How to Host a 'Sleep-Under' for Your Kid's Next Party

When your child longs for an overnight experience but isn't quite ready for it, throw a faux slumber party instead.

Kids and sleepovers go together like campfires and s'mores, but while your little one might be begging to have a slumber party, they might not be old enough to handle one. Sure, sprawling out with sleeping bags and pillows on the floor might sound like a brilliant plan, but if your kiddo is still young enough to be afraid of things that go bump in the night or they still rely on their tried-and-true bedtime routine, then a sleep-under might be the next best thing.

A sleep-under is a faux sleepover party for kids who are still too young for an overnight. In this type of party, the kids are invited over in the evening to do all the usual slumber party activities, but their parents come and pick them up before bedtime. Read on for some great tips to make your child's sleep-under a success.

Sleepover and Sleep Under Party
Lucy Schaeffer. Lucy Schaeffer

Timing and Headcount

The best time for a sleep-under is right around dinner time. After you've decided on a headcount (one or two besties? a whole class?), try to choose a timeframe of around three or four hours, which is perfect for the kids to enjoy a meal, some games, and a movie.

If your troupe of sleep-under invitees arrives around 5, then plan for their departure at or slightly past their regular bedtime (8-ish is perfect!) This gives all the kids time to pick their spots, unroll their sleeping bags, and settle in for a few hours of slumbery fun.

Slumber Party Themed Dinner

Food always plays an important role at parties. From afterschool playdate finger snacks to birthday party pizza and cake, what you serve to eat can add to the general mood and theme of the gathering. For a sleep-under, try serving breakfast for dinner as a fun twist!

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Create a simple waffle or pancake bar on the kitchen counter and let the kids choose their toppings, like whipped cream and berries or maple syrup. Add a side like fruit and yogurt, and don't forget the orange juice.
  2. Mini cereal boxes are a fun way to give everyone what they want. Grab a variety pack of your child's favorite fruity or chocolatey cereals and let the kids choose their own flavors. Round it out with some fresh fruit and milk.
  3. Eggs are always a winner! If you have only a few kids to entertain, consider making omelets or scrambled eggs, toast, and sausage to order diner-style.

And don't worry; you can always order pizza if your kids aren't into the idea of breakfast for dinner!

Don't Forget Pajamas!

Invite the kids to come dressed in their favorite pajamas (and you too!) They should also remember to bring their favorite stuffed animal or beloved blanket, a pillow, and a sleeping bag. After all, what's a sleep-under without all the right gear?

If your child loves crafting, consider asking your guests to bring a blank teeshirt that they can decorate with fabric paint for a fun pajama "uniform" that everyone can wear for the rest of the party.


If your guests are too excited to sit still long enough to watch a movie, try offering a few fun games to keep everyone happy and entertained. Here are a few classics that will definitely help get the wiggles out:

Truth or Dare

What's a slumber party without a thrilling game of Truth or Dare? Since your guests are probably pretty young, you can create fun, scripted, age-appropriate truths and dares for the kids to try out. Ask questions about silly things they've done (have you ever snuck your dinner to your dog?) or their favorite worsts (what's the ickiest vegetable you've ever had?). For dares, keep it simple but fun, like daring kids to bite into something sour like lemon or spin around three times and then try to walk in a straight line.

Dance Party

Crank some kid-friendly tunes and boogie down in the living room. Look up some fun dance moves on YouTube and see how many you can master in one night. A few classics include The Electric Slide, The Mashed Potato, The Cabbage Patch, The Running Man, and The Worm. Or try making up new dance moves and give them hilarious names.

Flashlight Tag

Ask your guests to bring a small flashlight, and when it gets dark enough to use them, head outside for an exciting game of flashlight tag! To keep everyone safe, go over all the rules, including where the kids are allowed to play and where they stay away from (the street, parked cars, dangerous parts of a yard, etc.).

Pillow Fight

Create a space where kids can wallop each other with fluffy pillows without knocking over a lamp (or other breakables!) and let the pillow fight commence. To keep the energy from getting out of hand, have a grown-up be the referee to keep kids safe.


Does your house have a lot of great hiding places? If so, a game of sardines would be epic. Designate one kid as the sardine and have all the other kids count to 10, 20, or 30 to give the sardine time to hide. Then, the kids spread out and try to find the sardine; when someone finds the sardine, they quietly hide with them until all the kids are squished together like sardines. The last kid looking loses this round, but they get to be a sardine in the next game.

Movie Time

Pick an age-appropriate film for the kids to watch for some low-key entertainment. Have all the kids settle into their sleeping bags and dim the lights. Not sure what to watch? Here are a few family-friendly classics that most little kids will love:

  • Mary Poppins
  • Charlotte's Web
  • The Peanuts Movie
  • Ratatouille
  • Stuart Little
  • Paddington

What's a movie without a snack to go with it? Try popping popcorn, serving tortilla chips with nacho cheese, or little goodie bags with classics like Milk Duds and M&M's.

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