A Guide to Elementary Sleep Overs

Hello, imaginary friends!  I hope you all had as good of a weekend as I did.  My Facebook and Insta feeds are full of all your fall activities and cute fall outfits and I’m sitting down here in central Florida, sweating like a pig with hair like an orangoutang.  But we didn’t let the heat hold us back and our weekend was full of outside fun!

The kids had both been bothering me all week about having a friend over to spend the night or play.  We finally agreed to let Gracie have her best friend over on Friday to spend the night and Bean have two friends over to play on Saturday afternoon.  Do any of you have both girl and boy children?  If so, then you will understand this next statement is fact based…

I would rather have a house full of girls spend the night than one boy spend the night.

Seriously.  I know girls will probably become harder to handle as they get older, but for now?  Girls are a breeze to have over to the house.  They go up to Gracie’s room and play house or school, say thank you when I bring them a little snack, love putting on their pajamas and getting in their sleeping bags, and are usually fairly quick to fall asleep.

Boys on the other hand?  Not even close.  Now, Bean has the cutest friends in the whole darn world.  They are polite, sweet, funny, and I love all of them.  But the energy in boys is just so much more INTENSE than energy with girls.  They run through the house at full speed with Nerf weapons, shooting at whatever moves, and yelling at the top of their lungs to each other from different corners of the house.  They inhale snacks, hardly even change out of clothes into pajamas, sleep in heaps all over Bean’s room, and stay up laughing and farting until way past my mean mommy voice has come out.  Basically, the only way I survive a boy’s sleep over is to have enough pizza on hand and then shove them outside until it’s too dark to see anything.  Luckily, they seem cool with that.

I get asked a lot of questions by Instagram followers whenever we have kids over.  I think we are all curious to know what other adults are doing at their house when their kids have friends over.  I try to get it out of my kids when they get home from someone’s house by asking things like, “Did so-and-so’s mom cook dinner or order pizza?  Did she lay your sleeping bags out or did you do it yourself?” There is no judgment in my questioning at all.  I’m really just trying to figure out how other mom’s do it.  But if your kids are anything like mine, their answers to all these kinds of detail-oriented questions are, “I dunno…” or “I forgot…”

So, here you go.  The details of how we handle sleepovers and having friends over at our house:

Ages

We started having kids over to play without their parents around 1st grade.  These were usually a select few kids who we knew well and had spent some time with their families.  For sleepovers, we let Bean have his first sleepover in 1st grade with a really good friend of our family and Gracie had her first in kindergarten, again with a family that we knew really well socially.  We still haven’t let them go spend the night at someone’s house we don’t know well, but we have had kids over now that we don’t know.  My parents always had the philosophy that they would rather us bring all our friends over to our house so they knew where they were, even if it meant our house was full of kids most of the time.  Chris’s house was the same way as we grew up.  So, it has only been natural that we are very comfortable hosting kids and families at our house now.  It helps us get to know our kids friends and we are hoping it is laying the foundation for a hangout house as they get older.

Activities

Chris and I really try to stay out of it when the kids have friends over.  We don’t really provide entertainment and we try not hover around too much.  We tend to just go on with our daily routine or whatever we are doing and the kids bounce around us.  Typically, we try to have kids over later in the afternoon and through dinner.  It gives our family time to get our chores and errands done earlier in the day.  Plus, dinner is a nice ending point to the time instead of having to kick the kids out in the middle of the afternoon.  My favorite time block is 4-8:00pm.  It’s enough time for them to play, have pizza, and then call it a day.

Usually, the kids play out in the pool for at least an hour, usually two.  That takes up a big chunk of time (and keeps them out of the house…!).  But we also have lots of bikes, scooters, sports equipment, sidewalk chalk, and our giant treehouse in the backyard to entice them outside with.  The longer we can keep them outside, the better it usually goes.  If they say up in their rooms playing, they tend to start bickering much quicker.  Movies worked great when they were in kindergarten and first grade, but they don’t really hold their attention much these days.  They’d rather just play with each other, honestly.

I also don’t do any type of craft or project with them.  We feel strongly that this time with their friends is a time for them to learn how to use their imaginations, problem solving skills, communication skills, and leadership skills – all independent of us.  It’s good for them to figure out how to entertain each other.

Hosting and House Rules

Chris and I aren’t hosting friends; the kids are.  And we make sure they understand what it means to host your friends before we have them over to the house.  We try to view every experience as a learning opportunity for the kids and hosting friends over is no exception.  The two main things we stress to them are:

1) Your friends are your responsibility.  It is your responsibility to entertain them, to make sure they are comfortable, and to keep them out of trouble.  If a friend isn’t following one of our house rules, it is your responsibility to correct them.  We taught Bean and Gracie this by giving them some things they can say to redirect their friends, like, “Hey, my mom will get mad at me if we don’t stop doing x, y, and z” or “We aren’t allowed to do x, y, and z here…”  Usually, though, they just blame us, and we’re find with that.  🙂 .

2) All house rules still apply.  If you aren’t allowed to run through the house, then you and your friends are not allowed to run through the house.  If you aren’t allowed to just rummage through the pantry for food whenever you want, then you and your friends are not allowed to just rummage through the pantry for food whenever you want.  Having friends over does not suspend our house rules.  It is our home and we expect our kids and their friends to treat it with respect.  Here are a few of our house rules.

  • No running inside.
  • No shooting Nerf guns inside.
  • No shoes on the furniture.
  • Food stays in the kitchen.
  • Ask before you get a snack.
  • Clean up after yourself.
  • Ask before using any screens.

Sleepovers

For sleepovers, we usually have dinner around 7:00 or 7:30 because the later we push it, the closer to bedtime it is! Hahaha!  BUT SERIOUSLY.  We usually have everyone start getting ready for bed around 9:00 and the goal is to have them in their sleeping bags by 9:30 (closer to 10 for Bean and his friends).  Keep in mind that it will take them a LONG time to fall asleep, so even if it seems like it’s early for a sleepover, you have to factor in at least another hour for them to giggle and whisper.  Honestly, as long as they aren’t waking anyone else in the house up, we let them stay up and whisper for as long as they want (though we don’t tell them that!).

If it’s just one or two kids spending the night, we let them all sleep in Bean or Gracie’s room.  For larger groups, like birthday parties, we have had them sleep in our living room so they could all fit.  We leave the oven light on in the kitchen in case anyone needs water or something during the night and we leave the bathroom light on.  We also make sure there are nightlights in the room where they are sleeping.  And we show them where Chris and I sleep, so they know they can come get one of us if they are scared or want to call their parents or anything.  And calling parents in the middle of the night is fairly common.  It’s hard not to take it personally (I felt AWFUL the first time it happened), but usually it’s just because the kids aren’t used to a new house.  We’ve also called parents in the middle of the night to talk to their child, if they aren’t sure they want to go home, but are still a little scared or nervous.  And with Gracie’s friends, we usually call mom’s before we go to bed to say goodnight.  That helps with nerves, too.

Breakfast in the mornings after a sleepover is ALWAYS Dunkin Donuts for us.  We do donuts and then drop the kids off at their houses or have them picked up by 9:00.

Lastly about sleepovers, when we invite a friend to spend the night, I always give the parents two options.  “Can so-and-so spend the night on Friday or would you feel more comfortable if you came to get them at 8:00 instead?”  That gives them the option of politely bowing out of a sleepover, if they aren’t comfortable with those yet, but still gives the kids time to play together.  Just something to think about as you plan yours.

So, it’s really not as bad as you think it might be to have kids over.  It’s louder, but, really, who cares?  It’s messier, but it can be cleaned up.  The way I look at it is what my kids are getting out of it in return.  They are building strong foundations for friendships, learning how to navigate friends and responsibility, and, more importantly, are laying the framework for our house becoming their safe haven to bring friends and hang out.  And that is well worth giving up some peace and quiet in my house for a few hours.

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