Sleepovers are a popular pastime with children, though you may not be quite so enthusiastic about the idea of hyped-up kiddos in the wee hours. If you think your preschooler is ready for a sleepover – she doesn't have nightmares, sleeps through the night and adapts easily to new situations – by all means, give it a whirl. Just be prepared that it might not go as planned: Preschoolers tend to regress at night when they’re tired, and that’s when they'll long for their normal routine. It's probably best at this age to limit the guest list to one pal who knows your child and you well.
Let your tot know in advance about the sleepover -- little people don’t like surprises. Talk it up: Sleepovers are so much fun, she can play until late with her friend, and then wake up and have pancakes together. Let your munchkin know her friend might miss her parents, so she needs to be extra kind. Tell her friend that the sleepover is just for one night and she’ll see her parents in the morning. Encourage her to bring something special from home like a stuffed animal or blanket. Having her own pillow with its familiar feel and smell is also comforting.
You don’t want the little monsters to find any excuse to get out of bed, so satiating their hunger is in your best interest. A pre-bed snack should be something comforting. Try carbohydrates, which have a calming effect, rather than protein-rich or sugary snacks, which can make the kids more alert. Mixing a little protein with the carbs is fine: Try toast with melted cheese, a bagel with cream cheese, yogurt with granola or oatmeal with bananas.
If one or both of the kids is still a nighttime wetter, make sure they’re wearing their pull-up diapers under their jammies. Have them both go to the bathroom right before bed, diapers or not. Keep the bathroom light on all night, just in case. Don’t let them have too much to drink before bed, or you may encourage bathroom shenanigans.
The good news is that preschoolers are little, and you don’t need to keep them busy until midnight. However, they lose interest in things quickly and probably won’t sit down for a two-hour movie, so plan lots of activities. Making up stories together is fun; have them take turns, and when it's your turn, give them some direction. Encourage them to use props to act it out -- puppets, toy cars, dolls -- they'll have a ball.
The closer it is to bedtime, the calmer the activities should be -- no playing tag in the yard 10 minutes before bed, for instance. Crafts are a good choice since they require quiet concentration. Give each kid a large cardboard box, plenty of stickers and markers, and let them go to town making a house, a spaceship, a car -- whatever their little hearts desire. Play clay is a popular medium with preschoolers and is similarly calming.
Saying Good Night
Make bedtime peaceful and fun. Let each kiddo pick a story, then have some cuddle time and giggles. Help them set up their sleeping area, whether they’re sleeping on the floor or in a bed, making it cozy with each child’s familiar sleepy-time objects. Leave a night-light on to help your guest feel safe. Finally, make sure your little visitor feels just as special as your own munchkin, since she’ll be missing her own mommy and daddy. Before leaving them for the night, let them know they can come to you anytime they need you.