Helping parents & caregivers design their own handbook for raising amazing kids.


What You Need to Know About Sleepovers

By Emily Mall

Posted on October 30, 2023

Two kids at a sleepover listening to music
Two kids at a sleepover listening to music
Two kids at a sleepover listening to music

We waited until our kids were 10 before they could have sleepovers with friends. 

If you aren’t sure if you or your kid is ready for one yet, it’s ok to trust your gut

Our ten-year-old had her second sleepover last weekend at our house. Everything went well, until we checked on her and her friend around 11pm before we went to bed. They were wide awake in her room, playing games on an iPad they had snuck upstairs.

In our family, the kids aren’t allowed to have technology in the bedrooms at all. On sleepover nights, lights-out is at 10pm. Our kid was breaking two big rules in our home.

Maybe this doesn’t sound like a big deal to you. 

Maybe this sounds absolutely unacceptable to you. 

Every family is different. When it comes to sleepovers, playdates, and hangouts, what matters is whether or not your kid will be safe. You can do your part to ensure safety by communicating and sharing your family’s rules and values clearly and learning about the other family’s rules and values as well.

This is especially important at sleepovers, because a parent or caregiver is agreeing to be responsible for someone else’s kids. Even in families and friends that have known each other a long time and have already established trust, clearly stating rules and values in these instances ensures that the relationships will continue.

When you rent a car, there are specific guidelines and rules put in place to protect you, the car, and the rental company to make sure that everything is clear and understood should something happen. Similarly, restate your family’s rules and values every time you drop your kids off or every time someone drops their kids off at your door. It is unreasonable to assume that everyone will remember them. By stating the rules again, you create accountability.

After the 11pm incident last weekend, we quickly realized there were a few things we forgot to do before the sleepover that would have either prevented the rules from being broken, or helped us create accountability and figure out what to do once they were broken. 

Here are a few things we could’ve done before saying “yes” to the sleepover:

  1. Find out what their family policy is around technology

  2. Let their family know what our policy is around technology

  3. Talk about our house rules with everyone—including parents—before the sleepover

  4. Store technology away at lights-out so it’s not a temptation

  5. Work with the other family to make sure both kids are and feel safe whenever they sleepover each other’s houses

  6. Not assume that things are “understood.” No two families are the same.

When hosting other kids in your home, it’s important to establish some ground rules to ensure the safety and comfort of all the children involved. These rules should be communicated to both the children attending and their parents or guardians beforehand.

Here are some common rules for a kids’ sleepover:

Parental Contact

Exchange contact information with the parents of the attending children for emergencies or last-minute changes. We like to make sure both parents or guardians have our contact information in case it’s hard to reach us.

Sleeping Arrangements

Decide on sleeping arrangements in advance, such as where the kids will sleep, whether it's in sleeping bags or beds, and where they can put their belongings. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s important to let kids know where they will be sleeping. They might not want to sleep in the basement. You can ask if anyone else will be visiting the home while your child is staying there, too.

Food and Allergies

Ask parents about any food allergies or dietary restrictions and plan the menu accordingly. Lots of kids are gluten-free, vegetarian, have peanut allergies, or are lactose intolerant. Make sure you know if the kid staying at your house is allergic to anything. (Being allergic to cleaning up after themselves doesn’t count!)

Activities

Plan age-appropriate activities to keep the children engaged, such as games, movies, or crafts. We tell our kids that their friends didn’t come all the way to our house just to be on a screen the whole time. How boring! We ask our kids to plan a schedule of what they’d like to do and eat in advance so they don’t come asking us for things to do while they are hosts. 

I’ve noticed that, when my kids get overwhelmed with hosting, they end up on a screen. As an introvert myself, I get it! It’s hard! With planned activities in place (board games, outdoor activities, creating something, making art, building forts, whatever, etc.) they are less tempted to be on screens the whole time. We usually end the night with a movie night where we run out to the dollar store and each pick a candy, then head home and make popcorn.

Supervision

Make sure there’s adequate adult supervision, especially during activities and bedtime. Ask families how comfortable they are if their kids are home alone. Every family is different about this! As your kids get older, this seems less of an issue. However, if something happens, who is responsible? While someone else’s kid is under your roof and care, it’s worth it to check. Remember, you’d want someone else to take care of your kid in the same way.

Screen Time

Set limits on screen time if you’re planning to allow the use of electronic devices. We decide and talk about ahead of time what the kids want to do when their friends come over (see “Activities”). For example, if they know they’ll want to play video games, then they’ll agree to an hour or a schedule that will allow them long breaks and we’ll set a timer on a household device.

Bedtime

Establish a lights-out time, ensuring that kids get enough sleep. When our 12-year old first started having sleepovers, she would stay up way past our lights-out time of 10pm. The kids were so excited, it was impossible to get them to quiet down and go to sleep. The next time she asked to have sleepovers, we talked about how it wasn’t a great idea since they weren’t able to go to sleep at a reasonable time, and to us, that might be a sign that she isn’t ready to have sleepovers just yet. She agreed it was rough and exhausting, but wanted another chance. 

Now, because she wants to continue to have more sleepovers, both kids are willing to go to bed around 9pm, and when we check on them at 10pm, they are asleep. They also have discovered that staying up late makes the next day less fun since they are so tired.

Hygiene

Remind kids to brush their teeth and take care of themselves. To keep kids from embarrassment, we keep a bunch of extra dollar store toothbrushes around in case someone forgets their own.

Phone Use

If kids have phones, specify when they can use them and where they should be stored during the sleepover. (One of our kids’ friends came over for a playdate and dropped her cell phone in the creek behind our house)! Here are a few suggestions for talking to parents about cell phones when their kids are at your house:

  • Let them know your rules about cell phone use in your house. Examples: Cell phones are off at 9pm and kept in the kitchen, they can only use them for emergencies, no texting/bullying/prank calling/etc.

  • Ask parents if they’d like check-ins from you and/or their kids, and set times like right before lights-out and when they wake up.

  • Let parents know if there is an emergency you will be the one to text them.

No Sneaking Out

Make it clear that leaving the premises without permission is not allowed.

Safety Rules

Discuss safety rules such as not opening the door to strangers, not playing with potentially dangerous items, and not inviting others over without your permission. Ensure everyone knows what to do in case of emergencies, such as fires or medical issues.

Rules like these should be communicated clearly and in a positive, friendly manner to ensure that everyone has a fun and safe sleepover experience. If you can, post them somewhere in your home. Additionally, it's a good idea to ask for any specific instructions or concerns from the parents of the attending children to tailor the rules to their needs.

We understand our kids test boundaries. They are exploring their autonomy and learning what is safe and acceptable. We as parents and caregivers need to do our part to keep them safe and make sure they grow up to be healthy, thriving adults. 

When someone else’s child is in your home, you are the adult and you are responsible for them.


Up Next

Up Next

Up Next

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

Get strategies, systems, and support for parents and caregivers raising amazing kids delivered directly to you via email every day.

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

Get strategies, systems, and support for parents and caregivers raising amazing kids delivered directly to you via email every day.

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

  • In your inbox

Get strategies, systems, and support for parents and caregivers raising amazing kids delivered directly to you via email every day.

mom friend aunt coach advisor nanny cousin babysitter neighbor mom godmother doctor grandma dad grandpa uncle mentor therapist sister teacher godfather tutor other

doctor mom coach advisor grandpa grandma babysitter aunt nanny therapist uncle godmother godfather sister dad neighbor brother mentor friend tutor cousin teacher

babysitter therapist advisor cousin godfather dad neighbor teacher nanny mentor brother doctor friend uncle sister tutor grandpa aunt grandma coach mom godmother

advisor friend doctor godfather mentor mom godmother uncle grandma tutor sister neighbor therapist babysitter brother aunt Mom teacher cousin dad nanny coach

mom friend aunt coach advisor nanny cousin babysitter neighbor godmother doctor grandma dad grandpa uncle mentor therapist sister teacher godfather tutor brother

coach mom godfather uncle mentor teacher friend sister godmother therapist tutor advisor babysitter dad grandma cousin doctor nanny neighbor aunt uncle brother

coach friend neighbor advisor grandpa aunt mom uncle babysitter grandma godmother cousin godfather brother doctor nanny sister teacher tutor dad mentor therapist

mom friend dad coach advisor nanny cousin babysitter neighbor godmother doctor grandma dad grandpa uncle mentor therapist sister teacher godfather tutor brother

advisor friend doctor godfather mentor mom godmother uncle grandma dad tutor sister neighbor therapist babysitter brother aunt Mom teacher cousin dad nanny coach

mentor teacher neighbor therapist grandma uncle mom coach nanny tutor friend aunt dad babysitter brother doctor godmother sister advisor grandpa godfather cousin

mom friend aunt coach advisor nanny cousin babysitter neighbor godmother doctor grandma dad grandpa uncle mentor therapist sister teacher godfather tutor brother

doctor dad coach mom aunt friend grandpa grandma babysitter teacher uncle nanny tutor cousin godfather therapist neighbor sister godmother advisor brother mentor

mom friend aunt coach advisor nanny cousin babysitter neighbor godmother doctor grandma dad grandpa uncle mentor therapist sister teacher godfather tutor brother

coach mom godfather uncle mentor teacher friend sister godmother therapist tutor advisor babysitter dad grandma cousin doctor nanny neighbor aunt uncle brother

Hey you! you’re doing a

Great Job!

Helping parents & caregivers design their own handbook for raising amazing kids.

© 2023–2024 Great job. All rights reserved.

Hey you! you’re doing a

Great Job!

Helping parents & caregivers design their own handbook for raising amazing kids.

© 2023–2024 Great job. All rights reserved.

Hey you! you’re doing a

Great Job!

Helping parents & caregivers design their own handbook for raising amazing kids.

© 2023–2024 Great job. All rights reserved.