How to survive your child's sleepover party

They're the words all parents dread: "I want a sleepover party".

It's time to take a deep breath and think this request through carefully: is it a good idea or a really, really bad one?

For her eighth birthday, my daughter had her heart set on a slumber party. Despite my attempts at distracting her from the idea, she was insistent, and in the end we decided it wasn't such a bad idea.

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 Photo: Getty Images

Of course, there's the potential for a sleepover to go pear-shaped: I was worried there would be nightmares, middle of the night calls for parents or big arguments between the kids.

Luckily, we're all still in one piece and have a few pearls of wisdom to reflect upon.

Set the expectations

We played host to a big party of 20 kids for my daughter's birthday last year, and I think she was hoping for something similar this time. As soon as she raised the idea of a sleepover party, though, I immediately reset those expectations, limiting the number to four.

As it turned out, yes, four was definitely enough.

Food, food and more food

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The hardest part of the party was the amount of food needing to be served. While at a standard party you'll serve a spread of snacks or one meal, the sleepover included two meals plus too many snacks to count.

If you want to feel like you're constantly feeding children for an entire weekend, then hosting a sleepover party will be right up your alley.

Hope like hell that your child has nice friends

I can only imagine that if a child has friends who are terrors, the whole sleepover idea could easily turn to a disaster. Luckily, my daughter chose genuinely nice kids who all get along well, which created a nice – if hilariously crazy – house for a day or two.

Limit the sugar

You might feel like dosing up the kids on sugar when hosting a short party, but when you have to get all the kids to sleep you become very aware of what they're eating. Sure, there were lollies and cakes at my daughter's party, but they were all hidden away before dinner.

Savoury treats are your friends in the later hours of the day and into the evening: think popcorn during a movie, and a big carb-loaded pasta dinner to try and fill up those tummies ready for sleep.

Have some activities up your sleeve

There are bound to be a few moments during a sleepover party that threaten to end in tears – and it's those moments that you'll need a quick diversion. "Time for another game!" we called out a couple of times, which in one moment culminated in a treasure hunt for goodie bags.

Hope for sleep

At the end of the day, all you can do is cross your fingers and hope they manage some sleep. After all, you're the one who has to deal with tired kids the next morning.

On the night of my daughter's sleepover, the group of eight-year-olds valiantly attempted to stay awake for the all-exciting stroke of midnight … but the room fell into a beautiful silence at 11.35pm.

And we all survived, even if we are quietly thankful it's all over for another year.