What’s a Sleepunder? {repost}

sleepunder_birthdayThis is a repost of an original article I wrote for BlogHer.com

For her sixth birthday, my
daughter wanted a sleepover party. She envisioned a 15-hour (at a minimum) gathering that would be filled with friends, hijinks, “Frozen” sing-alongs, and lots of ice cream. She saw it as first-grader Nirvana; I saw it as the longest night of my life (which is saying a lot considering I was in labor with her brother for 36 hours). Where she saw fun, I saw girls not sleeping or, worse yet, kids waking up at 2 AM with tearful entreaties to be returned home.

Therefore, in an attempt to retain my sanity, I proposed a compromise: a “sleepunder.”
A sleepunder is a brilliant idea that I learned about from friends with older daughters, and I am grateful they passed on this bit of wisdom. Essentially, it’s all the fun of a sleepover—just no actual sleeping over.

Perfect, right?

And, lucky for me, the sleepunder was super easy to pull together. Best of all, it was on the less expensive side of kids’ birthday parties; I spent about $150 on this party, including craft supplies and pizza, both of which can be done for less if you plan ahead and keep an eye out for sales on the supplies.

Here’s the run down of our gathering:

Invitation: At the behest of my daughter, I invited 12 of her friends—girls only (even my husband and son were banished during the festivities)—to our home, asking them to show up at 5 PM on a Saturday afternoon. They were asked to wear pajamas and bring their sleeping bags and a “lovey” (i.e., their favorite stuffed animal or doll).

Arrival: The girls were thrilled to come in their pajamas, and, as they arrived, they eagerly checked out who had Hello Kitty or My Little Pony on their nightgown, or who had chosen two-piece pajamas with pants. It was our own version of Paris Fashion Week. (Their prediction for the latest in six-year-old fashion trends? Pink, with a dash of purple.) They spread out their sleeping bags on my living room floor, lining themselves up head to head. They giggled—a lot—and immediately snuggled under their covers, catching up.

Activity #1: We moved to the kitchen, which I had decorated for the girls. Since I am the most anti-DIY person around, this alone gets the Mother of the Year award. I covered the table in craft paper, and used different colored duct tape to make place mats for each girl. We used that duct tape—as well as other roles printed with Minions, Anna and Elsa, and puppies—to decorate picture frames. Glitter and stickers rounded out the craft, and each girl had something to take home.

Dinner: Eating was next. My daughter had requested pizza, a standard for every kids’ party I’ve been to. My sleepunder-throwing friends had also recommended pancakes or waffles to mimic the morning after meal.

Dessert: No birthday party is complete with a singing of “Happy Birthday” and a healthy dose of sugar. I made the girls cupcakes, and provided an array of toppings—sprinkles in every color my daughter could dream of—to decorate their dessert. My kitchen floor was covered in pink and iridescent specks of sugar afterward, but the girls were excited to get the chance to personalize their treats.

Activity #2: We next headed back to the living room for “show and tell,” during which each girl presented her stuffed animal or doll to her friends. The name and provenance of each lovey was thoughtfully considered, with an overall agreement that each one was very special.

Activity #3: I had planned a dance party or Katy Perry sing along to follow, which the girls briefly enjoyed, but they were most inspired to play hide and seek around my house. For 20 minutes. This had them running about and shrieking, but since it was a birthday party and since a fair amount of shrieking seems appropriate for a sleepunder, I didn’t intervene, staying in the kitchen to catch up with a friend, a brave soul who volunteered to help with the party.

Good-Bye: At 7:30 PM, parents arrived to pick up their overtired (and, in some cases, still shrieking) daughters. With picture frame, sleeping bag, and lovey in hand, the girls departed, after hugging one another and begging their parents for playdates.

I bundled my daughter off to bed, cleaned up the kitchen in 15 minutes, and considered the party a success. “Sleepunder for the win,” I declared, collapsing on the couch.