inventive (and a real hero to the kids) by turning it into a themed sleepover.  Buy some extra props;  like tiaras for little girls or Matchbox cars for the boys.

I have found that simple limits like the ones described here, encourage the kids to spend most of their time in their newly decorated rooms.  With that, I have more time to enjoy the evening and less stress worrying about the destruction of my home. By the way, I always schedule "surprise me time," at the end, which is a challenge I give the kids to pull their room back together as a group.  They call me before the time is up so I can inspect their clean up job.   The challenge never fails; they always manage to pull it back together, until the next time.

For sleepover challenges with older kids, stay tuned...