Your child’s first sleepover need not be a dark cloud on the horizon. It’s an inevitable part of growing up, and you should get behind the process. Hosting a sleepover is an art form, as you want to keep the children entertained, but also tire them out in the process. We've gathered 25 of the best games, crafts, cooking and cool-down activities to help you throw your child the best sleepover. Top advice: don’t skimp out on the snacks!
1) Over the rainbow
Send the children on a quest for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Get shiny cards in the colours of the rainbow and hide them throughout the house for the children to retrieve. Write a series of age-appropriate clues guiding the children from red to orange to yellow and so on, then read them out one-by-one. For example: ‘find red at a door that leads to the garden’ or ‘find green where Fido the dog likes to sleep’. The final clue should lead the children to a surprise – a rainbow-shaped piñata (make your own or buy online) filled with pots of gold chocolate coins, for example.
2) Mystery challenge
Hang a piece of string across the room within reach of the children. Count out as many A4 envelopes as there are children, draw a big question mark on each and label with a number, then write a challenge on a piece of paper and place it inside. For example: ‘do a silly dance’, ‘sing a song’ or ‘pretend to be the Queen’. Stick a little plastic toy to the front of each envelope with tape (the toy could match your party themes, such as fairies or dragons). Hang the envelopes along the string with wooden pegs. When the children are ready to play, they each take a turn to pick a number. One at a time, they unpeg their chosen envelope, open it up and read the challenge to perform in front of the group. After a round of applause, they get to keep their toy.
3) Giant 3D sliding puzzle
Put some of the delivery boxes or cereal packs in your recycling bin to good use. Collect similar-sized boxes, stick plain paper to the front of each box and arrange them in a horizontal grid on a table or the floor. Draw a simple picture across all the boxes so that each box in the grid displays just one part of the whole picture, such as a dinosaur, fairy, castle or whatever matches your party’s theme. It’s easiest to sketch this in pencil first, then firm it up in a marker pen. Colour in your picture, then jumble up the boxes. The children must work together to put the scrambled image back together again in the correct order and win a reward. Try stacking big cardboard boxes on top of one another in a grid to make a jumbo vertical version of this game. If you don’t have enough boxes, you can do this with card.
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4) Treasure hunt
Label paper sweetie bags with each child's name at the party, fill them with chocolate coins and put all the bags in a basket or box. Hide this treasure somewhere. Get a notepad and spell out the location of the hidden treasure, with one letter on each piece of paper (like G-A-R-D-E-N-S-H-E-D or R-E-D-A-R-M-C-H-A-I-R). Hide these letter cards throughout the house and lead the children around the trail looking for them. As they get nearer to the trail’s end, they should start to be able to spell out the treasure’s location and hunt it down. If you want to make the game harder, jumble up the order of the letters along the trail so the children must rearrange them at the end in the correct order to reveal the treasure’s location.
5) Slime lab
If you want to win top party points, a slime-making lab is sure to be the talk of the town. Use our simple slime recipe and set the individual ingredients out in bowls so each child can follow the chief scientist's simple instructions. Let everyone put a personal twist on their slime by leaving the pots of biodegradable glitter in the middle of the table for them to choose from. Ensure that all children are aware that this is a play toy that is not edible. The slime can also double up as party bag gifts if you save it until the end of the party.
6) Play with salt dough
Model-making is an excellent sleepover activity, and kids will love displaying their finished creations on the mantlepiece. Learn how to make salt dough for an evening of fun! The ingredients are cheap and easy to find, but you’ll have to keep your little ones distracted as the dough takes 3 hours to cook on the lowest setting. Once they are cool and sturdy, you can paint them however you wish – they make a lovely addition to any goody bag!
Origami is a simple craft that doesn’t require any special equipment – all you need to get started is a piece of paper. We've chosen three ideas for a sleepover activity for kids and beginners to try. Learn how to make an origami frog, butterfly and dog with our easy origami for kids.
8) Rock painting
Gather smooth, relatively flat rocks from outside and paint them in vivid designs. You can even make the gathering into a competition – a prize for whoever finds the best rock. Once painted, they’ll brighten up the garden at any time of year, or you can use them as a paperweight, mantlepiece decoration or homemade doorstop. For more details, see our easy rock painting for kids guide.
9) Play with papier-mâché
Why not pair your love for lowering your waste output with your child’s love for getting messy? Papier-mâché is a great way to give old newspapers a second life, and there are few feelings as satisfying as peeling PVA glue off your hands. See our papier-mâché recipe for detailed instructions and craft ideas.
10) Make a bath bomb
For those aspiring chemists, this one is fascinating. Learn how to make your own bath bomb for a personalised gift for loved ones – you can add your favourite scented essential oils to change the aroma. We've even tracked down where to buy citric acid for you.
11) Make potato stamps
Potato stamps are an excellent sleepover activity, as they make good use of those sad spuds left in the cupboard. Adults will be needed to help make potato stamps, but then you can let the children’s creativity flow. If you don’t have any potatoes, there’s always finger painting. But, make sure all hands are vigorously washed before bed.
12) Make your own playdough
Discover the fun of creating your own playdough. This easy-to-follow playdough recipe is one of our favourite indoor activities – it's made with just plain flour, table salt, vegetable oil and water, plus whatever food colouring you have. Kids can use biscuit cutters to press out shapes or make their own models.
13) Blow some bubbles
If you’ve run out of store-bought bubble mixture or need a quick entertainment idea for the kids, it’s easy to make your own bubbles from washing-up liquid and water. You can also have plenty of fun finding different items around the house that could make bubbles – we made our own bubble wands from paperclips, straws and even biscuit cutters.
Remember to cover up any soft furnishings first if you’re doing this indoors.
14) Make a puppet theatre
This cheap and easy kids’ craft transforms an old cereal box into a puppet theatre, with free printable characters for you to print and colour in at home. Or, if you have any old worn out socks, give them a second life as a new sock character. See how to make a puppet theatre from scratch.
15) Make your own musical instruments
Explore the enriching world of music with some easy homemade instruments. Let the children pick their favourite instruments from an elastic band guitar, paper panpipes, mini harmonica, maracas or a tin can drum and form a new hit band. Make sure this activity takes place earlier in the evening to avoid annoying your neighbours...
16) Make a pom-pom pet
Homemade pom-poms are a quick and budget-friendly craft that kids will enjoy making. You only need wool, cardboard and scissors to create one, then add a pair of googly eyes to make it into a pet. Learn how to make pom-poms with our step-by-step craft guide.
17) Try a science experiment
Part recipe, part science experiment – children will love making our instant vanilla ice cream. Watch as milk turns into a delicious dessert before your eyes. The secret here is adding salt to the ice, lowering the temperature and allowing the milk to freeze in minutes.
18) Sweet treat factory
Is it really a sleepover without an enormous helping of sweet treats? Have the kids help prepare some sweet snacks to enjoy while watching a film. Our s’mores dip is a chocolatey twist on the American classic that's perfect for sharing. Of course, a selection of popcorn is necessary when watching a film. Try our chocolate-drizzled popcorn and brown sugar & cinnamon glazed popcorn for some exciting flavour variations. Edible cookie dough is safe to eat and can be made in minutes. Try different flavoured doughs depending on the crowd: salted caramel, s’more cookie dough, apple & cinnamon and peanut heaven are all good ideas (just be aware of any allergies).
19) Make fairy cakes
Baking with kids is a great sleepover activity, as it teaches them how to navigate around the kitchen and provides the snacks for the evening.! Our iced fairy cakes are perfect for teaching children to bake, as the recipe is designed to be followed by the children, which will help with their reading and ability to follow instructions. Check out more of our fantastic kids' baking recipes.
20) Have them help cook supper
We've developed a series called Kids’ Kitchen, which includes videos and recipes that will teach kids six essential skills to create a variety of delicious dishes from scratch. Our simple stir-fry recipe is an excellent dinner to cook with kids, as it takes only 30 minutes. It includes lots of chopping, so all the children can get involved and practice their knife skills (with supervision, of course!). Check out more of our simple kids' cooking recipes.
21) Pizza party
Pizza is a winner for kids' parties and sleepovers, as it’s popular with even the fussiest of eaters. Our pizza with homemade sauce is a great recipe to make with children, as kids can get messy kneading the dough. It also gives them the freedom to garnish their pizza with whatever topping they like best, helping them learn about flavour pairings.
22) Have a movie night
Having prepared all the snacks for the night, a movie is the next logical step when trying to wind the kids down. Create a den in your front room with pillows and blankets to make it a bit more exciting, then pop on a crowd favourite and watch as eyes get heavy.
For a film treat, whizz up one of our scrumptious milkshake recipes.
This is a great sleepover activity. You can either stargaze from the window or your back garden with some blankets and snacks – take time to learn about our magnificent solar system and the stars in the Milky Way galaxy. The Star Walk 2 app, available on iOS and Android, allows you to point your phone to the sky to identify constellations and stars, and provides an educational guide to the night sky.
24) Yoga for kids
Yoga is a great way to encourage children to exercise. It boosts flexibility and tranquility, and improves their listening skills. Our yoga expert Charlene Lim has created a fun yoga for kids sequence. Read it aloud to the little ones and play along with each character you meet – throw yourself into the sound effects, and you'll get as much enjoyment from it as the kids.
Yoga is a great way to teach children the benefits of mindfulness. Once the children are in the right headspace, try out another of these 10 mindfulness exercises for kids to get them relaxed and ready for rest.
25) Spa day
Get the children relaxed before bed with a wind-down spa day. Ask guests to bring their dressing gowns with them for an authentic feel. The host sets up stations with fluffy towels and footrests and each child gets to book in for a pamper, such as a pedicure, new hairdo or painted nails. Try a homemade natural face mask and cooling cucumbers for your eyes. Keep the little ones hydrated with our mocktails for kids, including watermelon lemonade, peach iced tea and ginger beer.