When Is My Child Ready for a Sleepover?
It's important for parents to assess each sleepover invitation individually. There are no set rules for what age a child is ready for a sleepover. Readiness is very individual and based on a number of things, not just a child's age.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding if your child is ready for a sleepover:
Assessing your child's readiness.
Does your child already go on playdates independently? Is your child able to ask for what she needs? Can you trust her to make the right decisions when you aren't there? Will she get homesick? Let your child know it's always OK to call home or to ask to go home if she is uncomfortable or realizes she's not really ready to spend the night away from you.
How well you know the family.
If the sleepover is at a family's home where you know the parents well, the decision will be much easier. But often, kids are invited to sleepovers by a friend from school whose parents you may not know well or at all. One suggestion is to get to know the parents before the sleepover by inviting their child to a playdate at your house first. Then ask the parent dropping the child off to stay a bit for coffee, to give you both a chance to get to know each other a little. This way you can get a feel for their household rules and environment.
Discuss concerns and rules.
You may want to try and stick to the rules that are most important to you (i.e. your child must stay inside after a certain hour, parents must be home the whole time) and let the less important rules slide (such as allowing your child to eat snacks you might not normally). An important issue to always discuss is to find out if there are any guns in the home and if so, how are they secured and who has access to them.
Other things to keep in mind include knowing if siblings will be there and their ages, are there pets, are children allowed to use the computer unsupervised, and rules regarding television and video games. Again, every parent has their own rules regarding these things, just be sure you discuss what's most important to you when your child will be at someone else's home.
Make sure the friend's parents have all of your contact phone numbers to reach you in case of emergency or if your child just wants to say goodnight. Be sure to inform them of any allergies or health issues your child may have, especially food allergies. Ask the parents what the agenda is for the evening, if they have any activities planned for the kids. Ask if they plan to take the kids anywhere that evening or morning – be sure to tell them if you have a preference that they not leave the house.
Don't be hesitant about expressing a desired bedtime for your child if you feel the need to do so. Some children need more sleep than others, and the overnight experience will not be pleasant for you or your child if somebody is tired and cranky the next day.