A few weekends ago we had 14 teens having a sleepover together. It was a family sleepover, not just peers, which meant the ages ranged from 9 to 16, boys and girls, and the other mums and dads all had a night to themselves. Most people thought we were nuts taking on such a group but as we looked back on the night it was a great success and we would do it again; they had fun but it didn’t get silly, we had a great heart conversation over Sunday breakfast where all participated, and best of all it took my kids about 10 minutes to clean up after everyone left. Here are some tips that worked for us:
- Get your kids on board with the purpose, expectations, activities – if they are pulling against you then that will set the tone for the whole time.
- Set out expectations in the invitation – I included instructions for very modest sleepwear (I was very clear to parents that it was a boy/girl sleepover), I also mentioned that I’d be expecting everyone to go to sleep!
- Get everyone to help with the chores. Though Naomi had made the pizza bases before everyone arrived, the girls helped with the toppings, the boys moved furniture around, and they all helped with various clean-up jobs after meals. (Though I must admit the girls did more!)
- Do some food prep beforehand (or get the other mums to pitch in and send some food along), and use disposable plates and cups.
- Give clear instructions at the beginning of each activity – including a time frame
- Have a different room for boys and girls to sleep in (this may be obvious but it was something I wanted to assure the parents was happening)
- Be involved – though Peter and I didn’t go Cane Toad Hunting – we watched the movie with them, walked in and out of their room so paused to talk at times, ate meals together and was just generally around. Our older two also just hung around and were involved with the activities – this was a special part of it being a family sleepover.
- Plan to keep everyone busy. Idle hands just leads to trouble. Not that I had a plan or programme, but there were things for them to do, and an expectation that they would do and not just hang around and be silly.
- Know your time frames when they are necessary. We had to get 18 people to church on time. This meant a plan which actually started the night before with everyone getting through the showers, a waking up time, time to get gear packed and into cars, time for breakfast and cleaning up and a time to be in all the cars. (and yes, I had to plan if we had enough car seats/drivers)
- Address heart issues if you need to. Right at the beginning the girls were walking through the house being very loud, and yet the parents were having a cuppa. I pulled them aside and addressed the issue of respecting others in a room. Other times I added a character response in my instructions – gentle reminders to be helpful, considerate or orderly.
Our family had a lot of fun hosting these kids and hope they’ll all come again another day.