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The Sleepover Survival Guide

Keeping the Tribe Busy

Themed sleepovers may sound like they're for overachieving-parent types, but they can also be a clever way of keeping everything—and everyone—under some semblance of control. Note: Favors are necessary only if it's a birthday party.


Sing traditional camp songs (do an online search if you can't remember any), make s'mores in the microwave, lead the kids in telling not-too-scary ghost stories, and have a flashlight scavenger hunt in the dark. Take-home party favor: funky flashlight or scary-stories book (homemade or purchased).

Dream-team sleepover 

Have guests wear favorite sports jerseys. Little guys can compete in games like the Sleeping-Bag Wiggle (they get inside their sleeping bags and wiggle on their stomachs to a finish line); bigger guests can divide into teams and actually play a soccer, basketball or baseball game (head to a local court or field). Take-home favor: baseball caps, sports trading cards, trophies for skills like "loudest laugh" or "fastest eater."

Beauty makeover 

Set out some not-too-wild makeup products (lip gloss, eye shadow, sparkly moisturizer, blush) and disposable applicators. Adult guidance isn't recommended. The fun is in letting the kids make over each other. Snap before-and-after pictures. Take-home favor: their photos, one small makeup item.

Krazy karaoke

Rent or borrow a machine and let guests pick the music they want to sing and dance to. If you can do so without being mauled, videotape the performances to watch later. Ask assigned "judges" to make funny (not Simon Cowell-like!) comments about participants, à la American Idol. Take-home favor: a performance DVD, rock-star sunglasses.