Let me start off by saying that I know a thing or two about throwing a party. In college, my apartment was the social venue of choice for my group of friends, and my roommates and I must have hosted dozens of parties in the two years that we lived there. But no amount of experience could have prepared me for the terror that was my son Michael's 8th birthday party - a sleepover.
If you don't have a game plan, once the pizza is loose and the soda is flowing, there's little hope of your home surviving the evening unscathed. Throw in a fresh batch of birthday gifts and gift baskets for the guests, and you've got a group of over-excited wild boys running around your house. Here's my list of sleepover survival essentials.
Plan Plenty of Activities
One of the first mistakes that my wife and I made in planning this event was that we skimped a bit on the party games. We figured a day spent swimming in the pool, eating classic birthday foods and opening presents would be enough to satisfy the little guys, but they fluttered between activities so quickly, that we soon found ourselves facing a group of hyperactive kids left to their own entertainment. Luckily, we curbed that energy by organizing some backyard sports like tag and wiffle ball at the last second.
Check With Parents
After cake and ice cream, we decided to put on some movies for the kids to enjoy. We posed some options to the room, and my son and his friends decided to watch Indiana Jones and the new Star Trek movie. While neither my wife nor I have any problems with Michael watching these movies, the next day we got an earful from one mother who was horribly opposed to her son watching a PG-13 film. Next time, we'll have to double check with the other parents before movie time.
Set a Bedtime
I remembered how much fun it was staying up past my bedtime when I was young, so naturally I wanted to let Michael and his guests enjoy the same night of freedom. Unfortunately, this opened up the door to rough housing and goofing around into the early hours of the morning - far later than I thought a group of kids could stay awake - which meant that everyone in the house was exhausted when parents showed up the next morning. Do yourself a favor and set a time for the kids to wind down before bed, otherwise don't expect to get much sleep.