- 4 mins
What To Pack for Your Child’s Sleepover (It’s Probably Less Than You Think)
It can be pretty daunting for a child to sleep at another child’s home, especially if they are still relatively young. According to Mindell et al. (2017), a child’s bedtime routine should be consistent and include quiet activities to help calm them. When this routine is disturbed by being in a different environment, it could be difficult for a child to fall asleep. Other differences might make them feel unsettled, as well, even if they requested the sleepover.
It’s helpful for both families to be aware of some strategies to implement in order to ensure a successful sleepover experience for your child and their friend.
Perhaps your child has requested to sleep over at a friend’s house, or a friend has invited them to sleep over. Either way, your child should be involved in the preparation. They can help pack their overnight bag to ensure they have everything they need and want. For example, if they have a favorite bedtime book, they can pack that. If they listen to Moshi’s nighttime stories with you, remember to download the Moshi app on your child’s phone or ask their friend’s parent to download it. You can even create a custom playlist in the app that features all of your child’s favorite bedtime stories for ease of access.
Also, if your child has received an invitation for a first-time sleepover, be sure to ask them if they feel ready. There is no shame in postponing this experience until they feel more comfortable with the idea of sleeping away from their home.
Showing your child visually when the sleepover is scheduled and when they will come home is always a good idea. If they are old enough to have their own phone, you can add it to their diary or show them on the calendar. Reviewing your regular evening schedule and asking your child what they would like to implement at the sleepover could also be a great way to decrease any possible anxiety.
I use a strategy working with children diagnosed with ADHD, autism, and related conditions where I ask them to complete a special quest when they enter a new environment. You can include a distraction before they enter the environment – as they prepare. Perhaps you can ask your child to draw a nice picture for the child they are going to have the sleepover with or bring a different small gift for them. You can also include distracting techniques as you drive to the sleepover, by asking your child to count the streetlights or license plates on their way to their friend’s home.
I might ask them to count all the flags secretly in a pirate-themed restaurant. Or, if it is a sleepover, I might ask the child to see if they can draw the home and explain to their parents what they experience, liked, or didn’t like about the house, while they are there. They can always explain this afterward, which might create a lasting memory.
My mom used to leave small notes in my backpack each time I had to travel to play tennis when I started the sport around 8 years of age. She would also add a small chocolate treat or a thoughtful gift. I was so excited each time I left as I knew I would find a note and a special gift within a few minutes of searching. Children want to know that we are thinking of them even if we are not with them, and a thoughtful note might just do the trick. If you include chocolate or another treat, check with the friend’s parents to see if it’s okay to include enough for the friend as well.
And try not to worry too much when your child is away on a sleepover. Read that book you almost forgot about, and maybe even sleep in!
Mindell, J. A., Leichman, E. S., Lee, C., Williamson, A. A., & Walters, R. M. (2017). Implementation of a nightly bedtime routine: How quickly do things improve? Infant Behavior and Development, 49, 220-227. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2017.09.013