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The Sleepover Survival Guide

Setting a Schedule

No slumber party goes like clockwork, but having a general idea of what to do when will help you keep your cool.

Keep it short

The earliest that guests should arrive is 5 P.M. Let the parents know what you're serving (take-out pizza is the unanimous recommendation), so the allergy-prone or picky eaters are forewarned. You can also start the event later—7 or 8 P.M.—so the pajama-wearing and snack-eating portion of the program can begin immediately. And always state a pick-up time—11 a.m. is ideal, not too early but you're not stuck with guests for long after breakfast, either.

Have an opening act 

Direct kids to the Ping-Pong table, outdoor play structure, or a craft project as soon as they arrive. Save the best activities for later, because someone will inevitably arrive after the party has started.

Pace the fun

Kids who lack purpose (boys in particular) are more likely to wreak havoc. "Our favorite trick is to do something active—like swimming and a movie, or bowling and soccer at the park—to wear them out," says seasoned sleepover mom Valerie Mutton of Bowmanville, Ontario. But she also warns: "Boys like to wrestle at sleep-overs, and they smell like goats. Have plenty of air freshener for the next day."

Nix morning-after mayhem 

Parents in the know provide comic books and other quiet-time items for early risers. It's also wise to set out cereal or muffins they can help themselves to. Caution: Approach late sleepers gently; if startled, they may vocalize loudly and continuously. A full-scale morning cleanup is unrealistic. However, do ask participants to help you toss trash and put away videos, games, and the like. Assemble sleeping bags and other gear near your front door for an easy exit.