Blame it on Kathie Lee Gifford (she treated Cody and Cassidy to one at FAO Schwarz). Or Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (they captured a musical one on video). Or on everyday parents who feel terrified by the idea of a crowd of kids pulling an all-nighter or who just want to make their child's birthday party more of an event. Whatever the reason, in some parts of the country, slumber parties have entered a whole new phase.
What's new are the kinds of places where parties are being held. Two years ago, FAO Schwarz introduced the Ultimate Sleepover Adventure in its flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Imagine your child and 14 friends partying in what they may consider paradise; the overnight exclusive includes a scavenger hunt and a gift certificate entitling each guest to $100 worth of toys. It sells out regularly, often via events in which some of the fee is donated to charity, according to Liz Nagengast, co-owner of In Tandem Productions, which also produces a Madeline tea party at the Four Seasons Hotel. She gets all kinds of requests: "People have asked, 'Can we have a sleepover at Tiffany?'"
Well, not yet. But you can throw a slumber party at some pretty spectacular locations, including a Navy submarine at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Franklin Science Museum in Philadelphia, and the Ballpark at Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers.
"I love the fact that everything is planned," says Teresa Harner, a Carrollton, TX, mother whose son attended the Rangers sleepover with his Cub Scout troop several times. Harner was so pleased with the program -- which includes a tour of the dugout and locker room and batting practice with plastic bats and balls (for safety) -- that she now coordinates a yearly sleepover outing for 150 scouts in her area. "A lot of dads volunteer as chaperones," she says with a laugh. "They want to spend the night at the ballpark too."
Some suburban parents are opting to move their slumber parties from the familiar confines of the family room to more spacious and interactive venues, like gymnastics centers, children's play spaces, and bowling alleys. Another trend, particularly among families for whom space is a problem: hotel parties, held anywhere from a suite at the Plaza to a room at the local Holiday Inn. Some parents even rent a limo, letting kids feel like celebrities for the night. Guests are picked up, driven around while they eat pizza, then delivered to the hotel, where they can splash around in the pool and settle in with a video. It's like a post-prom for 7-year-olds with no stress -- and no opposite sex.
What's driving the trend toward more extravagant sleepovers? "We're living in the information age, so people want to be more clever about parties than ever before," says Katherine Wyse Goldman, author of New York's 50 Best Places to Have a Kids' Party. "And with two working parents, you don't have as much time, so people are taking advantage of all the party-planning services out there. What's more important -- to have time with your kid or to plan the party?" The educational component of museum and zoo parties appeals to many parents as well.
Today's busy kids may need the relaxation of an old-fashioned slumber party even more than their moms and dads did, says Carol Weston, New York City-based author of Private and Personal: Questions and Answers for Girls Only and the mother of two daughters, Elizabeth, 13, and Emme, 10. "Kids are so programmed that they don't have much downtime by themselves, let alone with a group of close friends. They relish the thought of having a huge chunk of time just to talk to each other in the dark."
What's more, sleepovers are a symbol of a child's growing independence, notes Weston. "It's an important rite of passage because they feel more independent than ever, yet they're still under the protection of a friend's roof." By age 6 or 7, she says, most kids should be mature enough to sleep away from Mom and Dad.
In the end, it's the ritual, not the location, that makes a slumber party special. "While some families are throwing amazing parties, the kids just love falling asleep and waking up together," says Weston. "Popcorn, videos, and five sleeping bags still guarantee a good time."
These goodies will be gobbled up by hungry guests -- especially after they've helped to prepare them. To create our quilt, each child can decorate a "patch" of pizza dough with a yummy (and healthy) pattern of veggies, cheese, and sauce. Pink lemonade gets a boost of vitamin C when mixed with orange, pineapple, and grapefruit juices. Our just-for-fun dessert: colorful, star-shaped cereal-and-marshmallow treats. To send kids home with a smile the next day, tuck cream cheese and sliced fruit inside French toast. Even the teddy bears will beg for a bite!
Prep Time:1 hour
Cooking Time:15 minutes
Heat oven to 375°F.
Step 1: Before the party, spray a cookie sheet with canola oil. Press dough onto sheet and chill.
Step 2: Place all ingredients in individual glass bowls. Dip a clean paintbrush in tomato sauce, and mark off six square sections on pizza dough; paint the initials of one guest in each section. Have guests take turns filling in their sections with tomato sauce and then decorating with their favorite vegetable and cheese toppings.
Step 3: When the pizza is decorated, bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Each Patch: 349 calories, 23 g protein, 43 g carbohydrate, 11 g fat (6 g saturated), 6 g fiber, 27 mg cholesterol, 447 mg calcium, 3 mg iron, 929 mg sodium.
Prep Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:0 minutes
Step 1: Mix ingredients in a large pitcher and serve.
Each Serving: 125 calories, 1 g protein, 31 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 139 mg calcium, 1 mg iron, 5 mg sodium.
Makes:12 four-inch stars
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:3 minutes
Step 1: Spray a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan with oil; set aside.
Step 2: In a large glass bowl, microwave the butter and the marshmallows on high power for 2 minutes. Stir well and microwave on high 1 minute longer.In a large glass bowl, microwave the butter and the marshmallows on high power for 2 minutes. Stir well and microwave on high 1 minute longer.
Step 3: Add cereal and stir until well-coated. Spray a sheet of waxed paper with canola oil. Use it to press warm cereal mixture into the prepared pan. (If using Rice Krispies, immediately top with sprinkles.) Let guests use 4-inch star cookie cutters to make 12 pieces.
Each Star: 155 calories, 1 g protein, 31 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat (2 g saturated), 0 g fiber, 8 mg cholesterol, 4 mg calcium, 2 mg iron, 130 mg sodium.
Prep Time:20 minutes
Cooking Time:5 minutes
Step 1: Spray a large nonstick skillet with canola oil; set aside.
Step 2: Lay 6 slices of bread on your work surface. Keeping edges free of food, place a generous teaspoon of cream cheese, a generous teaspoon of fruit spread, and 4 or 5 strawberry slices on each piece. Top with remaining bread.
Step 3: In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, and vanilla. Dip sandwiches in the egg mixture, being careful not to let strawberries fall out. Press edges together to seal.
Step 4: Heat skillet to medium. Cook each French toast sandwich 2 or 3 minutes or until the first side is golden brown. Use a spatula to turn sandwich over, and cook until second side is golden brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately with maple syrup, if desired.
Each Serving: 345 calories, 12 g protein, 58 g carbohydrate, 9 g fat (4 g saturated), 5 g fiber, 83 mg cholesterol, 117 mg calcium, 3 mg iron, 462 mg sodium.
Kids will love munching on these sweet and crunchy creations. They're just 2 grams of fat per serving -- that's 8 less than regular potato chips. Olé.
Prep Time:8 minutes
Cooking Time:10 minutes
Heat oven to 375°F.
Step 1: Spray cookie sheet with canola oil and set aside.
Step 2: In a large paper or plastic bag, combine sugar and cinnamon. Add tortilla wedges, and shake well to distribute the sugar mixture.
Step 3: Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Cool before serving.
Each Serving: 153 calories, 2 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate, 2 g fat (0 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 43 mg calcium, 1 mg iron, 127 mg sodium.
Consider this drink chocolate-covered calcium: One serving supplies kids ages 4 to 8 with more than 35% of their daily needs.
Prep Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:0 minutes
Step 1: In a large pitcher, combine the milk, syrup, and candies. Chill at least an hour before serving.
Each Serving: 163 calories, 8 g protein, 27 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat (2 g saturated), 0 g fiber, 10 mg cholesterol, 302 mg calcium, 0 mg iron, 136 mg sodium.
Copyright @ 2001. Reprinted with permission from the June/July 2001 issue of Child Magazine.