Q. My daughter wants her 3-year-old friend to sleep over at our house. Her mom seems cool with it, but aren't they too young?
A. There's no magical age at which a child is ready to spend the night at a friend's—your daughter's friend will either be fine or she won't. Mari didn't go on her first sleepover until she was 6, and stayed for exactly two hours before she called to demand that her father come get her, while Lila slept like a log at her friend's house at the tender age of 4. You just can't predict.
But remember: Having someone else's 3-year-old sleep over is a very different responsibility for you than having, say, a 9-year-old. A 3-year-old may have a special, elaborate bedtime routine, may expect to be accompanied to the bathroom in the middle of the night and may not quite make it to the bathroom in the middle of the night. So the real question isn't whether the little girl is ready, but are you? To give yourself an edge:
*Run through some scenarios up front. Discuss the fickle nature of 3-year-olds with the girl's parents and make sure they're prepared for that 2 a.m. phone call.
* Give plenty of information. Ask the girl's parents to brief her on how bedtime works at your house (after you've explained it to them) so she'll know what to expect.
* Get plenty of information. Don't go into this thing without knowing every last detail of the friend's bedtime routine so you can adjust your pattern accordingly and figure out what she needs.
* Don't stint on sweetness. The "Get to bed!" order that sends your child scampering might reduce your little guest to tears. Be liberal with your restraint—and your hugs.