Are slumber parties safe? Are there other fun alternatives to sleepovers? Here’s why we avoid sleepovers and what we do instead!
Years ago, we made the decision to avoid sleepovers. We didn’t invite kids to our house for sleepovers, and we didn’t allow our own kids to attend traditional slumber parties.
As kids, my husband and I had sleepovers and went to sleepovers ourselves, and frankly, our experiences are one reason we chose a different path for our kids.
However, there are many other reasons we decided to ban sleepovers…
1 – Lack of supervision
Children are hopelessly foolish. They say and do foolish things, particularly when left to themselves. An entire night of little-to-no adult supervision is a recipe for disaster.
Anecdote: I once went to a slumber party where all the girls ended up in a knock-down-drag-out fight over something silly. Parents had to come get some of the girls in the middle of the night.
I don’t want to put my young children in a difficult position without mom and dad there to guide them through it.
2 – Opposite sex siblings
As girls and boys get older, some slumber parties are actually a ruse to be able to visit a brother or sister who lives in the same house. There is also the legitimate concern over potential sexual abuse by a member of the opposite sex in the household.
Remember, most sexual abuse comes from people you know, and is often simply a matter of opportunity. I do not wish to purposely offer opportunity.
3 – Peer-to-peer socialization without parameters
We have been brainwashed as a culture to believe peer-to-peer socialization is the best kind and children should be left alone to play, lest they be hindered by adult interference. While I am an advocate for friendships and free, unstructured play, all night play away from the watchful eyes and listening ears of a diligent parent is outside the parameters of what I deem “safe” play.
Young children need a safety net. They need easy access to you when they are faced with questions and concerns that naturally arise when they are around children from different homes and families. This safety net does not exist in a sleepover environment.
4 – There are other (better) ways to interact
Children don’t need sleepovers to be well-adjusted individuals. There are plenty of other ways to interact with peers and have fun!
This is where the alternatives we have chosen as a family come in because sleepovers aren’t the only way to make childhood memories.
What we do instead of slumber parties
We were first faced with the dilemma of what to do about sleepoevers when our oldest son was 10. Prior to that, we lived in a small town and socialized mainly with families that also did not do sleepovers for various reasons. It simply wasn’t an issue.
But when we moved to a bigger city, we found ourselves being asked quite often if our children could sleep over.
At the time, we knew we didn’t want to allow that, so we formulated our reasons why (as seen above) and then chose to create some alternative ideas so we weren’t always saying no to every request.
Note: If we had seen dangerous behaviors from our children’s friends, we would not have allowed even the following sleepover alternatives.
Slumber Party Alternatives
We are night owls, so this idea was born out of that natural tendency. We allow our children at a certain age and maturity level to attend a sleepover (as long as we are comfortable with the parental involvement and siblings in the household), BUT they only stay until midnight.
Sometimes my husband or I stay with them as well and chat with the parents. It allows them the fun without the unsupervised middle-of-the-night mess.
With certain families, we will plan a family sleepover, and we often host families in our home overnight. We may or may not allow friends of the same sex to sleep in the same room. That part is sheer gut-instinct – ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR GUT! If we allow it, we typically require them to be in open areas – like the living room – rather than the bedrooms. This is one reason we own several sleeper sofas.
We have also gone camping with other families which allows for lots of great fun and late nights around the campfire, after which everyone retreats to their own family tents.
Plain old parties
Honestly, there is nothing wrong with a good ole daytime party. We will often have parties based on a theme like our Fall Movie-themed Parties or like the Tutus & Tea Party we had when my oldest daughter was 9. They are tons of fun and don’t require the stress of a sleepover.
Once you set the precedent that you do not do sleepovers, real friends are often willing to accommodate, and may even decide they also don’t like the hassle and problems sleepovers can often cause.
There will, of course, be people who will not understand and may even try to bully you into changing your mind, but as I said earlier – go with your gut…and your convictions. If you don’t feel comfortable letting your kids participate in sleepovers, stand firm by your decision and make the best of the backlash. It will not be a decision you regret!
I wasn’t strict enough on sleepovers when my older 2 were younger, and lived to regret it!! I’m glad you are warning people about sleepovers.
Ugh – I am so sorry! We do the best we can, and pray through it all!
Love this article! Thank you for articulating my concerns with sleepovers so well..sharing with my husband 🙂
You’re not alone! I regret not starting this family value sooner, however it’s been a great safety net for our kids for many years now. It’s difficult to explain to others or my own kids without coming across as if to say, “I don’t trust you!”. But I’ve experienced and heard enough testimony of “sleepover happenings” to know this is truly out of my desire to protect their innocence as much as possible.
That’s been the biggest issue for us as well – not wanting people to think we don’t trust them. But the truth is, sometimes we don’t…or we don’t trust a member of their family. It’s a hard place to be.
Michelle L Finet says
It is a relief to have a “no sleep over” policy. It takes all the stress of decisions out of the equation. You don’t offend one friend (or family member) by saying “no” when you tell others “yes”. You just tell everyone “we don’t do sleep overs.”
My parents only ever allowed occasional sleepovers with my cousins – and in retrospect, I’m pretty sure that was born out of the necessity to get us out of the house for a evening/morning so my mom (or aunt, when my cousins came over) could make her quarterly homeschool lesson plans, lol!!
Ha! That’s cute!
Marie Denman says
Thank you so much for writing this! We also don’t allow sleepovers for all the same reasons and appreciate you putting this out there. I don’t think enough families take the time to really think this through. I also experienced negative sleepovers as a child and don’t care to put my kids through that. And we had a sexual abuse incident in our family with someone we knew and that alone is enough.
I think we just consider it a normal part of childhood, but it isn’t often a “safe” part of childhood.
This was one of the most crazy articles I’ve ever read, you can’t live in fear of every bad thing that could happen. Sometimes you have to let your kids think for themselves without a constant safety net or restriction. This allows them to learn to be independent, and learn from mistakes if something does go wrong. As parents it’s your job to teach your kid not restrict them.
Totally agree. Obviously you should only do it with trusted people but the author sounds like a helicopter parent.
It’s clear your family or those close to you haven’t experienced some of the things referenced in this article and that’s a blessing. Hopefully the thoughts shared help broaden your perspective and you’ll be supportive of any families that do take this stance.
Becky Orris says
My husband and I decided when our oldest was young that sleepovers were out if the question. The only people they stay with are their grandparents and my sister…And those sleepovers only happened when I was giving birth (All my babies were born at home.) In these times the dangers far outweigh the fun they COULD have. My mother was molested as a child by a family friend, my real father was in prison for molesting a girl he knew ( never did anything to my family.) This is a wicked world we live in. An alternative for us is camping in the backyard. While it doesn’t include any other kids or families, it is a fun sleeping adventure my kids enjoy with Daddy!
Fun! My kids like to sleep out in a tent in the backyard with Daddy too (and I get to stay inside! lol).
Louisa Settlemire says
Amy, thank you so much for this article!
We have never allowed our girls to go to sleepovers by themselves.
The few they have been too, I accompanied them all night.
Whenever we had one child stay with us, I planned different activities, hung out all night with them and made sure they were asleep.
Has been difficult explaining to our children why they can’t go to other homes, as they were perviously in public school. It seemed like all their friends did sleepovers.
Thank you for the ideas for alternatives.
I am new to Raising Arrows, but REALLY enjoy it!
You are awesome!
It is a very public school oriented event it seems, so once kids have been exposed to having slumber parties, it is difficult to switch gears. Sounds like you struck a good balance! Welcome to Raising Arrows!
We.Don’t.Do.Sleepovers. You hit everything on point. Also, I firmly believe in the God given gut feeling…in all situations concerning my children. And good isn’t always what is BEST for our children or family. Thank you for sharing…
Right! It may be a good thing, but is it the best thing? I just never felt comfortable with it.
Katherine Lauer says
Well, I love you! Our family has this same policy and I love your ideas of alternatives.
Thank you, Katherine!
My oldest is 20 and younger children are 5 and 4. I have never had or allowed sleep overs either. I went to slumber parties and had a birthday slumber party. With no issues that I can remember. But, the world is a very different place in my opinion. I don’t want the responsibility of multiple other children honestly, lol.
Ha! I totally agree with that sentiment! I’m worn out by the end of the day!
Nicki Bailey says
Amen! That is so awesome! I am glad I am not the only one that feels this way! You have brought up great alternative ideas! Thank you!
We also have a no sleepovers policy, and it can be hard sometimes. My mother was molested as a child by her older brother’s friends at sleepovers. Surprisingly, we did sleepovers as kids, and while nothing as bad as that ever happened to me, I can agree with your sentiments that children are incredibly foolish. We were very much unsupervised, and nothing good ever came of it.
I am thankful for your suggestions for alternatives. I am not always the best at coming up with those, and I believe they really help show our children that we do have their best interest in mind and are not just out to ruin their fun.
Thank you, Dani!
Yes, this was a good post. I’m sure it’s relieving to some! I had issues at sleepovers as well. That’s why we don’t do many! Thanks for this post, Amy! Love and blessings!
Nicole deleon says
We have also chosen not to do sleepovers. Our younger 6 children were adopted from foster care and have a myriad of special needs. Besides having to deal with behavioral issues, ours kids NEED a full night of sleep and to keep to the same routine. I have often felt like we were the only ones who decided this so thank you for sharing.
Good job realizing what your kids need! It’s hard to say no to something so common.
I got started down the no sleep over path because my first parenting experience came from foster care kids who had special needs and sleepovers just were not a good idea. Now that I am raising my own bio babies I will continue down my no sleepover path. We also don’t use sitters, the only time our kids are away from us is during Sunday School. Every reason you listed, my gut has always said BEWARE… Also, I know many girls who had very negative sleepover experiences. The only ones to spend the night here are cousins and my kids have never spent the night away from us.
Anika Yip says
It is important for children to have a social life with peers… it is strange for them to be with you all the time and not with other children their age. Let kids be kids and let the play!
Nowhere in this post does it say they shouldn’t play with peers.
This comment is shortsighted considering some of the very “real” and very “traumatizing” scenarios that folks have alluded to here. I am thankful that you have not experienced those things (or your kids haven’t more importantly), but these things happen more often than you would believe and if folks want to take a preventive approach then that is their prerogative, and I would also argue, extremely beneficial to the children who will be spared any abuse that could have occurred otherwise. I have to agree with others here that the risks of sleepover abuses far outweigh any positive effects that may be gained through having sleepovers. I wish that we lived in a world where we could trust others with our children and everything would be just fine, that just isn’t the world we live in. Unfortunately this world has a lot of evil in it and often times the wolves do not look like wolves. Someone said it here, and they are completely accurate in that most abuse occurs by a predator who is known to the victim/child. The dangers don’t stop at sexual abuse either with regards to sleepovers. There are many other dangers like bullying, firearms negligence, harmful substances, and a myriad of other safety concerns. I pray that your children will continue to be protected and unharmed as they grow. As for me, I will continue to protect my children as best I can, as many others here have seemed to have resolved themselves to doing, and will continue to be a member of the “non-sleepover camp” while proactively finding alternative ways to give my kiddos room to socialize and grow…safely.
Samantha Andersen says
Yes, yes, yes!!!! I 100% agree with no sleepovers. These ideas are amazing to incorporate into our lives to still have the excitement of hosting or being hosted, but gives the parents and children peace of mind as to the limit, and the safety!
Thank you, Samantha! You can still have plenty of fun without traditional sleepovers!
Christine Jones says
100% agree with you and we have the same policy but I’m so thankful for the way you listed out reasons and also some fun alternatives. 🙂
Isn’t there an old saying that “nothing good happens after midnight?” Still seems like a good boundary. Great words of wisdom Amy!
Yes, I think this is a good rule of thumb! 😉
“There is also the legitimate concern over potential sexual abuse by a member of the opposite sex in the household” – and SAME SEX as well! Little bits of indoctrination!
Love this post. We have very similar family rules. We only have girls and up until this past Christmas all 3 of them shared a room. Now the oldest (13) has her own room. We have never allowed our children to sleep over at others houses. Not even grandparents. We have vacationed together in rental cabins and such but that was the extent. We have allowed a few girls to sleep over at our house over the years. Children of other Biblically like minded families, and a cousin who is about the same age. It truly has been a struggle and a fight with certain family members and some friends. When one set of cousins spend the night with a set of grandparents then we are expected to follow suite. We have had some pretty contentious situations arise over it. thankfully one set of grandparents are Christians and supportive of all our decisions. It isn’t easy to be the odd man out. I just remind myself that God expects me to protect my girls and the only way to do that is prevention. Makes me sound like a freak at times. Oh well.
Yes, sometimes we look and sound like freaks, but in the end it’s exactly as you say – we must do what God expects of us. ((HUGS))
We allow sleepovers with our kids, we have careful and bathed in prayer guidelines we follow. Sometimes I wonder if we are doing the right thing, but I’m sure every good parent wonders this sometimes. We may not agree to patiente the exact same way on everything but I still love you though.
Thanks, Leslie! We don’t have to do everything alike to be sisters in Christ!
We didn’t do sleepovers and then in 2020, we started some.
I wish we would have never started. There are times when it makes sense, like my friend was having a baby and I ended up with 4 extra kids on my living room floor. That was actually ok and if something is going on. Like we had a friend’s son stay over when his Grandma died. There are times and there’s been a couple times when my oldest went overnight somewhere.
When we had a kid in the hospital and needed our other kids to be somewhere.
There’s a time and place where it’s very helpful and frankly no other option.
But I don’t need my kids sleeping over all the time.
I do like to keep them in a central location like our living room (our bedroom is by the living room so I hear a lot). And my kids went to Bible Camp.
I think this is wonderful! I totally agree with all of your reasons.
When I was young I went to a friends house that my single mom knew,lets just say we played very inappropriate games,I never saw sleepovers the same after that. It took long years and praying to overcome that situation and because of that my husband and myself DO NOT allow our children to do sleepovers EVER. Just like you we do family sleepovers with other families,it shows them what real fun looks like. Thanks for sharing this topic.
This issue has just come up… whether or not we should allow our two oldest boys (6 and 4) to spend 3 nights away at my parents house. Which is 4 hours away. I’m unsure and my husband doesn’t sound thrilled but how do we say no without it sounding like I don’t trust the situation or my own parents??? I don’t know if they are emotionally ready to spend that amount of time away from us and what if they get into trouble? I don’t know… advise please!!
It’s a tough situation because you don’t want to sound like you don’t trust your parents, but at the same time, you are the parent in this situation and it’s your place to protect and guide your children until they are ready (if you so choose). Your parents may think you are being overprotective, but so be it. Stand firm and see if you can come up with some other bonding ideas that don’t include sleepovers.
Thank you for the encouragement!
Krysten T says
As a child there was only one house where I was allowed to spend the night. At the time I thought my mom was crazy strict but I get it now. We are having our first late over next month to celebrate my son’s 7th birthday.
Yes, it is so difficult to see our parent’s logic when we are young!
We have always done the same. Additionally, we pull “if there was an emergency”… and minutes driving down the street count to the sleepover house or hospital. Also, how uncomfortable and cranky everyone is due to lack of sleep and different sleeping arrangements. There have been several instances where after saying “no” using those reasons the invitee parent offers their personal poor experiences and it is dropped flat.
the shirt on the girl in the middle illustrates the problem 😛 dont know if you notice that or not… :O
Sooo reassuring! We raised our children similarly and that was over twenty years ago!
Not all of our grandchildren are being raised in this fashion (spouses aren’t always on the same page).
I am blessed by your love and understanding
Oh thank you for this post! What an encouragement. We don’t allow sleepovers either for the same reasons. My oldest daughter is 6 and she was getting sleepover invites when she was just 4! Some parents couldn’t understand why we said no, which is baffling to me. I was allowed sleepovers as a child but never at 4, they’re babies!
There are some people in our lives that I trust vehemently, but we don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s heart, or in their kid’s hearts, or in our kid’s hearts. Having an absolute sleepover ban protects everybody.
In this day an age, I really agree with you. The only sleepovers we agreed to with my oldest was with his cousins and grandparents. And it will be the same with my youngest. I remember when I used to go to sleepovers. Some were with 1 good friend and active parental supervision. Some were with a group and hardly no supervision. Those ones were where the trouble started. There was a lot of peer pressure to do stuff you knew wasn’t right and if you didn’t do it, the other girls later ignored you or chastised you. Very traumatic for a young girl. I won’t subject my children to that or something worse.
Elle martin says
We have never, and will never do sleepovers. I have a friend who is catholic and when she is her first baby the priest told her that the main piece of advice is to not allow sleepovers because of what he has heard I. Confession! also, even if you trust the family, and the siblings, the siblings may have friends over as well that you know nothing about. Why create that opportunity?
Jes Autrey says
We haven’t had to deal with too much backlash from others on our decision about not sleeping over, but we have done a couple of “late nights” until 10 or 11. We’re not quite as late of night owls, I guess. Haha.
One other fun alternative for families who like mornings would be to do a friend breakfast or brunch.
I allow my children to play without hovering, and I think it’s good to let them learn through peer interaction, with access to a parent. But there’s just something about night that brings temptations and bad judgement to even the best people.
Thank you for this. I’ve felt like a freak for not wanting sleepovers with the kids’ cousins, whether at our home or theirs, and I’ve always been bullied into them by family. No longer! You’ve given me the backbone I needed. 🙂
oh my word….
What is this world coming to!!!!
Thank you for posting this. I think it is important to offer this subject for parents to consider.
We have had our oldest at a half sleepover and it worked out really well.
I don’t think that we would have a family sleepover, but we have offered opportunities for non-birthday daytime parties so they can have friends over, since really the issue is that they want to spend time with their friends. Our case against sleepovers (to our children) has been that you can’t really spend time doing fun things with someone when you’re both sleeping. They seem to get that, so thankfully it hasn’t been a big thing. I personally just don’t want my children to be someone else’s responsibility nor to bear the heavy responsibility for someone else’s child or children.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
My mother-in-law doesn’t always understand or agree with our beliefs and lifestyle choices, so we waited until our oldest was more grounded in her faith before she had solo sleepovers at grandma’s house. And we always causally question our kids when they return from unaccompanied visits to anyone’s house…not just “what did you do?” but what did you talk about, did you see or hear anything you have questions about, etc.
We moved to a new city recently and are starting to meet the neighborhood kids, which is a new experience for us. I’d love to hear what kind of boundaries you give for your kids for visiting friends during the daytime. One eager new “friend” was very adamant about coming inside our house and asking my boys to go inside and bring out more snacks. We told him we should meet his mom first before going in each other’s houses. The kids didn’t understand that a brief exchange of names wasn’t quite adequate for getting to know each other.
Just wanted to chime in here. We have a few neighbors whom we know very well and trust. All of our kids play together outside, and are allowed to play inside, if they ask and both kid’s parents agree. We do have a couple of next-door neighbors that we only have an acquaintance with, but do not share similar values. Our kids know that they can play outside together, but that they are not to go in these people’s houses, nor do I allow their children to come into our house. I do remind the kids of this, when I see that they are out playing together, but it has never been an issue. It’s not that these neighbors are bad people, but I am not comfortable with not being able to directly supervise my kids around them. As far as a neighbor kids who always ask for snacks, we have those too! It really bugged me at first, but now I know who the “snackers” are. If it’s around afternoon snack time, and my kids are eating a snack already, I don’t mind sharing at all. If it is right around supper time , that’s a no-go. These are the kids that we know really well. If neighbor kids are asking for snacks in general, or they are kids from down the street I don’t know very well, I tell them they need to go home to eat.
Jennifer Orocio says
My husband and I have talked about the dangers of sleepovers and have agreed we do not want our kids participating in them. I remember too many sleep overs growing up that resulted in bad choices.
We have a couple of very close friends, who just so happen to be neighbors as well. We have had two occasions where one child fell, injured themselves, and needed stitches right before bedtime, and another time when I needed to go to the ER for a postpartum uterine infection. In all three of those instances, our neighbors were wonderful blessings to us, in watching our other children overnight. They also have a large family, and we both have little houses, so no small task! We also have watched their kids when they have been in a pinch. There have also been a few “just for fun” sleepovers at either of our houses as well. So my point being, I do not think that every sleepover situation is bad. I also do not stop parenting, just because there is a sleepover, nor do the other parents. I still require that they go to sleep, I keep an ear on their conversation, and an eye on what they’re doing. Our parents have also babysat our kids overnight several times. Once again, we do limit this, as bad attitudes do come home after special treats at Grandma’s house. But we do know our kids are very safe with their grandparents, and being able to surprise my husband once with a weekend away back to where we had our honeymoon was precious time together.
have times changed on this?
when i was young, age 6-18, i went on ~2 sleep overs a month, about half of all weekends.
>200 sleep overs.
this was 1988-2000, in a small wealthy town, where my parents knew all the other kids and their parents at the school.
there were only a few kids that didn’t go on sleep overs, and they were anti-social and friendless.
it was probably the best part of my childhood, i would look forward to it all week.
we even took friends on vacation to our grandparent’s house for a week.
it was a huge learning experience; new foods, new rules, new toys, new games, new cultures, new religion.
but best of all were the negative reasons you listed; no supervision, no parameters, opposite sex siblings. you are able to have more open conversations with your friends after the parents slept. ask each other a million questions you were afraid to ask before, tell stories from school without parents hearing, pass on kid-to-kid information in a safe environment. anything sexual between children within a year or two of age is innocent enough and essential for development. i’d much prefer a 7, 8, 9 year old to learn something about sexuality from someone their own age, than to be clueless at age 10 and be more susceptible to adult predators.
this is what might have changed, and the only reason i may not allow sleepovers for my children. i’ve seen so many documentaries where the adult trusted by the parents sexually assaults their children. my wife and i have never even gotten a babysitter yet for our 4 year old son, only his grandparents have babysat him. but are there more predators now, or just more publicity of them? and wouldn’t a parent with their own children and spouse present, that you know well, be more trustworthy than a babysitter alone with your child? do you also not allow any babysitters alone with your child? do boys and girls get the same rules?
would an 18 year old going away to college, who had never had a sleepover, be able to adjust? would they miss home too much, not adapt to the new culture? or act out in an opposite way and over do it with drugs and sex because they’ve never had to exercise unsupervised self control. it’s normally the super sheltered kids who end up ODing from drugs, alcohol poisoning, or having unprotected sex the first semester of college. they just can’t handle the freedom.
MeShel Bussey says
We have a no sleepover policy as well. After being houseparents working with at-risk kids for a number of years our eyes have been opened. We must all guard our children diligently. However, recently it was asked if our nephews (ages 10-17/our children 4 girls and 2 boys are all under seven) could visit one weekend. I’m inclined to say definitely “NO”. New scenario for us that may rub family members the wrong way…..they may not understand. But I’m thinking its worth it. I just can’t take any chances. Their home life is quite troubled and majority of assault happens with family members. My bones are screaming “NO!”. We just can’t take the risk.
Jessica Larson says
This! I couldn’t have said it better and will share when needed. Thank you!!
How do you explain this to your kids w/o them in turn feeling like they can’t trust their friends parents/families?
This is definitely something you have to be careful with. Keep it positive. Let them know you don’t want to be in a position where they can’t talk to you if they have questions about something that is said or something that happens. Spend time together as families, rather than individual friends whenever you can.
Having read through all the comments, I think the most important thing is to know where you stand on this BEFORE it becomes an issue and acknowledge and respect that not everyone will share your personal beliefs. Personally, I think sleepovers can be fun, HOWEVER, we have never done unsupervised or large amounts of children at once, all but one being held in our home. Whatever your thoughts on the matter, I agree that you should never let fear rule or another person’s opinion sway. At the end of the day, you alone are responsible for your children’s well being and prayer and trusting your God-given instincts are paramount. Buying into the belief that ALL sleepovers are bad is throwing the baby out with the bath water. Not acknowledging that there are very real and toxic dangers to allowing even two unsupervised children to ‘spend the night together’, regardless of gender, is shortsighted and naive. Know your kids, know their friends.