And now we turn our attention to the sleepover, one of nature’s strangest phenomena. A human child or a group of human children leave the comfort of their parents’ homes for a night, sleep on another child’s floor and drive the parents crazy.
Well, over the next five weeks I’ll share a collection of expert advice, activities, ideas and my own thoughts about creating comfortable, healthy sleepover experiences for kids and families in a new Growing Tree Toys Blog Series called The Sleepover Guide! Together, we’ll explore the following topics and relieve some of the stress that sleepovers create.
1. Developmental Benefits of Sleepovers
2. Preparing Children (and Parents) for a First Sleepover Away from Home
3. Hosting a Sleepover for a Group of Boys
4. Hosting a Sleepover for a Group of Girls
5. Super Awesome Unusual Sleepover Locations That Are Even Fun for Adults!
Part One: Developmental Benefits of Sleepovers
Sleepovers are an exciting and important part of childhood. There is no “right” age for kids to start sleeping away from home—it all depends on the particular child.
Some kids are fine sleeping away at 3 or 4 years old. Others won’t be ready until 10 or 11. My best friend growing-up (she’s still my best friend, I’m happy to say!) has never been able to fall asleep when she is away from home. Even at 18, she would leave a sleepover before everyone went to bed.
Rushing a kid into a sleepover won’t have any advantages. (I’ll cover some ways to gage whether or not your child is ready for an away sleepover in Part Two of this series.) But if he or she is ready, there are quite a few developmental benefits that are worth considering as you face that inevitable, “can I please, please, please stay over at Alex’s house?”
• Flexibility: Because different homes have different rules and expectations, exposing your child to life at a friend’s house will help him or her to grow up with social flexibility. For instance, maybe your family says prayers before bed and the friend isn’t religious—or the other way around. Answering questions about any differences after the sleepover will help a child to understand why your family operates as it does, while fostering feelings of tolerance and understanding of different viewpoints.
• Independence: When kids leave home for the night, they gain independence. Sleepovers have less structure than a usual night at home for both the host child and the guest. The visiting child will have a chance to make more decisions about things like bedtime, teeth brushing, and eating snacks. It’s important for kids to learn how to manage these things independently. Sleeping away from home can help kids feel more comfortable about things going away to camps and eventually living on their own.
• Friendship: Sleepovers are fun! They give kids an extended chance to get to know their friends and learn about their lifestyles. The moments (okay usually hours) of discussion that occur as kids lay in their sleeping bags—not falling asleep—create deep bonds. I’ve probably learned and told more secrets at sleepovers than anywhere else. And the extra time together allows kids to get creative, make silly movies and invent games!
• Conflict Resolution: Sleepovers are often fertile ground for disagreements between kids, especially at young ages. Sleepy kids mixed with new situations can lead to shorter tempers. It’s important for adults to keep an ear open for trouble, but allow kids to work out problems on their own as much as possible. Luckily, because kids will want the chance to have the freedom of a sleepover again, they’ll work out they should work out problems and learn to better resolve conflicts in the process.
Letting children sleep away from home can be hard for parents. But when you’re comfortable with the host family, sleepovers offer a beneficial chance for kids to learn and grow. Stay tuned to the Growing Tree Toys Blog on Wednesdays for more of The Sleepover Guide. Next up: “Preparing Kids (and Parents) for a First Sleepover Away from Home.”