An Idea to Sleep On

On hosting a sleepover for your kids
Daddyderek 0419 Sleepover
Courtesy of Derek James
A sleepover is a great opportunity for kids to work on their social skills, even if they stay up way past a normal bedtime.

Growing up with siblings that are all about 15 years older than I am, I felt like I was the only kid in the house. Sleepovers with friends were my opportunity to enjoy playing with kids my own age, and are some of my best memories. Having a friend or two stay the night, sharing Doritos and drinking Mountain Dew while playing “Super Mario Bros. 3” until well past midnight was pretty awesome. Sleepovers at my friend Tim’s house were even better. His mom would let him have six or seven friends spend the night. We’d Rollerblade around town, eat frozen pizza and play Nintendo in the basement while listening to Nirvana. (It also didn’t hurt that I had a big-time crush on Tim’s older sister.)

In 2019, I know many parents choose to do late-night hangouts instead of sleepovers. I understand any parent who chooses not to allow sleepovers. The most important job as parents is to make sure our kids are safe, and I’ve heard and read stories of disturbing things happening at overnighters — so no judgment.

My sons are now 8 and 10, and we have hosted friends for sleepovers. The boys also have gone to sleepovers, mostly with the children of close family friends or with neighbors we know well. Going into a sleepover, it’s all about having the right information. This is true for the parents hosting and the parents doing the dropping off. Pick-up time, awareness of food allergies, and thoughts on which movies and games are appropriate are just a few of the things to discuss with the parents hosting or dropping off their children. It’s also helpful to know if anyone needs a nightlight or any other item for bedtime.

My wife and I make sure we are both home when hosting a sleepover. We make clear that anyone can be picked up at bedtime, and a child can call home at any time if they decide they want to talk to their parents or go home. We only have full Internet access downstairs in an open area of our house, not in the playroom where the kids spend most of their time, and we do regular check-ins in the playroom to make sure everything is going OK.

If you choose to host a sleepover, whether it’s a couple kids over or a dozen staying the night, it’s important to remember there is no way to have a set bedtime. How could there be? Even after “lights out,” there’s going to be a lot of giggling and conversation, and playing with flashlights if they’re around. It happens. As parents, the toughest part may be staying awake as late as the kids. I recommend finding something you really want to binge on Netflix to keep from dozing off. 

Sleepovers also serve as a great opportunity for kids to work on their social skills. Whether at home or at a friend’s house, sleepovers require a kid to learn to adapt to new environments, activities and household routines, as well as how to play nice with others, take turns and develop a deeper layer of camaraderie all while being silly and having fun.  

Will your house be messy the next day? Will your kid(s) deal with a sugar and/or junk food hangover? Absolutely! But … so what? If that’s your reason for skipping sleepovers, pour yourself another cup of coffee and relish your first-world problems. Say yes to the sleepover Mom and Dad. Don’t snooze on fun.


Derek James is a host on WCCB News Rising. He and his wife live in Charlotte with their sons who are ages 7 and 9.