At some point or another, your kids are going to ask you to host a sleepover. And while some parents are dead-set against having their kids spend the night at a friend’s house — or vice versa — the request comes to all parents as soon as they get their first slumber-party invite. The appropriate age for a sleepover may vary from kid to kid, eventually many families will relent and find themselves with a gaggle of children in a tangle of sleeping bags somewhere in their house. That means lots of games and snacks to keep them occupied until they go to sleep, which is approximately never, so you better have a lot of snacks!
Time for a game plan. The perfect sleepover will include a mix of kid activities that will tire them out, along with some more sedate entertainment — like family-friendly movies or manicures — that’ll let them cool down. Repeat the cycle until everyone’s off in slumber-land (or at least until they pretend they’re all asleep, so they can whisper and giggle to each other after you retire to your room). And then, the next morning, don’t forget to plan a big breakfast so everyone can talk about the events of the night before over the kitchen table. Then you can send everyone home, sleepy-eyed but full.
Blanket forts, sleeping bags, or indoor tents can bring that summer camp vibe inside, where you don’t have to worry about mosquitoes or inclement weather.
Paper Plane Challenge
Anyone can make a paper plane — the true test is seeing who has the skills to throw the aircraft through one of the targets. Highest score wins!
Try Out a New Type of Braid
The cliché is that girls spend sleepovers braiding each other’s hair and telling secrets. But no one says it has to be the normal, three-strand braid. Try fishtails, waterfall braids, corset braids, and other hair creations.
Make Blacklight Bubbles
If you put highlighter ink into bubble soap, you’ll make a concoction that glows under a blacklight, which is pretty much the most wholesome thing you can do under a blacklight.
You never get too old for sprinkles, chocolate sauce, frosting, M&Ms, and other fun cupcake toppings. Put out bowls of treats, let them go wild, and prepare for the sugar rush that follows. (Note: This can also be done with ice cream toppings instead of cupcakes.)
Play Movie Bingo
If you plan on doing a movie marathon, keep a running Bingo game going, where players can check off certain movie tropes as they happen. You can buy this one on Etsy, or DIY your own and tailor it to the movies you plan on watching (like putting in a “Hugh Grant” square if you’re planning on watching all rom-coms.)
DIY Paper Bracelets
Move over, friendship bracelets! For these creations, kids can first color the paper with watercolor paint, then cut and fold them into a bracelet shape.
Look up at the Stars
If they’re going to be up late anyway, might as well make it an opportunity to learn about the night sky around them. Set up a telescope in the backyard, and see if you can pick out the constellations.
DIY a Photobooth
Set up a simple streamer backdrop, put out a bunch of props and costumes, and let them take selfies all night long. Really ambitious groups might even be able to get it together to script and perform a short movie.
Set some ground rules first — no hitting in the face! — then let them go crazy. Maybe hide your best pillows, too.
Play an ‘Exquisite Corpse’ Game
It’s Mad Libs taken to the next level: The first player writes down a sentence of a new story, then passes it on to the next player to continue the plot and write the next sentence. Here’s the catch: As everyone goes along, they fold the paper so that the next player can only see one previous sentence — not the whole thing. At the end, when read from start to finish, the results are often nonsensical and silly.
Play Night Games
Get a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee or stomp rocket and play until you can’t see each other’s smiling faces anymore. (Just make sure you set up in an area where there isn’t any car traffic.)
Serve Hot Chocolate
If it’s a winter sleepover, have the kids play outside, and then offer them hot chocolate. You can go for the packet, and then offer mix-ins like peppermint, orange, or pumpkin spice.
Or Play Spin the Bottle — of Nail Polish
To add an element of chance into a manicure night, gather the kids in a circle and grab a bunch of nail polish colors. Select a polish bottle, spin it in the middle, and whoever it points to has to paint one nail that color. Continue until all the nails are painted.
Play ‘Murder in the Dark’
Pull cards out of deck of cards so that there is enough to give one to each player; they all should be number cards, except for one ace and one face card. Deal them out: The ace becomes the detective — the only person who reveals their card — the face card is the killer, and everyone else is a potential victim. The killer then proceeds to take victims by winking at them when no one is looking, and it’s up to the detective to guess who the killer is before everyone has succumbed.
Go on a Night Walk
Grab flashlights or headlamps and blaze a trail at night. See if you can spot owls or other nocturnal animals.
It’s Charades with a twist: Everyone writes down the name of a celebrity (real, fictional, or historical) and puts it in a bowl. The first round, players can say anything but the celebrity’s name to get their teammates to guess who’s on the paper. For the second round, the same names go back in the bowl, but this time players can only use one word before the team guesses. The last round, the same names go in again, and no words are allowed — players have to act it out like charades. The better kids get at it, the more names you can put in the bowl.
Design a Pillowcase
Set up an activity and give kids a party favor — it’s a win/win! You can get a pillowcase that has an image on it that just needs to be colored in, or you can go free-form with white pillowcases and fabric markers.
Or, if you balk at the competitiveness of a dance contest, you can have them work together to choreograph a group routine. Send a video of their hard work home with them.