By Kim Mordecai
What You Need To Know Before Packing the Sleeping Bag
Trends permeate every facet of children’s lives. You might hope that classic traditions would remain sacred in this day of video games and Britney Spears, but that even age-old pastimes like slumber parties are being updated.
What was once a simple event involving preteens, pj’s and popcorn now includes preschoolers, hotel suites and coed mixers. Such trends may sound alarming, but with the right knowledge you can make the best decisions for your children.
Preschool Slumber Parties
Traditionally, slumber parties involved children 8 to 12 who got together with sleeping bags and scary movies to play games and giggle into the wee hours. Today, children as young as 4 are hosting and being invited to slumber parties, and reactions from parents and kids are mixed.
"We have a friend who had a sleepover for her 4-year-old," says Lori Jordan of Folsom, mother of Jamie, 6, and Dani, 9. "My kids didn’t go. I don’t think kids are ready or that they would be comfortable."
Next month Jordan’s youngest daughter will attend her first slumber party, but Jordan is hesitant about her daughter’s young age.
"I don’t know how she’ll do," she says. "Dani was 7 years old for her first overnight. She was ready, but I have to say it was hard for me the first time."
Jordan says it is exciting to watch a child have new experiences, but it also is nerve-wracking sending them off to someone else’s house.
Jordan says she will advise Jamie as she did Dani, "I didn’t call her, but I told her if she wanted to call and say goodnight, or if she needed anything, she could. She (Dani) didn’t call and I have to think, ‘no news is good news.’ "
The Ideal Age
Penny Warner of Danville, a nationally recognized author of children’s books, including Slumber Parties: 25 Fun-Filled Party Themes, says the ideal age for kids and slumber parties is 8 to 14.
"Younger kids may have trouble staying away from home," Warner says. She recommends letting younger children go and enjoy the party, then picking them up when the overnighters begin settling in for the night.
And parents may think the social interaction will benefit their little ones, Jordan prefers to save such experiences for when her children are older.
"We keep pushing these little ones to do more and more," Jordan says. "I want to have healthy, fun activities that they can look forward to at a certain age. If we allow all this so young, what’s going to be left?"
Wendy Aspegren of Folsom, a mother of three children, ages 2, 6 and 9, agrees with Jordan. Aspegren’s 9-year-old daughter attended her first slumber party this year, and Wendy was comfortable with that.
"She was invited to a sleepover in first grade," says Aspegren, whose daughter is now in third grade. "I let her go, but I wouldn’t let her spend the night."
Aspegren says even the 9-year-olds are a bit young. "When she went to this first party she came home and said all the girls were fighting. I think it’s more fun for them to have one friend sleep over because even at this age they don’t have the maturity to get along and play the games right."
Aspegren thinks 11 or 12 are the optimal ages for slumber parties.
"That kind of experience is a privileged experience," she says. "It’s not something I would allow young children to do. Otherwise they will just be dulled by it, and what will be left for when they’re older?"
What will be left are boy-girl slumber parties. As shocking as it may seem to some parents, others are letting their teen-agers have coed sleepovers with little or no supervision.
"I’ve been to a couple," says 16-year-old Jessika Johnson. "My mom was fine with it, but once she didn’t know."
And although Jessika’s mom trusted her daughter to use good judgment, many parents don’t think teen-agers possess the maturity to make good decisions in such a situation.
Karen Resch’s 16-year-old daughter, Frannie, was invited to a coed slumber party.
"I wouldn’t let her go, and neither would her father," Resch, a Rocklin resident, says. "It was not up for discussion. To place kids in a situation where they would be open to social or sexual issues that they aren’t able to handle is irresponsible. It’s just not necessary."
Many teen-agers would be irritated by this position, but Frannie Resch isn’t. "I just don’t think it would be that fun," she says of a coed sleepover. "Slumber parties are for girls to get together and talk all night, and boys really don’t like to do that."
The Reschs’ aren’t impressed with the coed trend, but they seem to have pioneered another interesting slumber party trend: hotel parties.
Resch says a decade ago she hosted a hotel slumber party for her older daughter, Rose, now 22, when she was turning 13.
"We had a wonderful time," Resch says. "The hotel included breakfast, had an indoor pool, and we rented two rooms that were an adjoining suite." She says she talked to the managers of the hotel first to ask where the children were free to roam.
Amerisuites hotel in Rancho Cordova offers a birthday party package similar to the one Resch used.
"The package includes pizza and a cake, sodas and a room," Christine Rakela, director of sales for Amerisuites says. "People often want to do something away from home so they don’t have to do a lot of cleanup."
The Amerisuites rooms can accommodate as many as six people; for more the hotel offers adjoining rooms.
Area hotels that don’t offer a specific slumber party package may be happy to accommodate such an event. Warner advises parents looking for a hotel to focus on family-friendly businesses and always call and talk to a manager before making a reservation. She also recommends that a parent accompany the children to the hotel and stay overnight.
Trends come and go, but slumber parties will never go out of style. So regardless of the latest fashion, stock up on videos or DVDs, board games and plenty of pizza, and your kid’s slumber party will be a success.
Crafty Girl: Slumber Parties by Jennifer Traig, Chronicle Books, 2002.
Slumber Parties: 25 Fun-Filled Party Themes, by Penny Warner, Meadowbrook, 2000.
Slumber Parties: What Do I Do? by Wilhelminia Ripple and Kathryn Totten,Oakbrook Publishing House 2002.
Tips for Stress-Free Slumber Parties
Kim Mordecai is a freelance writer and mother.