How to keep kids safe and parents sane

Eight pajama-clad kids, three pizzas, two movies, an endless supply of candy and no sleep. Sound like a party? To almost any kid, it does. Slumber parties can provide a lot of great memories for kids, but only if the chaos is kept in check.

"Slumber parties are a big part of childhood," said veteran party-thrower Deb Buchholtz, mom of Darby, 13 and Jimmy, 10. "They can be tiring, but I think it's a great way to get to know the kids your kids are around all the time."

Below, Buchholtz and Penny Warner, the Danville, California-based author of "Slumber Parties: 25 Fun-filled Party Themes," weigh in on the best strategies for staying sane, keeping kids safe and letting the good times roll.

Find the Right Number: Limit invitees to just a small number to maintain control, recommended Warner, and wait until later - such as 9 p.m. - to start the party: This will help avoid early burnout. Also be sure to include a pickup time the next day, she said.

Plan, Plan, Plan: When her kids were younger, Buchholtz made sure to plan a lot of hands-on activities but has allowed her kids to take the reins as they've gotten older. "Darby really loves to create itineraries for her parties," said the Upper Arlington mom. "It gets the kids excited and gives them a sense of being in charge."

Discuss Expectations: Brainstorm a list of rules with your child, such as "no leaving the house," "no crank calls" or "no yelling," and display them on a poster board or discuss them with guests, suggested Warner. Buchholtz keeps all doors open and checks in periodically with snacks or drinks.

"It's important to keep one ear open," Buchholtz said. "In fact, always check on things if you hear silence!"

Share Information: If a child has previously had problems with homesickness, bed wetting or other issues, parents should communicate this to the party host and discuss how best to handle the situation, recommended both Buchholtz and Warner.

It's also important for the host parent to let guests know that you're there for them if needed and sensitive to their feelings. "A 'stomachache' in the middle of the night is a great way to leave the party and save face," Warner said.

While the tips above may not help you get more slumber on the night of the party, they will definitely help keep kids safe, happy and primed for making good memories. And that may just be worth a night's sleep.

Check out these fun (and cheap!) activity ideas from Penny Warner's book "Slumber Parties: 25 Fun-filled Party Themes":
•Cool Camp-In: Sing camp songs, make s'mores, tell not-too-scary ghost stories and have a scavenger hunt with flashlights.
•Fab and Funny Fashion: Model dress-up clothes from the thrift shop and design gowns using crepe paper.
•Krazy Karaoke: Rent or borrow a karaoke machine and videotape kids' performances. Then play back the "show."
•Beauty Makeover: Set out a variety of makeup and hair products and let the kids give each other makeovers. Take before and after pictures.