When to Start Having Sleepovers?

sleeping teddy bear illustrationMy older kids have been doing sleepovers with their best friends for years. It’s evolved to where we have some rules around the sleepover and I am certainly picky about which of their friends I believe offer a safe and supervised environment for one of my children spending the night, but generally I like the idea and have certainly hosted a lot of other teens or tweens at my place.

We do have some rules, but they’re pretty benign:

  1. No sleepovers on school nights.
  2. No more than one sleepover in a row (to avoid the back and forth weekend of zero sleep).
  3. If it’s at my house, they can stay up an hour or so past a normal bedtime, but still have to sleep.
  4. No mixed-gender sleepovers, but > 1 guest is fine on special occasions.


As with everything else parenting, I retain veto right (it’s great to be the king sometimes) and my children know that being able to spend the night at a friend’s house, or having a friend at our house is a privilege, so being rude, hostile or obstreperous the day before — or the afternoon of — the planned sleepover is a very poor strategy indeed.

It’s worked well too, and while I can think of sleepovers where there hasn’t been much sleep, I can’t recall any real disasters other than an occasional allergy attack that required me to go and get my son a few times. Notably, I’ve also hosted slumber parties where my teen daughter and as many as 4 or 5 of her friends all stay up late watching (typically bad) movies and chatting, then take over the living room and pass out. My son’s done that too, once or twice, and again, it’s all worked out surprisingly well.

I can remember my now 12yo having his first sleepover attempt and me going to get him around 10pm because he just couldn’t get to sleep at a strange house after all. No worries. In fact, that was amusing because unbeknownst to him, I’d traded in my old car for a brand new Highlander and when I came to pick him up, it took about five groggy minutes for it to register in his brain that he was in a new vehicle. Quite amusing!

For my oldest, now 16, I think we started sleepovers at around 12 or so. My son has been having and hosting sleepovers for a number of years now, starting when he was around 8, I think. And my little one, who’s 9? I have neither hosted nor allowed her to have a sleepover as of yet because third grade feels a bit young, though her Mom’s allowed her to have a friend spend the night at her house a few times.

Hence my question, and it’s probably more rhetorical than anything else: how young is too young for a sleepover? When I think back on it, my son must have been having sleepovers by the time he was 9yo, but somehow my girl seems so darn young at the same age. And yet she’s probably the most worldly of them all with a teen sister and an about-to-be-teen brother.

I’ll probably give her the green light to have very occasional sleepovers / occasionally have a friend spend the night at my place, but it’s interesting to me how comfortable I am with the older kids doing this and how reticent I am to have her do the same…

3 comments on “When to Start Having Sleepovers?

  1. It sounds like you’ve done a great job of meeting your kids where they’re at in their individual development instead of following a “one size fits all” rule. I think you’re picking up on where your youngest really is at and supporting her appropriately. Although in many ways she may seem more mature at the same age, something must be holding you back and I recommend you trust it. Parental instinct is a good thing even when we don’t necessarily understand it.

  2. Our daughter has been independent and I think her first sleepover away from us might have Sven at 8 or younger. Just two girls. We have had a number of sleepovers here, but limit to no more than four. Odd numbers are tough with girls in case they pair off and leave one out.

    Our worst experience was when they wanted to “camp out” in the back yard. About midnight they started to one by one drift inside. The issue was that the dog was in the back porch, and the way into the house was through our bedroom. So we got to be up to about 1am until everyone had a place to sleep in the living room.

    Now that she’s 13 we prefer a small sleepover Tia destination birthday party.

  3. I think those are some great rules for sleepovers. We’ve had slightly different guidelines with each of our kids, but our oldest (11) has been the first to venture out for sleepovers a few times. So far we haven’t had to go pick him up early.

    It’s natural to be a little more protective with your daughter. Our youngest is just 4 months and I’m already stopping myself from thinking about when she’s older.

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