So your daughter wants to have her friends over for a slumber party. And while the combination of homesick kids, upset tummies, nervous energy and sleeping mishaps sounds like a recipe for disaster, the potential rewards are huge. Think: Your little one strengthening her friendships, gaining valuable social skills and creating long-lasting memories. All you need is a game plan. Here, 12 tips to successfully navigate a sleepover.

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Two young girls laughing in bed
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Make sure that the kids are ready
Even if your own child has been talking about the sleepover for weeks and already packed her overnight bag, check in with other parents and kids to make sure everyone’s on the same page. (And if this is their first sleepover, make sure to let them know that it’s OK if they want to be picked up early.)

Keep the guest list small
More kids = more chaos. Save the bigger groups for birthdays and special occasions, but for a regular Saturday night slumber party, try to keep the group to a manageable size (think four to six). Tip: Even numbers help ensure that nobody gets left out.

Respect the parents
Be upfront with the other parents about the details of the sleepover (including drop-off and pickup times) and let them know how to reach you. This is for your benefit as much as theirs—knowing about a food allergy or a potential bed-wetting situation means you can handle any issues positively and tactfully.

Three kids jumping on the bed
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Prep your home
It doesn’t matter what age your kids are, scuffles and accidents are inevitable (especially when a pillow fight is involved). Make sure to put any breakables or valuable items away and clear out a space in your home for kids to take over for the evening. Keep a nightlight on in the hallway or bathroom to help guests find their way.

Plan some activities
Talk to your child beforehand about some fun things to do together as a group. The best activities are the ones that everybody can enjoy, like board games or crafts (save the computer games for another time). Encourage these activities but don’t force them. Extra bonus? A high-energy game like football in the park or swimming will tire kids out, making bedtime so much easier.

Kids eating popcorn
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Come up with a secret code
Agree on a word or phrase that your kid can use if things start to get a little out of control. (Something simple like, “Mom, what time is it?” could work.) Or if you sense that your child is getting overwhelmed, ask him to come into the kitchen for a moment to “help you” and check in to make sure everything’s OK.

Keep food fuss-free
This isn’t the time to experiment in the kitchen or assume that your kid’s friends are as fond of tuna casserole as he is. Keep things simple with crowd-pleasing meals like sandwiches, cut-up pieces of fruit and pizza. Make sure to have lots of yummy munchies on hand and include some healthy ones like veggies and dip in addition to the usual suspects (chips and sweets).

Have a wind-down activity
After dinner and games, something fun but more relaxing (like stories or a movie) will help kids get into the mind-set for lights out. Don’t serve sugary snacks or drinks too close to bedtime or little ones will have trouble getting to sleep.

Kids making a fort for a sleepover
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Keep extra supplies on hand
Even if you’ve reminded kids and parents beforehand, someone is definitely going to forget a toothbrush or pillow.

Think carefully about the sleeping setup
To avoid any hurt feelings (nobody wants to sleep on the edge), arrange sleeping bags in a circle with heads pointed toward the middle.

Set a bedtime
Be clear with guests that there’s a lights-out time (but of course, make bedtime a little later than usual). Expect some whispering and giggling to happen for a while after—that’s part of the fun!

Keep mornings simple
Have some books or other quiet-time activities on standby for early risers, and have some easy breakfast options like muffins and cereal at the ready. Make the pick-up time on the earlier side, say, 10:00. (Trust us: The kids will be tired and so will you.)

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