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By Terri Mitchell

Turn a kids' sleepover into a cool stay-cation

Want to make a kids’ sleepover something special? Instead of feeling bad about a summer vacation spent at home, turn it into an overnight stay-cation. Keep the kids home and transform your house into the perfect venue for your stay-cation.

Here are some things that can help elevate a sleepover to a special occasion:

Create a campsite – inside! Kids will clamor to figure out where they will sleep, and inevitably, some kids will get left out. Plan on creating little individual spots for each child to sleep, such as makeshift tents in the living room, so that everyone has their own space and so there is no question where each kid will eventually put their head down to rest. Use flameless candles or battery-operated lanterns to help set the mood for your woodsy-themed campsite.

Think about a theme. Themes are fun, and they open up a wide range of games and activities to fill time with. For example, if you go with the camping theme, you might invite guests to decorate their special site for a potential prize. Other themes might revolve around a current movie, TV show, or special event, like a holiday, including “Christmas in July” themes.

Figure out the food first. Be sure you know what the kids will and won’t eat before you shop. When you invite your young guests, take time to ask the parents about special dietary restrictions and preferences. This will save a lot of headache later on, and save you unexpected trips to the market. If you go with the camping theme, don’t forget the s’mores. Bake a batch under your oven’s broiler to serve during the stay-cation; keep your eye on them, as they can burn quickly.

Have something planned. Don’t plan on an overnight party without some planned games, activities, or events. You will need to fill the time, so try to enlist help from others for art projects, nature walks, or performances. Check online classified ads to find college students that are looking for gigs either to dress up in costume or to perform a skill, like magic, to help entertain the troops.

Be clear about the time. Be clear with parents about the time that kids are to be dropped off and when they can be picked up. If possible, plan on transporting kids home at a specific time, so that you are not left waiting for one parent when the party is over.

Save goody bags for the end. Wait until the end of your party to hand out party favors and goody bags. This prevents searching for kids’ things when their parents are waiting to take them home and avoids potential disappointment when comparing one bag to another.

It doesn’t take a ton of planning and preparing to make an overnight something special. Whether you set up a pseudo-campsite or plan a party with a theme, these tips will make it easier to keep kids on track and entertained during the 24 hours that they are in your care. Try these suggestions to make a simple overnight something that kids will remember and that will please all of your young guests.

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