THREE AND A HALF years ago, Josefina Martinez received photos from her sister-in-law of her nephews at a slumber party in Bogotá. Each child at the party had been assigned his own tyke-size tent, just big enough to cover the top half of a floor mattress. The result was an Instagram-ready alternative to the age-old tradition of kids crashing out on a haphazard collection of sofa cushions, sleeping bags and gym mats.
When she searched for more examples of these glamping-inspired overnighters, she found plenty in the U.K. and Australia, but surprisingly few in the U.S. “I saw an opportunity to take sleepovers to the next level,” said the Connecticut tax-attorney-turned-party-planner. “I knew right away that this concept would have a lot of appeal in Greenwich.”
Extreme sleepovers are ascendant at just the right moment: After a year of lockdown, parents are eager to indulge their kids, and to do so safely.
These days, on any given weekend in and around her coastal town, you’ll find Ms. Martinez’s company Dream and Party setting up elaborately themed tent villages on lawns and in living rooms. For parents who splurge on catering, decorations and entertainment (tents are often arrayed around jumbo outdoor movie screens) the bill for a sleepover can reach $10,000.
Extreme sleepovers are ascendant at just the right moment: After a year of lockdown, parents are eager to indulge their kids, and to do so safely. Having kids glamp out in the backyard, “especially now that it’s nicer out,” is one way to address the situation, says Dr. Ibukun C. Kalu, the medical director for pediatric infection prevention at Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C. While closer gatherings of vaccinated kids over the age of 12 are possible, taking more care with mixed groups and youngsters is still necessary, said
Dr. Yvonne Maldonado,
professor and chief of the division of infectious diseases, Department of Pediatrics at Stanford Medicine.
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While Dream and Party’s events can cost the same as a small wedding, you can find more affordable options. Sweet Dreams Sleepover Party Rentals, with locations in Jacksonville, Fla., and Harrisburg, Penn., can outfit a sleepover for five, including tents and decorations, starting at $375. The company also offers a nationwide rental service that will send you five tents for $175, according to owner Ray Young, and are adding “Belle” tents that sleep bigger outdoor groups starting at $400. But many parents who know that the penalty for hosting one great sleepover is hosting more sleepovers are opting to buy rather than rent.
storefront Lloyd Creations has made and sold about 8,000 mini tents over the last two years, with 3,000 shipping in the past three months. The company also sells party favors like customized T-shirts and sleep masks.
These kinds of accessories are—even more than organized games and activities—the key to a great sleepover, said Ms. Martinez, who often makes matching pajama sets or robes part of her design. “It changes the party vibe,” she said, reinforcing group cohesiveness. They’re also a subtle (perhaps, wishful) hint that, at some point, the kids will need to go to sleep. The real truth is evident on one of the sleep masks shown on Lloyd Creations’ page: They’re printed with the hashtag #nosleep. A parent can dream, even if the kids won’t.
SLEEP NO MORE / Gear to keep the party going
Ooni Koda 16 Oven
Letting kids create their own pizzas is a time-honored tradition, but that can mean turning your kitchen into a sauna in the process. This compact, gas-powered backyard pizza oven will keep your kitchen cool even as it reaches a top temperature of 950 degrees—hot enough to take a pizza from raw to fully cooked in 60 seconds. ($499, ooni.com)
MosicGO 360 Sport
It isn’t a sleepover without at least one screening of “Legally Blonde.” Consider the splash-proof MosicGO Sport projector with built-in speakers, a set of indoor and outdoor screens, a battery that can last for up to three hours, and low 17MS lag time, making it great for videogames. (from $1,339, eliteprojector.com)
Starlux Games Bump Rumble
Starlux’s array of glowing games is designed to get kids and families running around happily in the dark. Their glow-in-the-dark version of Capture the Flag Redux is a top-seller, while their newest game, Bump Rumble, puts various forms of keister combat in a glowing ring. ($40, starluxgames.com)
While the sparkle in TikTokers’ eyes has a lot to do with youth, it also comes from that essential vlogger tool: a ring light. This 18” model can change colors to cast dramatic and fun lighting schemes to enhance whatever drama the kids can concoct for their next video post. ($100, dixiecharliringlights.com)
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