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Prepping for a Slumber Party

How to Have a Great Slumber Party For Your Tween

It's easy to turn an ordinary kids' sleepover into a fabulous and exciting themed party. Penny Warner, a leading author of children's party and activity books, talks about how parents and kids can plan a fun and memorable slumber party with ideas from her new book, Slumber Parties: 25 Fun-filled Party Themes.

Q: How old should my child be before we host a slumber party?

Warner: The ages between 8 and 14 are the most popular years to enjoy a slumber party. If a child is much younger than 8, he or she may not be ready to spend the night away from home and may be a little overwhelmed by an all-night party. If a child is beyond 14, he or she may have grown tired of the large parties and prefer a more intimate "mini-slumber party," with only a couple of good friends.

Q: What if my child is 6 and is really begging me to have a slumber party?

Warner:You could host a mini-slumber party, much like for the older child, with just a few friends instead of a large group. Many of the ideas in Slumber Parties: 25 Fun-filled Party Themes would work well for a small gathering.

Q: What are some of the more popular slumber party themes kids enjoy today?

Warner:Parties that feature music and dance are popular with all age groups. Craft and cookie parties are fun because you get to do something at the party, then take it home or eat it. Parties that offer makeovers, dress-up or fashion are great because the kids get to do outrageous things with clothes, accessories, makeup and hair. Scary parties are fun for the older kids, because they like a thrill. Drama and talent show parties are entertaining for hours. In general, younger kids like to make things, while the older kids like to be active.

Q: Are there many ideas for younger kids with shorter attention spans?

Warner:Lots! For the 8- to 12-year-olds, try an "Arty Party" where the kids get creative with craft materials, a "Fifties Sock Hop" for a rock-and-roll dance party, a "Friends Forever Party" to celebrate friendship, an "Indoor Camp Party" where you sleep under the ceiling stars, a "Karaoke Party" to sing along with pop songs, a "Silly Olympics Party" where everyone wins a medal or a "Toon Town Party" where your favorite characters come alive.

Q: What about older kids, who've grown tired of traditional children's parties?

Warner:Keep the 10- to 14-year-olds entertained with a "Comedy Club Party" where the kids make jokes and have a lot of laughs, a "Creative Kitchen Party" for cooking up some fun, a "Deejay Dance Party" to dance your pants off, a "Miracle Makeover Party" for a new look in the mirror, a "Mystery Mansion Party" to put a little scare in their slumber and a "Secret Séance Party" so the kids who "see dead people" can share the experience.

Q: Should boys and girls both be included at a slumber party?

Warner:Usually not, mainly because most young girls and boys want to relax at a party and prefer to be with their own gender. If the opposite sex is around, they may not feel as comfortable. Besides, girls like to do girl things, boys like to do boy things, so it makes for an easier party if you keep the genders separate. If a group would like to have the opposite sex at the party, invite them for a few hours, then send them home at bedtime.

Q: How do I keep the kids occupied all night so they won't get into trouble?

Warner:First, make sure there's a lot to do. Over plan the games and activities and have back-ups ready in case some of the activities finish quickly. Then feed them healthy snacks as well as sweet treats, so they don't get too wired or have stomachaches from overeating the junk food. Finally, have lots of videos on hand so there's something to do when the games and activities wind down. Give the kids lots of titles to choose from, then turn on the TV, spread out the sleeping bags and watch them settle down.

Q: What are some troubleshooting tips for a slumber party?

Warner:Set the rules ahead of time, and go over them when the party starts. Your basic rules should include: no leaving the house, no crank calls, no mean pranks, no cooking without adult supervision and no fighting. If all else fails, tie them up with duct tape. Just kidding.

Q: What is the parents' role at the party?

Warner:Make sure the kids know you're there, but that you plan to stay out of sight as much as possible – if there's no trouble. Tell them they can come to you if they need help or if there are any problems. And offer to serve some snacks from time to time, which gives you a chance to check on them. Otherwise, stay out of sight and let them enjoy their night of independence.

Q: How do parents get some sleep during the party?

Warner:Here's the secret – videos! Start showing them around midnight when the kids will be ready to relax after an evening of fun and games. Once they get caught up in the video, they're more likely to scoot into their sleeping bags and eventually nod off to sleep. If all else fails, come out in your funniest pajamas and threaten to sleep with them if they don't quiet down!

Q: How long should the party last? Is there a good starting time and ending time?

Warner:Start the party on the later side, so it doesn't make for such a long evening. After dinner is best, so you don't have to cook them a whole meal, but have plenty of snacks on hand to get them through the night. Depending on the age, start the party around 8 p.m. for younger kids and 9 or 10 p.m. for older kids.

Set a specific pick-up time so the party ends on time, and parents are there to pick them up. You may have to wake the sleeping kids up if you want them out early, but offer them a healthy breakfast to get them going before you send them on their way. They can always take a nap at home if they're still sleepy.

Q: How is Slumber Parties: 25 Fun-filled Party Themes different from other books?

Warner:Slumber Parties has more party ideas than any other slumber party book and more ideas within each party, so there's lots to choose from and lots to do to make your party the best ever. You'll find ideas for creative invitations, theme decorations, suggestions for what to wear, games to play, activities to keep you busy, things to make and take home, snacks and refreshments to keep you going, and prizes and favors to send home at the end of the party. And there are lots of tips for parents to help them keep their sanity throughout the evening!

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