Summertime sleepovers are a cherished rite of childhood. Those invitations may start arriving as early as kindergarten or first grade. Marni Nagel, Ph.D., a CHOC licensed pediatric psychologist, says some young children as young as ages 5 and 6 may be ready for them. Others may be more comfortable waiting until ages 7, 8, 9 or even 10 years of age.
You know your child best. “If your child has trouble sleeping through the night, is prone to nightmares, or has trouble adapting to unfamiliar situations, you may want to wait a bit,” Dr. Nagel says. “Also, you’ll want to be sure your child is capable of basic self-care skills, such as putting on pajamas, brushing the teeth and getting dressed the next morning.”
Dr. Nagel recommends trying a “pretend” sleepover in a sibling’s bedroom or in a tent set up in the backyard. See how your child handles sleeping in a different place, by seeing first how they do it within a familiar environment.
Next, transition to a family member’s house, such as Grandma’s house. It may be helpful to send along an older sibling, too.
This can be a nice transition for 5 to 7 year olds. Have your young guests come over and get into their pajamas. Then make popcorn and s’mores, and watch a movie. Do everything you would at a regular sleepover-except sleep. Have their parents pick them up by 10 p.m. It’s also great for those parents, too, because their children come home all ready for bed.
If you’re hosting, try a practice sleepover with one friend before doing an actual party with several kids. Keep a nightlight on in the bathroom, especially if you are hosting a sleepover for young children.
If it’s your child’s first slumber party at another house, ask about the schedule in advance. Find out what type of food will be served, what the activities will be, when bedtime is expected, and when your child will be picked up the next morning.
“Your child may find it comforting to know the schedule in advance. Taking along a special pillow or favorite stuffed animal and a small flashlight may also help,” Dr. Nagel says. “Of course, be ready to pick your child up if things don’t go quite as planned. There is always next time.”
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