Slumber parties are the Most. Fun. Ever. But is your daughter ready for a night away from home? Our Chief Girl Expert, Developmental Psychologist Andrea Bastiani Archibald will help you send her off with confidence.
Think back: Your memories of childhood sleepovers are likely filled with giggles, whispered promises of friendship, and so much fun you begged to stay just a little longer when your parents came to pick you up. What you might not realize is that those experiences helped shape you into the resilient, confident, and generous woman you are today—and they can do the same for your daughter, too.
Make Sure She’s Ready
Because all girls socially mature at different rates, there’s no hard and fast age at which you should start exploring sleepovers with your little one. To determine whether your daughter is prepared for this new adventure, Dr. Bastiani Archibald recommends making sure she:
- enjoys time away with her friends and feels confident about spending a night without you.
- is able to change into pajamas, brush her teeth, and perform all other bedtime prep on her own.
- falls asleep easily without help from an adult.
- sleeps through the night without wetting the bed or needing to use the bathroom frequently.
- doesn’t suffer from regular nightmares or night terrors.
“Even at the youngest ages, girls want to spend time with and reinforce their connections to their friends,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald, but if she’s struggling in one or more of these areas, it’s likely too early for her to spend the night away from home.
Do a Trial Run (or Three!)
Once you’ve determined your daughter is primed for her first sleepover, test the waters by hosting a mock sleepover—complete with sleeping bags!—in your own home. Make some popcorn, play games, and then snuggle down in the den or living room.
If you have family living locally, this would also be an ideal time to have her try staying overnight at their house, since she’s likely already comfortable in that setting. A successful sleepover at Auntie’s house may give your daughter the confidence she needs to stay at a friend’s home next.
Finally, you can invite a good friend of hers to come over for an “after dinner party,” where the girls can play, have snacks, and maybe even watch a movie in their pj’s from their sleeping bags. Instead of having her stay over, though, you and your daughter can plan to walk or drive the friend home at an “exciting” time—aka, a little after their normal bedtimes. It’ll give both girls a sneak peek of what a slumber party is like without actually committing to the sleepover part.
The Big Night
Ask your daughter if she has a friend she’d like to invite over to stay the night—or if there’s a friend’s house where she’d like to sleep over. It’s best (and less overwhelming for everyone) to limit her first slumber party to just the two girls if possible. Talk to the friend’s parents or guardians ahead of time to discuss expectations and any particular needs either girl might have, such as food allergies or a medication that needs to be taken at bedtime.
Get your daughter involved in packing her overnight bag so she feels more ownership over the experience. Encourage her to pack a lovey from home—it’ll provide comfort if she has a moment of homesickness—and remind her that you’re only a phone call away if she needs you.
As for the actual activities, Dr. Bastiani Archibald suggests keeping it simple. “Start at dinner or even have her go over for dessert, then pick her up after breakfast the next morning,” she says. “Like all things, it’s best to leave her confident, perhaps somewhat rested, and wanting more!”
Looking for more tips on how to raise awesome girls? Check out all the great parenting advice from GSUSA.