How to survive a 10 year old’s sleepover party (well, sort of)

10 year old's sleepover

My eldest son hadn’t had a party for a few years so when he asked for a sleepover for his tenth birthday I said ‘Sure, it will be fun!’

Sleepovers are the best when you’re young. I remember countless nights spent in my sleeping bag, lying on the lounge-room floor at a friend’s house. We’d giggle and gossip for hours about the boys we liked and the boys we hoped liked us.

But that was when I was the one doing the sleeping over. Now that I’m the grown-up (apparently!) and it’s my son’s turn it doesn’t seem like such a party.

It can be hard enough dealing with my own kids when they don’t feel like sleeping – how would I handle a house full of them?

The only truth about a 10 year old’s sleepover party is that there is not much sleeping…  They should just call it an ‘over party’ because there is bound to be a point in the middle of the night, around about 3am, when there is no sleep and you sure as heck wish it was over!

Hosting a sleepover seems to be a rite of passage when you are growing up, so your kids are bound to ask for one someday. So, what is the difference between slumber party and a slumber nightmare?

What I have learnt from hosting a 10 year old’s sleepover party

The more kids you invite, the more hyped up the kids are going to be.

If you want a fairly safe and manageable number, I would advise letting your child invite a maximum of two to four friends. They can giggle and stay up late, but you maintain control of the situation. For smaller numbers I’d go an even number of kids, so if kids pair up no one is left out.

Me? I jumped in off the deep end and let my son invite 11 of his school friends. Mixed with my own kids that meant we were dealing with 15 kids overnight. What was I thinking!?!

Distraction is key

If you want to prevent the kids from going crazy, you need to provide some sort of entertainment. 10 year olds are well beyond the age where they will want to play organised party games, but they will throw themselves into Nerf gun warfare or a game of tip with gusto.

To pace the evening I would try to include some kind of organised-by-someone-else activity. A friend of mine invited a magician to her son’s sleepover which worked like magic (see what I did there?) Other ideas include taking the kids out bowling, to the movies or to somewhere like SkyZone or Laser tag to (hopefully) burn off all their excess energy.

Watching a movie at home sounds great in theory, but its hard to keep 10-year-olds sitting still for long. I would only rely on a movie at home as back-up, not the main event. And probably plan it for much later in the evening when the kids are ready to chillax. Check with parents about what sort of rating they’re happy to have their kids watch. Perhaps run some movie titles past them too to make sure everyone is comfortable with what you’re planning to screen.

Balance the tempo

The kids tend to shift between manic moments, and calmer spells. In the manic moments they’ll be playing tip, dodge-ball, indoor football, or whatever gets them running around and screaming.

You need to catch yourself a break and balance these moments with calmer periods to get back in control. Perhaps its cake time or communal screen time. Present-opening time. Just something to slow them down for a little bit. My son and his friends were quite happy siting side-by-side clashing with each other’s clans.

Feed them

10 year olds can eat a lot, but I find they’re often too excited to sit still and eat much at parties. I’d suggest feeding them well into the party once the excitement levels die down a little and they’ve had a chance to realise that they’re hungry..

In terms of what to feed them, there is no such thing as one size fits all. Cheese pizza usually works well, and some kind of chicken nuggets. I just know that with a big group of kids there is always at least one who won’t like pizza. Or one won’t like nuggets. So best be prepared and have two, if not three options for kids to choose from.

While we are talking about party food, its a GREAT idea to keep the sugar levels down… Plan for more savoury than sweet, and look for sugar-free drinks. You’ll thank yourself for it!

Don’t plan too much

You need to throw your normal routine out the window and be prepared for crazy behaviour and limited sleep. If you’re expecting to put the kids to bed at 9pm and settle down to watch a movie then you’re setting yourself up for a fall!


Its important to work as a team with your partner. You can play good cop / bad cop. Or call in each other for reinforcement if needed. If you’re a single parent and planning on having a lot of kids over I’d call a friend for back-up.


One thing that threw me at my 10 year old’s sleepover party was that one of the kids used his mobile phone (!) to call his mum and tell her that he was scared. He made the call at 3am and I was totally unaware of how he was feeling. In hindsight I should have checked in on each child rather than just focus on quietening the more raucous kids. I should have made sure everyone was okay, and offered reassurance to anyone feeling scared and homesick.

I still remember that heavy feeling of homesickness from when I was a child. Its a big feeling to deal with, so something you need to be prepared for: Bring out your motherly charm, tuck them all in and keep some lights to help alleviate any bad thoughts.

Divide and conquer

I mentioned before that some kids are more raucous than others. The raucous kids tend to group together and stop other kids from getting the chance to sleep.

In the witching hour, somewhere between 12:30 and 1am when most kids *finally* want to go to sleep, there’s bound to be a noisy few keeping everyone else awake. You need to shut this down.

Perhaps remove the noisy kids – make them sleep outside your bedroom for example. Or stay in the room to keep everyone quiet. If you let the noisy ones go unchecked they are going to go on, and on, and on, and on. Yes, that’s sometimes what sleepovers are about, but sometimes kids get a bit emotional when they can’t sleep and you don’t want to be dealing with that.

So how do you get them all to sleep?

Good question! I really don’t know. Its more of a war of attrition than anything else, but a good place to start is to:

  • Get everyone to put on their pjs, go to the toilet and brush their teeth
  • Confiscate any iPads, iPhones etc
  • Settle the kids into their assigned sleeping place, making sure they are warm and comfortable
  • Dim the lights

Let the kids talk and giggle for a little while, but decide when its really time for them to go to sleep then bring out some parental firmness. The threat of calling someone’s mum or dad usually works a treat too 😉

Just say no

Avoid alcohol – sadly, this includes both parents. You never know what situation may arise, so you’ll need to be at your best. You may also be driving kids home in the middle of the night for whatever reason and you need to be prepared for that.

When tomorrow comes

It may take a loooooong time, but eventually the kids will fall in a heap. And when they do even the cheekiest child will look adorably sweet. Make sure everyone is tucked in and hope that they’ll sleep in for as long as possible.

Usually once one wakes up, they all wake up, and regardless of how late they stayed up the night before, it will be early. The good news is they will be so tired and sleepy-headed they will be lovely in the morning. Parents like to pick their kids up early-ish (around 9am) so you soon get your house back. its also worth adding in a pick-up time on your invitation.

Get a lot of sleep

Perhaps the most important tip of all is for you to plan on getting a lot of sleep the night before and the night after, because I can guarantee you won’t be getting much sleep the night of the party!

Just remember, it’s going to be a special night for you and your kids. It’s a sign that they’re growing up and so are you. So celebrate 🙂

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