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The secret to successful slumber parties

The mere thought of having 10 screaming girls (or boys) running around your living room half the night can scare any parent enough to say "no way" to that pleading little face. Never fear! Slumber parties can be really fun, provided you do a little planning ahead of time. The secrets to success include coming up with a fun theme, creative invitations, yummy snacks, and a plan for winding down.

Choosing a theme
First off, the planning of any slumber party must include your child's input. About 3 weeks before the party, sit down together at a quiet time of day when you can concentrate on the task at hand. There are literally hundreds of themes to choose from, so have your child come up with ideas while you jot them down on paper. To help spark her creativity, think of a favorite color or food, then build the party around that. Themes can be built around animals, cartoon favorites, or even designs, such as our Flower Power Slumber Party. You can even build your theme around silly holidays such as "National Ice Cream Day", "Smile Power Day" or "National Goof-Off Day"! Once you've chosen your theme, it's time to start planning the big event.

Guest list
You as the parent must set the limit on the number of guests you will allow. Once that has been determined, write out a guest list with phone numbers. To keep harmony, guests should be in the same age group and gender, co-ed parties are not recommended. Keep this list to check off who has RSVP'd once your invitations have gone out. You can use this list to call all those who have not responded about a week before the party to see if they will be coming.

Invitations
No matter what your theme, invitations should include "who", "what", "where", "when", and "why", and be sure to include your phone number for RSVP's! Use your theme to create your invitations. You can use construction paper or card stock to make your own, or create and print them from a graphics program on your computer. You can get really creative with your invites by starting with a simple shape and decorating it to fit your theme. For example, if you are having a pizza themed party, invitations can be created on a circle, using pepperoni shapes for the "who", "what", "where", "when", and "why". A celebrity themed party would go well on a star shaped invite, decorated with glitter and "kissed' with lipstick. Use stickers, markers, and/or glitter to decorate your invitations. If your child sees her guests at school or around the neighborhood, she can hand deliver them. However, if they must be mailed, make sure they arrive to the guest 2 weeks prior to the party.

Snacks & drinks
As parents begin to RSVP, be sure to ask if their children are allergic to any food or drinks. If there are allergies in the group, it's best to avoid that ingredient all together, if feasible. Snacks and drinks do not have to be complicated or overabundant. You can simply serve snacks that you know the kids will enjoy, such as pretzels, popcorn, cupcakes and juice, or build your food around your theme. If you are having a pizza party, have the party guests create their own individual pizzas using French bread or English muffins, pizza sauce, shredded cheese and other toppings. For a "girly" themed party, use pink frosting on cupcakes, serve pink lemonade, and offer up butter cookies shaped like flowers. Offer some more nutritional snacks in the mix as well by providing cheese cubes or sticks, crackers, and mini pickles. Kids will also enjoy cut up raw fruit and vegetables with a fun dip. Having bottled water on hand isn't a bad idea either, especially for those kids who may not like the juice or soda that you are serving. Use white address labels to write each guests name on and stick to their bottle or cup.

Games & activities
Again, these are entirely dependent on the theme you have chosen for your party. For "make-over" parties, you can braid hair, paint fingernails, and give facials. For a music themed event, have a dance contest or challenge, where each child does a dance while the others cheer her on. You can also set up an easy craft for the guests, such as using fabric paints to decorating a pillow case they can keep as a memento. If you party is held in the warm weather months, Flashlight Tag is a great outdoor game, while inside a simple game of hide and seek can really conjure up some giggles! For tons of ideas on party games and activities, be sure to check out Party Game Central and Kid Wizard.

Wind down ideas
When it's time to begin winding down and getting settled in for the night, have everyone open their sleeping bags and set up camp. Turn off most of the lights and pop in a favorite movie. Turn the volume down a bit so that kids must be quiet in order to hear the movie. Be sure to have popcorn at the ready and enough bowls to have 2-3 guests each share. Put the juice and soda away and offer water or milk instead. Clean up the snack table and put everything away, this will discourage guests from getting up and coming to the table, rather than sitting and settling down.

The next morning
As guests start to wake up, have orange juice or milk available. Once they have had a chance to wake up, encourage them to roll up their sleeping bags and put their belongings together, including any crafts they've made or prizes they've won. All slumber parties should include a fun, hot breakfast! Mix mini chocolate chips into the pancake batter before cooking for a kid favorite! Offer up sliced fresh fruit on a tray and have English muffins or bread handy in case anyone prefers toast.

Party favors
Save the party favor bags for the following day when guests head home. Hand them their goody bag on the way out the door. This will eliminate the confusion of whose bag is whose and will also lessen the mess you will need to clean up after the party is over. Ideas for party favors vary greatly, but favorites include small candies, gum, hair accessories, temporary tattoos, and stickers. Again, you can use your theme to create goody bags. For a manicure party, send home mini bottles of nail polish, a file, and travel size hand cream. If your party was built around a certain color, choose dollar store goodies in that particular shade.

Thank you notes
These days, we seem to forget this essential for any party, the Thank You Note. Teach your kids about this valuable part of celebrating. Thank You notes can be fashioned in the same way as the original party invitation or they can be store bought or computer generated. A fun thank you note would be to use snapshots from the party! Once your prints are developed, have your child write their thank you message on the back of the photo, or glue it to card stock or construction paper and write the message below the photo. This is a great souvenir and will be cherished by good friends. Be sure to get doubles so your child doesn't feel they have to part with photos she may want to keep.

There are so many different ways to host a slumber party, and they are popular with many different age groups. The key to success is early planning, sticking to your ideas, and keeping it fairly simple.

Tip: If you are friends with one or more of the parents of your guests, invite them to come for an hour or two! You'll enjoy the adult company and they will appreciate the offer.

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