Sunday, May 6, 2012

10 Ingredients to a Fun Sleepover/Play Date

This week, my two girls each had a friend over the spend the afternoon and night.  I kept them busy and had a lot of fun with them, too.  These fun activities would entertain a variety of ages - and aren't girl-centered.  My son had a blast, too.

Despite the many ideas, I was sure to allow the kids some playtime that's wasn't an organized activity.  They always want time to visit with each other, check out their rooms and toys, play on the swing set or ride bikes, talk, have a fashion show, dance, sing, etc.  Time together is bonding time.  My children usually already have an "agenda" of to-do activities of their own. 

1. Something "hands-on" and outside
Earlier that day, I'd picked up some new flowers and mulch for the front flower bed, saving some of the pretty flowers for the kids to plant once we got home - which they love helping with.  Everyone was eager to dig a hole in the dirt and plant a flower.  I didn't get so many volunteers when it was time to spread the new mulch, but that's OK.

2. Yummy (semi-healthy) snack
Kids are always hungry after school, so I made a yummy dip to accompany some fresh apples.
the dip: 8 oz cream cheese, softened.  Add to this (to taste) about 1 Tbsp peanut butter, and about 2 Tbsp brown sugar. Taste to see if it needs more of either.  Mix well. Finally add a few spoonfuls of crushed Heath bar of toffee bits (found in baking aisle). This is a great dip for apples or graham crackers/sticks.

3. Say "Yes" to something they want to do (this would be most of my ideas - they all come from what the kids ask to do).  Most days the ideas they come up with are just too inconvenient for the day's schedule and end up with a  "no" response. Having a planned time that the kids are doing something special anyway (by having friends visit), and I've blocked out time to be home, this is a great time to say yes - they won't be able to argue to their friends that I never let them do anything fun ;-)

In my case, this was a water-balloon fight.  It took all evening to find the special attachment for the hose to fill the balloons, but I ended up finding it in time to have a little fun before it got too dark.

The second idea was a volcano.  My daughter talked about a paper-mache volcano, but realizing how much time and work was involved (and how many other things we had planned), I improvised on the building of the volcano and concentrated on the experiment itself - which is really the payout.  There are many fun and simple science experiments you can do with basic household resources.  I haven't met a kid yet who didn't like a science experiment. Steve Spangler's Science website has a tone of ideas and resources.

For my volcano: I used a plastic water bottle, and three paper bowls.  Fill the bottle with water (almost full, but leave room to add vinegar).  Add red food coloring, if desired, to make the lava colorful. Add 6 drops dishwashing liquid and 2 Tbsp baking soda. Set it up, the put some vinegar in a measuring cup and have the kids take turns pouring into the water bottle.

4. Play with something they got as a present
My daughter got a much-wanted Dippin' Dots Maker for her birthday, and we'd only used it once, right after she opened it.  Other items like this that seem to either get buried, forgotten or just seem to much of a hassle are great for a night with friends: Easy Bake Oven, science experiment kits, Shrinky-Dinks, crafts, building kits, beads, etc.  Most of the time, I need the kids to find something they can do on their own, while I'm busy with laundry or cooking.  But when I can have some fun with them during the play date, they love the extra attention, and I also get to know their friends.

For our Dippin' Dots, I mixed some heavy whipping cream with sugar, then added orange juice for a Cremesicle flavor.  Freezs a few hours, then pop into bowls to enjoy.

5. Have a fun, hands-on (if possible) meal
I made tacos - put all the ingredients in bowls on the table with bamboo tongs or spoons, and they each made their own.  Also, make-your-own pizzas are a big hit.  I put toppings in bowls on the counter, have the small individual-sized crusts ready, and let the kids create their own special pizza.  Quesadillas are also easy to customize - not as hands-on, because the kids don't make them, but they do get to choose what goes inside.  I've found that any time kids are invested in their food, they tend to enjoy it more.


A fun drink is also well appreciated - something special the kids may not get often, like sprite and juice to make a punch, or even just using a special squiggly straw.

Eating outside is a fun treat, as well - anything slightly different than the normal routine.  A picnic table, a blanket on the grass, the porch, etc.

6. Dessert
I tried something new - the best taste-testers are kids.  They love about anything sweet, are honest if they don't like it, and it won't go to waste.

Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars

7. Have fun in the dark
Staying up late is one of the best parts of a sleepover. Embrace the late hour.

A campfire is always a big hit.  I know to have graham crackers, Hershey's and marshmallows on a plate when we have a fire.  I set chairs around the fire, and have stories ready to tell.

Glow-in-the-dark necklaces or sticks can entertain for hours.  The kids end up coming up with games to play with them.  I pick up several packages with every trip to the Dollar store, and always have a few on hand to add some "special" to a random evening.

Flashlight tag is a favorite.

Scavenger hunt - hand out flashlights or night-goggles to find night things: frogs, lightning bugs, crickets, etc.

8. Movie! (i.e. built-in downtime)
A movie is a great way to chill the kids out before bed. Also movies have a definite end which is a perfect segway to bedtime.  I served popcorn in these special containers I found in the $1 bin at Target. This also gives me at least an hour to relax myself, text the other moms about how great their kids are, or look up more ideas on Pinterest for the next time.

9. Add some interest to bedtime
I think making bedtime a little different will encourage them to go to bed more willingly.  One night, I set up the tent upstairs in the playroom, and everyone slept in sleeping bags inside.  Just getting to sleep somewhere different is fun for them, whether it's a floor or special room.  I'm sure to leave some light on for the unfamiliar ones to find their way if they need to get up at night - or even my own.  I remember waking up in a different spot (even in my own house) and feeling a little disoriented.

10. Breakfast
When I was a child, pancakes for breakfast were a treat - certainly not every weekend, but when we had friends spend the night, I knew we'd get pancakes the next morning.  It was something special to look forward to. I have a Mickey waffle iron that makes the best waffles (and quickly), so it's easy to provide that unique breakfast that they'll (hopefully) remember.  Sometimes I'll add some sprinkles or chocolate chips to make it even more special or extraordinary and memorable.

Or I'll make something that typically feeds a crowd (more than just my family), like Monkey Bread.  Some recipes go a long way, and when there are guests is the best time to pull those out.

Monkey Bread
goes a long way when you have extra people for breakfast!

Finally - Work in Me-time
Despite all the ideas (and I don't try to do them all in one night), I try to make some time to unwind and catch up on rest myself - even if it's the next day after the friends have gone back home.  I'll take a 30 minute nap, lie in the hammock, read a magazine on the swing or rocking chair. I try to remember to ask my kids (maybe the next day) what their favorite thing was, and keep it in mind for the next time. After being super-mom and hostess to the kids and their friends for the evening, I want to remember the fun we had together, and the memories they'll have for a lifetime.

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