Loved by kids; feared by adults. Sleepover parties are the rule of thumb for many kids — particularly girls — and the bane of existence for many parents. But sleepovers can be a really fun way for kids to celebrate an occasion or break up a boring summer week. And with a little preparation, they don't have to be as hectic as their reputation implies.


Here's how to stay sane while hosting a successful sleepover party:


Keep it small. Of course, your child will want to invite all of her besties to sleepover, but there is no rule that says they all have to sleepover at once. Big sleepover parties lead to big problem as you're that much more likely to be pulled in a million directions by kids who need a Band-aid, wet the bed, miss their mom, whisper til 4 a.m., or wake up at 5 a.m. ready for breakfast.  


Keep it short. Decide whether or not you want the kids to arrive before or after dinner. As dinner will likely be pizza, it's really just a matter of deciding how much you want to order. Just make sure that kids will be picked up no later than noon the next day — even 10 a.m. if this is the first time kids are sleeping over. This will give you a fighting chance at catching a midday nap the next day to restore you sanity!


Make a list. If this is the first sleepover for the kids in your child's social circle, send out a list reminding parents of what their kids should bring: a sleeping bag, pillow, flashlight, p.j.'s, clothes for the next day, toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrush, and a stuffed animal to sleep with.  


Be prepared. No matter how well you know the kids sleeping over, be prepared to have at least one who wants to go home, and another who wakes you up every hour to let you know that she can't sleep. It's par for the course when kids are away from the usual room and routine. Just know that this won't be the best night's sleep you ever had and plan accordingly.


Show 'em the snacks. Do you have visions of preparing gourmet, healthy food for your child's sleepover that all of the kids will love and brag about to their parents? Forget about it. Grab-and-go foods are the rule of thumb at sleepover parties. And less-than-healthy snacks are expected and encouraged — but it doesn't have to be all bad. Offer easy-to-eat (and easy-to-clean-up) snacks like popcorn, pretzels and grapes. And pat yourself on the back if you actually get them to eat some carrot sticks with their pizza.


When all else fails, breath a sigh of relief that you are NOT Joanna Moorhead, the mother of four girls who once wound up with " eight 9-year-olds, four 12-year-olds, six (slightly-the-worse-for-wear, mascara-streaked) 16-year-olds, and two 18-year-olds" sitting around her breakfast table. If she can survive the night, surely the rest of us can too?

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