The sleepover is a rite of passage for preteen girls. Some girls start going to sleepovers at 6, while others may not attend a sleepover until 9 or 10. My girls started sleepovers at 8. The key to a successful sleepover is to plan, plan, and plan.

When my daughter turned 9 all she wanted was a sleepover. I suggested other parties to her — gymnastics, swimming, bowling. I planted the seed in her head that a quiet birthday party at our house with a few friends would be a great idea. I had been “talking up” having a small birthday party all school year. But, the sleepover was all she wanted.

As the mom of a preteen and a teen, I have hosted almost 10 sleepovers, some for birthdays and some not. Here are steps for a successful birthday sleepover:

Choosing a Theme for a Preteen Girl’s Sleepover

Let your child decide on the theme for the party. Visit a party store or shop online. Purchase the following supplies:

  • invitations
  • tablecloth
  • plates, cups, and napkins for dinner
  • plates, cups, and napkins for breakfast
  • plastic knives, forks, and spoons
  • party favors and bags
  • food for dinner
  • food for breakfast
  • soda, milk, juice, and water
  • popcorn and candy for movie
  • thank you notes

Writing a Guest List for Preteen Girl’s Sleepover

  • Sit down with your daughter as she writes her list. Let her tell you who she wants to invite and why. If you have reservations about a potential guest or a combination of guests let her know. Remember you have to manage the girls and coordinate the sleepover birthday. Be comfortable with the guest list.
  • Set a maximum number of guests. Stick to this number. The number of guests you invite may depend on the size of your house or your comfort/noise level. For our family, I have found that having 10 girls to the sleepover (8 guests plus my daughter and her sister) is just too much. A more manageable number is 4 guests plus my daughter and her sister.
  • Talk to your daughter about the correct etiquette for inviting guests to a party. Let her know that once the guest list has been finalized that no more guests can be invited, even if a guest cannot attend. Make sure that she does not talk about the party at school so as not to hurt the feelings of children not invited. I tell my daughters that they may talk to the girls who are invited in private.

Sending Invitations for a Preteen Girl’s Sleepover

  • If you are a creative, you might want to make your own invitations on the computer. Store-bought invitations are also a good idea, too. Whatever you choose, have your daughter write out the invitations and address the envelopes.
  • Check school directories for addresses of guests.
  • Print out map/directions.
  • Include any specific information on the invitation: “Bring a sleeping bag, stuffed animal, and toothbrush” or “Wear a robe and colorful slippers.”
  • On the invitations specify a pickup time for the sleepover.
  • When RSVPs come in write Yes or No next to the names on the guest list.

Planning the Activities for a Preteen Girl’s Sleepover

  • Plan the party. Plan every detail down to the hour. Sleepovers work best when kids and mom know what is happening next. Don’t get caught off guard. Plan for every eventuality.
  • Plan the activities for the evening. Will you have pizza, cake, and a movie? Or, will you have pizza and cake, but before the movie do a craft project.
  • If you decide to do crafts, buy enough craft supplies for each child. Buy more glue sticks, paint, and beads, than you need, so that everyone has enough. Set aside a place where crafts can dry.
  • Fill pinata with candy. Decide where to hang pinata and when to do the pinata — evening or before guests leave in the morning.
  • Assemble the party favors. Preteens are a little too old for yo-yos and bouncy balls, so why not consider bubble bath, or a notebook and pen, or lip gloss.
  • Shop for food.
  • For dinner at sleepovers, I always order pizza. In the years we have hosted sleepovers only one child has turned down a piece of pizza. I order cheese pizza only. We have cake and ice cream or sometimes ice cream sundaes.
  • For drinks, I serve soda at dinnertime, and water after that. I have found that preteens have a hard time knowing when they have had enough to drink. If I offer water bottles, the kids are more likely to drink in moderation.

The Night of the Preteen Girl’s Sleepover

  • Insist that each parent who drops off a child leaves a cell phone number. This is important as you need to be able to reach the parents should something happen to the child during the evening or night.
  • Some preteens have cell phones. It is a good idea to have kids place their cell phone in a box, so that kids are not tempted to text message or make calls during the party.
  • I have a 5-year-old son who also attends the birthday party. To make sure he feels included he will eat dinner with the girls, do the craft, but he watches a movie upstairs with his dad. He does not participate in the sleepover portion of the party.
  • Know what is happening at all times. Plan the evening to allow enough time for kids to eat dinner, have cake, open presents, do a craft, watch a movie, and then go to bed. If you know several girls have a soccer game the next day, make the bedtime earlier.
  • On the night of the party stick to the set bedtime. After dinner, cake, and presents, I have the guests change in to pajamas. I put out bowls of popcorn and water bottles labeled with each child’s name. As the movie ends, I have kids brush their teeth. I turn off the TV, turn off the lights, and head up to bed. I tell the girls that I expect them to be quiet since it is bedtime.
  • If the children are not quiet I will come down and tell them to quiet down. If my tactics don’t work, I send my husband down!

The Morning of the Preteen Girl’s Sleepover

  • Let the girls wake up on their own.
  • I make breakfast while the girls pack up sleeping bags and get dressed.
  • Breakfast after the sleepover can be as simple as donuts or as elaborate as pancakes. I serve milk, OJ, or water to drink.

After the Preteen Girl’s Sleepover

  • As soon as guests leave, have your daughter clean up the area where the girls spent the night. I usually vacuum right away so that crumbs do not get ground into the carpet.
  • Have your daughter do her thank you notes right away.

Jill Berry blogs about raising a preteen and a teen at Mom On the Run Chronicles.