Your child’s first sleepover is an important milestone in their young lives and you’ll want it to be a good experience for all involved.
Not without reason, many parents assume that the dreaded sleepover is going to be a nightmare of arguments, disrupted sleep and over-tired, over-emotional little people. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
What are the benefits?
Despite the potential for chaos and sleep deprivation, a well-managed sleep-over can be hugely beneficial for the children concerned, not to mention lots of fun.
It offers a great opportunity for kids to boost their self-advocacy and social skills, as well as develop a sense of independence. Also, a change in the normal bedtime routine can help children learn to cope with and adapt to different situations, especially in other people’s homes.
If you’re not sure your child is ready to sleep ‘away’ start by hosting a sleepover at your house. Once your child has managed a sleepover at home you can then be more confident that they’ll cope when invited to stay the night at a friend’s house.
Then, of course, you yourself will start to see the benefits of having a ‘night off’ when your child is sleeping away.
When the time is right
How do you know when your child is ready? You’ll know when they’ve talked about it, asked you several times and even started planning activities and games. Interest often starts from the age of seven or eight onwards. But only you can decide when the time is right for your child.
Do consider if your child already has good ‘sleep skills’ before you invite others over to stay. If you know your child still struggles to make it through the night without incident then it’s unlikely that they’re ready and it wouldn’t be fair on all concerned to go ahead.
The temptation to hold the first slumber party for your child’s birthday may be strong, but that puts a lot of pressure on you and your child for everything to be perfect. It may also bump up the numbers which can add to the potential for chaos, anxiety and overwhelm.
Keep the guest list short
The best advice is to keep it simple and start small with your first hosted sleepover. One or two friends, or cousins, that you know will get along is a good number to start with.
Too many kids and too many personalities will be harder to manage and overwhelming for some children. This could be a recipe for sleep deprivation and disappointment.
Once you and your child have worked out the guest list it’s a nice idea to get them involved in planning the activities and creating sleepover invitations.
Communicate with the parents
It’s really important to communicate with the other parents prior to the event on any activities you’re planning, bedtime routines, food or pet allergies etc.
Check in with them about what movies they might consider appropriate or whether they are happy with the idea of a makeover or a ‘midnight feast’. And then honour their wishes. After all, you’d want them to do the same for you.
Be clear on the invitation about pick up and drop off times and stipulate anything that they need to bring with them such as sleeping bags, pillows, cuddly toys or comforters etc.
Set some ground rules
It’s absolutely fine to lay down the law a little bit in your own home, so be clear about the ground rules with the children and the parents from the start.
No devices in the bedroom? No devices after a certain time? What time is lights out? What’s your policy on late night snacks. Work out your stance on these issues ahead of time to manage expectations and to get parents onside.
If you are going to allow screens, you may decide to relax the digital curfew a little as a special treat. However, do consider that devices are known to be psychologically and physiologically stimulating and can adversely affect sleep.
Go for healthy snacks for the ‘midnight feast’. Here are some great healthy snack ideas including popcorn, smoothies, humous with pitta dippers and frozen fruit sticks. Also, ‘midnight’ doesn’t actually have to mean midnight.
To manage expectations, be clear about bedtime from the get-go and do factor in some ‘chat’ time before lights out.
Try to relax and leave them to it as much as possible.
Not only will you take the pressure off yourself a little by standing back a bit, but it’s good for their development in problem-solving and people skills to work things out for themselves.
In terms of sleepover activities, try to let them entertain themselves but do have some ideas up your sleeve in case they come to you for inspiration. Tried and trusted ideas include truth or dare, charades, baking, watching a movie (age appropriate), crafting, makeovers, board games etc.
It almost goes without saying that you should try to prepare for every eventuality. Have on hand extra bedding and pyjamas in case of an accident in the night. Have a supply of toothbrushes and toys for children who may have left something at home.
Be prepared for little people knocking on your door in the middle of the night and don’t bank on having your best night’s sleep ever. Be sure to let your little guests know where they can find you in the night and that you are available if they should need you.
Keep all parents contact information close at hand in case you need to make a late-night phone call.
And of course, don’t plan anything too onerous for the next day. Tired children and grumpy parents are not an ideal combination.
For mums and dads-to-be, awaiting a new addition to the family is an exciting time and preparing the new nursery should be fun too. However, with so many other things to consider when expecting a new arrival, there are a number of common pitfalls to be aware of. And with a little bit of planning, you can avoid these and enjoy creating the perfect space for your baby and for you.
As with most things in life, timing is everything. So, don’t leave it too late. The nesting instinct, a natural part of pregnancy that so many mothers-to-be experience, tends to get stronger towards the due date but you don’t want to be banging nails, painting walls and flat packing right up to the eleventh hour.
One of the big questions is when to paint. It is not recommended to paint during the first trimester - although the risks to pregnant women and unborn children from exposure to the chemicals in paints are not fully known. It is also recommended to finish any painting or wallpapering in the nursery at least 8 weeks prior to your due date to allow for any potentially harmful fumes to dissipate before bringing your baby home (if you can, leave the windows to speed-up the process).
Remember to keep the room well ventilated, wear a mask and don’t eat or drink while painting. And the same precautions should also apply when you’re using cleaning products.
It is also advisable to order the larger items of nursery furniture - cot, changing table, storage - in plenty of time to ensure availability. Which leaves the third trimester for the fun stuff: accessorising.
You might also want to order your baby monitor at this point to be sure you’ve got to grips with the functions before baby’s first night in the nursery. Take a look here for low emission baby monitors by Babymoov.
The key thing to remember when designing the nursery is that it needs to be a comfortable and relaxing space for you too, as well as a calm and cosy sleep-promoting environment for your child. You’re probably going to be spending a lot of time in there feeding and gazing at the walls, so bear this in mind when you start to plan.
Must-have items include a comfortable feeding chair or rocker, offering good lower back support, armrests and the ability to sit with your feet planted flat on the floor. If space allows, you might want to consider including a spare bed or day bed for you to sleep in once your baby is old enough to sleep in the nursery.
Consider a changing table that doubles as a dresser or a cotbed that can be extended as your child grows. Organise the room so that you have everything you need close to hand for the nighttime nappy changes.
When it comes to the decoration, accessories, wall hangings and artwork, pick something that you’ll enjoy looking at during those long feeds. Beware of over-theming at this early stage, as the time for Disney or Star Wars themed everything will come soon enough.
Remember also that grey is your friend. Consider this for your walls over brighter colours that may overstimulate your little one. It’s neutral, calming, versatile and still very much on-trend. You can brighten it with white, pastels and accessories to add some playful colour to neutral tones. The other advantage of grey is that you can update the room as your child grows without having to start from scratch.
When and how much your baby sleeps will have a huge impact on your own precious sleep and any parents who’ve learned the hard way will tell you how important it is to get the lighting in the nursery right from the outset.
Organising it so that you’re able to control the amount of natural and artificial light there is in your baby’s bedroom, at any time of the day or night, will pay dividends in the end. If possible the baby’s cot should be out of the direct line of sunlight or street light and blackout blinds, lined curtains, dimmer switches and nightlights are all your friends.
Fail to future proof
When imagining the nursery, don’t just plan for the first couple of years. Think toddler. This involves future proofing for safety and adaptability.
Windows and window dressings should be safe and secure with blind or curtain cords safely out of reach and furniture kept away from the window. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are also among the nursery safety essentials that you should consider.
When it comes to storage items, such as shelves or drawers, be sure to choose something solid that can’t be easily pulled or knocked over by cruising babies or toddlers - for extra security, fix them to the walls or floor.
For versatility and adaptability wall stickers are a quick and easy option. They’re non-toxic, add instant colour to neutral walls and are easily replaced. They’re also safer than heavier items, such as framed pictures, that could be pulled off the wall.
And finally a word on flooring. This is something that you want to consider carefully and get sorted well in advance of the birth. Bare boards are lovely to look at, but they can be noisy when you’re trying to slip out of the room after putting your baby down to sleep, not to mention a splinter hazard for little crawlers.
Carpet is cosy and comforting, not to mention forgiving of little people who are prone to topple and fall on their bottoms. They can, however, harbour dust mites and other allergens so you might want to consider looking for a carpet made from natural, VOC-free fibres. And be sure to sort out any squeaking floorboards before the carpet is laid!
If the cost of natural fibre carpet is a barrier, you could opt for an attractive area rug instead, but beware of any trip hazard and be sure to secure these to the nursery floor to avoid slippage. Other flooring options include cork, laminate and bamboo.
There are lots of milestones to celebrate in your baby’s first year, and with spring springing all around us and Easter just around the corner, it’s never too early to start creating some family traditions.
Even if chocolate is off the menu for a year or two, for the littlest family member at least, there’s still plenty you can do to start making Easter memories with your precious little bundle. And if you have older children, you can get them involved in making this an Easter celebration to remember.
Putting together an Easter basket for your baby can be lots of fun for everyone. Find a shallow basket and line it with a nice soft fleece or even some coloured tissue paper that she can also have some fun with - babies love the sound of crinkling paper. Then fill it with Easter and spring-themed objects that you know she’ll enjoy exploring.
The contents of the basket can be a mixture of old and new, including favourite soft animal toys, shiny tactile objects, a cuddly blanket, a textured board book, a dinner set or a teething toy. You could even ask friends and other family members - grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, godparents - to contribute items to the basket.
We've put together a shopping page to help you find perfect the perfect gift for baby's Easter Basket.
While babies do enjoy the taste of chocolate, the generally accepted wisdom on this subject is that you should avoid it for the first year at least. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t have some egg-based fun with your little one at Easter.
Colourful percussion eggs or nesting toys make the perfect tactile gifts to include in the Easter basket. If your baby is at the grasping stage, he'll enjoy taking them in and out of the basket. And even though he's too young for a big treasure hunt, a little game of 'hunt the egg' will provide an endless source of fun.
Something for the nursery
Woodland wall stickers from Koko Kids. Room decor by H&M. Lamb print from Etsy. Easter garland from Kirkland’s.
There are plenty of ways to introduce a little bit of spring into the nursery this Easter. The addition of cushions, a new picture for the wall, new bed linens, a colourful rug or a new bunny blanket will instantly brighten up your baby’s room.
Another simple yet beautiful idea is to create a springtime forest scene of your little one’s favourite woodland creatures using wall stickers. Here at Koko Kids, we have a delightful set of animal wall decals including a fox, a rabbit, birds, squirrels, hedgehogs and a racoon using vintage floral patterns. They’re easy to apply and re-apply, 100% biodegradable and, because they are made from a fabric that’s free from PVC, phthalates and other toxins, they are ideal for a toxic-free nursery.
The pretty decorations don’t have to be limited to the nursery. Easter provides a good opportunity to get crafty and set your inner creative free. This is also a great project to share with any older siblings or cousins in the family.
You can buy an Easter tree ready to decorate or if you prefer, check out your local florist or grab a branch from your own garden to decorate. Adorn the tree with Easter-themed decorations such as eggs and springtime animals. Your baby may not be able to help but she will enjoy looking at and touching the results and will be adding her own decorations before you know it in years to come.
For more inspiration here’s a quick and simple tutorial from Red Ted Art on making paper chick ornaments for your Easter tree.
Your little one may be too young for egg decorating and big kid treasure hunts, but Easter is a great time to start involving them in the outdoor springtime activities.
If the weather permits, get the family outside in the garden or the park. Bring the Easter basket, throw down a rug and let baby play and explore while enjoying the colours, the smells and the sounds of spring, as well as getting some of that all-important vitamin D from the sunshine.
And if you have the time to get to the garden centre or supermarket before Easter, find a good spot and plant an instant spring garden. Primroses, petunias, tete-a-tete daffodils and other annuals can transform a small patch of flower bed into an instant garden for kids and the whole family to enjoy.
So, the house and garden are looking springlike and your baby is dressed-up for the occasion. Make sure that you capture the moment by taking some great photos. Your baby may not remember their first Easter, but you’ll want to.
When it comes to the Easter photo shoot, you can either do it yourself or book a professional photographer. If you are going with a professional, check out their online portfolio to be sure you like their style, and find out what’s included in the price and whether they can also produce finished artwork for your walls.