At What Age Are Sleepovers Appropriate?

Updated on August 30, 2011
A.E. asks from Waco, TX
30 answers

Hi Moms,

Just want to get your input regarding sleepovers. My daughter just turned 5 and was invited to her first sleepover for a girl who is turning 6. I know the parents, but I don't really KNOW the parents, if you know what I mean. I have a good friend who works for social services and he will NEVER allow his girls to go to a sleepover simply because of what he has seen in his line of work. He gave me some statistics that were just deplorable. My gut tells me she is too young, but at the same time, I feel like a mean mom for not wanting to let her go. So... what do you think? At what age are sleepovers OK?

Thanks in advance!

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So What Happened?


First and foremost, let me say a big THANK YOU for all of your responses. I am truly overwhelmed by all of the great responses I have received. I've read them all and I can see where everyone is coming from.

A little more about this situation - my daughter is 5, very indpendent for the most part, with the exception of bedtime. She loves having her mommy and daddy around. When we have sitters over or even occasions where we've been at a relatives house and she is having a "sleepover" with her cousins, it's hard for her to go to bed when she is out of her routine. I have the feeling, even if I let her go, I'd get a call to come get her.

I probably should have posted this earlier, but I also had a very strange conversation with this mother on one occasion that just didn't sit well with me. She was griping about another mom not wanting her daughter to come over for a sleepover and she made an off the cuff comment about the other mom being "paranoid" and "one of those crazy-types that thinks everyone is out to molest her kid." My response was, "well, you do realize that statistics say that somewhere between 1 and 3 or 1 and 4 girls will be sexually abused before 18 and in the majority of those cases, it's someone they know." She started laughing and said "OH NO! Not you too!" It just struck me as odd that she would discount such a sensitve topic.

Thank you again for all of the fabulous responses. I really do appreciate it!

Featured Answers


answers from Beaumont on

My parents always let me have play dates but we never did the sleep over thing. When it is bed time and kids are tired I think they need to be at home. We did very little of that and then it was when they were older and could call or communicate if there was a problem. I am now thankful to my parents for being that way because so many of my friends were sexually abused or molested.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Personally, I would not allow it. For the simple reason that my 5 year old can't deal with staying up past bedtime and I know it would be a disaster.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

In my house the rule is 10 years old for spending the night at non-relatives. We treat it like a big deal because it is.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

My daughter started in K. She is 16 and I still have a house full of girls on weekends.

When she was younger as well as now, I have always known the parents of her friends and their parenting style. If I did not know the parents, ( I mean know fairly well, not just acquaintance) she did not sleep over.

I understand your social worker friend has seen many horror stories but don't let what 1 person tells you be so dominant in your decision. This is your family. Sleepovers are a lot of fun and it is a shame that his daughter's will never experience it due to what he has seen on the job.

We can't let our children live under a rock, they'll never survive the real world.

Empower them.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Listen to your gut, do what's right for you. My kids are 7 and almost 9, and they have friends who don't do sleepovers yet. No big deal, we just invite someone who does. But we'll still seek play time with the ones who don't.

I would suggest asking if they'd be interested in a "sleep under" -- get the girls in PJs, they have dinner together and play or watch a movie cuddled with sleeping bags and lovies. They get the feel of having a sleepover, then when it's a later-than-usual bedtime, one goes home. With the other family, you can simply say "we don't do sleepovers yet" and any friend worth anything will understand. If they make you feel bad or silly, then you know they are not a family you want to spend time with anyway.

As for your daughter: first you need to decide when/if you feel it would be appropriate for you and your family. If there is an age or milestone that feels right to you, then simply say that to your daughter. [And now you can start one of my favorite lectures "what's right for someone else is not necessarily right for you, we make our own rules for our family..." :)] It helps ease the sense of Mean Mom if it's more about The Rule, then it is about a decision you're making.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Lincoln on

I will be looking forward to seeing what Mom's have to say about his one, b/c I wonder that myself. I do have a boy and so I think they have them less than girls, but I think it'd be hard to let him if he were invited as I wouldn't know any of the parents that well. When I was growing up we had sleepovers all the time, but I lived in a town of 300, so everyone knew everyone. I think my 1st one I was about 6?

Overall, go with your gut on this one and I can't wait to see what other moms have to say! So glad we have our mamasource to run these questions by other mommies! :-)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

You know your child, we don't. My older daughter had her first sleepover when she was three. Her and her one friend were very mature for their age so they did very well. My other daughter was almost eight, not so mature, ya know? She would have driven any parent nuts from lack of sleep.

My sons were never much into sleepovers but started camping at 10.

If your gut tells you she isn't ready and you have a good gut, ya know not overprotective, then go with your gut. You know your kids.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

If your gut is telling you she's too young, listen to it. My daughter started having sleepovers around 7 years old with her best little girlfriend, but didn't start going to sleepover until she was about 9 because she just wasn't ready yet.

You're going to feel like a mean mom for about a million other things over the next decade & a half, so might as well get used to the feeling! It usually signifies you doing the right thing for your babies' best interests!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My 8 year old daughter has been doing sleepovers with friends (well one friend) since she was 3. We know the family and the girls are still best friends, even though we live an hour apart now and only see each other a couple of times a year. My 6 year old and 4 year old sons have never had sleepovers...either at friends houses or friends over. I am okay with it, but a lot of parents aren't. And there is nothing wrong with that. So when everyone is ready, we will do it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I think it is an individual child thing. Our daughter was fine in third grade
(8 yrs old)attending a sleep over. .

Of course we had a neighbor stay over when they were 3 because her parents were having a baby at the hospital, but that was not a true.. "sleepover".

You are the mom and know your child the best..

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I think it really depends on the kid and family. My son has two friends at who's house I would happily let him sleep. I have known each set of parents since before we had kids and all of our kids have been included in eachother's family stuff since birth.

It doesn't sound like THAT is the situation here, though. Just call the parents and let them know that in your family 5 is too young for a sleepover, but you'd like her to be able to participate in the party. I'd probably let her go to the party and just pick her up around 8pm to come home. No mean mom, and no sleepover :) If you want, you can volunteer to help out with the party (that way she's not there alone).


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chattanooga on

I am with your friend. We do not allow sleepovers until age 13 or 14...even then, it is selectively. Yes, they can be lots of fun, but it will not ruin your daughter's life to miss out on them. Some of the things that can happen at sleepovers CAN ruin your daughter's life. Your friend knows and understands this because he has seen it first hand. We made this decision because my husband has counseled men in Christian rehab for drugs and alcohol and heard sleepover horror stories time & time again from these men who were numbing out from their pain with drugs and alcohol. Nothing may ever happen if you let her, but our feeling is...why would you unnecessarily put your child at risk so they can have "fun"? You will never KNOW the parents of your children's friends. Some people never KNOW their own siblings enough to know that they would/could harm their own nieces/nephews. Happens all the time...ask your friend. You aren't letting your child "live under a rock" are doing your job as a PARENT...protecting her. When she gets old enough, she will understand.

Google: Sleepover molestation
For those who think they "know" someone (neighbor, church family) well enough to let their child sleep at their home, here is an excerpt from an article about the BTK Killer, Dennis Rader:

"Rader is accused of killing, among others, a family of four; a widow who lived just three doors down from him; and a young woman whose brother fought with BTK and survived.

"I can't believe what they are saying is the Dennis Rader I've known for 30 years," said Paul Carlstedt, whom Rader replaced as church board president in January. He thought of Rader as "a very good person."

Just days before his arrest, Rader brought spaghetti sauce and salad to a church supper, though he was unable to attend himself, Carlstedt said."

If people who "knew" him could never think of him as a serial killer, why would anyone suspect their "nice" neighbor of having a thing for small children? The truth is, you never really KNOW what someone is capable of. Don't shelter your children, just protect them by not putting them in potentially harmful situations.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Victoria on

Always go with your gut. I dont really feel that it is a age thing as much as a trust thing. My DH is in the police line of work and has seen things that I had no clue that went on in our town. There are dangers out there but at the same time that should not make you not allow your child to enjoy her child hood. Allow your kids to have fun with the people you know and truly trust. Also teaching your kids about stranger danger and what to do will help them trust they can come to you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

My daughter and her friend that lives 3 doors down have been having sleepovers since she was almost 5 and the friend was 4. The friend has only stayed at our house once. All the other times she cries to go back home. I think she's still too young. We know the family really well and do lots of outings and things together.
Well, this summer my daughter (5 1/2) got an invitation from a little girl that was in her pre-k class and there was a sleepover after the party. We didn't know the family. We let her spend the night because I didn't want her to be the only girl who didn't get to stay. Well, it turns out that none of the girls from her class stayed and I didn't want to back out after I had already told her and the other parents that she could. I was worried about the situation all night. My husband called her at 8 pm to see how things were going and everything was fine, but I told myself "never again". There really is no reason to have sleepovers this young. Its really not worth the risk. I still kick myself for allowing her to sleepover at that party and thank God that she was ok. Hope that helps...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I will not be allowing sleepovers unless it is for something required, like cheer or church summer camp or something. I may make an exception if it is with someone we know extremely well, and that won't be closer to 14-ish. I agree with your friend, most people I know who were molested or exposed to something tragic was at an innocent sleepover, and the abuser was either the parents, an older sibling or another child in attendance.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Given the information...sounds like your dtr.isn't ready. I am 50 yrs. old and participated in sleepovers frequently as a child. I personally experienced things no chld should be exposed to.
I did allow my children to sleepover when they were old enough to understand that situations could occur where they need to call me immediately. (No younger than 10). and only with people I knew very well. Let me just say that we cannot protect them 24 hours a day but we can use our judgement about situations that may occur.
I told my kids that I if I ever said "NO" it was b/c I had a sense of unsafeness and not to question it. It only happened a few times in their teen lives that I would get a sense of danger and they usually found out a day or so later that in fact something had happened at a party or sleepover that made them glad they weren't there. This is to your instincts and go with them even when your children think you are mean! Trust me...they come to understand and appreciate it.
My dtr. always had a cell phone with her on sleepovers so she could call if she needed to. (this went for dates, as well.)
God gave you this beautiful little girl to watch over and protect to the best of your ability . We are not capable of (nor should we try to be) being with our children 24/7. I can say this "Prayer" got me through raising 2 boys and a girl and I give GOD all of the credit for protecting them and growing them up into fine young men and women.
Long story what you feel is best for your dtr. at the age you are comfortable with. If just doing late parties is what is comfortable, then go with it. She won't miss anything good!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I did it at three years old.

If you don't know the parents well enough, spend a little more time with the mom. Maybe go for coffee or something. Have you been in the home?

I don't think most people are bad, no matter what your social service worker friend has seen. Your daughter will probably be quite safe.

I think 5 is a fine age for a sleepover.

Also, you can tell a lot about the parents by the child. What is this child like? If she's clean, well-behaved, etc., you can be pretty certain her home is a safe place for your daughter.

I vote for the sleepover.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

never! That was my mom's policy since she was a registered nurse and learned in her profession that statistics show a huge percentage of molestations happen at sleepovers. Grateful to this day I was not exposed to that in the name of "fun" and will do the same for my kids.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I think who they will be around is more important than age, personally. Unless I know the parents intimately, sleepovers won't be happening anywhere buy our house. Call me overly protective or paranoid, but I know too many people who were taken advantage of by people they knew. DD is 5, and there is no way she will be sleeping over at anyone else's house for several years.

This is how it was with me, too. My mom only let me sleep over at VERY close friend's houses, parents that she was comfortable with, and when I was older.

You can give your kids opportunities for socializing, empowerment & independence in so many other ways. You are not depriving your kids of anything buy being strict with sleepovers. Hmmm, being the cool mom & giving in to my kid's begging, or the potentially preventing a life changing & damaging experience from happening... I know what's more important to me.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

You have to do what YOUR gut is telling you.. With that being said, my son started this year at 4... He sleeps at 3 of my different neighbors houses and 2 of his friends outside the neighborhood... I know all the families pretty well ( I know the neighbors REALLY well, their our friends)...



answers from Seattle on

I think it depends on your child and the "host". My daughter is only 4 and has had sleepovers with a very good friends of ours and her kids as well as with my sister and her cousins. In both cases she knew the adults in charge very well, they had babysat for us before and she had a great time - and we got a night out.
She would NEVER be comfortable sleeping over in a house where she has not been before with adults she doesn't know well (like a random school friend's parents).
You know, it's ok to say no, f you feel that you or your child are not happy with it... that doesn't make you a mean mom, it makes you a responsible parent. And for your child... it may even make it easier to say "my mom won't allow it" than "I am too scared to stay the night".



answers from Santa Barbara on

My daughter, now 18, started spending the night at a great friend's house when she was five. I knew the family very well and it was a great opportunity for them to grow, they are still very close 13 years later. I'm certainly concerned about my daughter's safety but I'm not going to keep her on lock down her entire childhood. She has always felt comfortable traveling, going to sleep-away camps and flying cross country alone at 13.

I know your social worker friend has seen a lot of awful things in her line of work but not every friendship or sleepover is like that. Not every car ride will result in a car accident although it is a possibility when we pull out of the driveway. There are opportunities for negative situations in so many things, it is our job to raise them early to be smart and savvy so they are not horrified when they turn 18.



answers from Houston on

I know I'm late and I haven't read all of the responses so forgive me if I am repeating anything, but if you feel she is too young for a sleepover I say go with your gut! An alternative would be to invite the girl for a playdate, or offer to help chaperone the sleepover (if you feel comfortable). From personal experience I can tell you that 5 and 6 is too young, there is no way to control that many and 6 year olds and half end up crying and wanting to go home. I know of some parents that even had to go pick them up in the middle of the night. We had a similar experience with a neighbor's son who is a few years younger than my son, they were having a great time and he really wanted to sleep over but after bed time he was homesick so we walked him home.

Let me just add 1 more thing, I had lots of sleepovers growing up but it was with people that we knew well, and never had any issues.


answers from Kalamazoo on

My kids aren't staying at anyone's house that I don't "know" until at least age 10. PERIOD...(they are now 7 and 9)
I don't care if I come across mean or not.
They stay at families homes and close friends whom we've known for years. That's it. They have full enriched lives and don't feel cheated about it at all. AND they understand why I don't let them sleep over at "strangers" homes. Yes, you might know the child, you might even know the mom and perhaps have met the dad, but do you know other siblings, family friends who might come over, sibling friends who might come over etc. If there are too many open ended questions about the situation - then NO. It's not worth it.



answers from College Station on

My boys didn't start sleepovers until 8 or 9, but my youngest, who is a little more independent than his brothers, has already slept over 2 very close friends houses and he is 7. If they were not such close friends, I would not have allowed it.

But, for girls, I think it is different. Sad to say, there is a double standard. You have to do what you feel comfortable with and don't let the neighbor scare you. Those are rare instances. Hundreds of thousands of sleepover go off just fine.

I know that didn't really help. Sorry


answers from Norfolk on

When I was growing up, sleep overs was something teenagers did.
We did nails, hair, talked about boys, ate popcorn and pizza all night.
I didn't go on a sleep over till I was in middle school (14 or 15 yrs old).
Kids as young as 5 (though 8 sometimes) sometimes have big issues with being away from a familiar bedtime routine - not all, but some.
My son started going to a sleep over lock down at taekwondo when he was 9.
He's never slept over at anyone elses house and he's 12 now.



answers from Austin on

Go with your gut, mama!



answers from Washington DC on

MIne all really started doing sleepovers at 10ish, 5th grade. By middle school for my oldest two I had kids over all the time, now my 13 yo is gone almost every weekend at someone's house. In HS in NC we had a few of my older daughters' girlfriends over or she was at their houses.
I think 5 is too little.
By the time they are in middle school they can get what they need and entertain themselves and not be homesick. They can also cook their own food.



answers from Dallas on

My son is 5, almost 6. He just had his first sleepover, but it was with a family we are EXTREMELY close to. I got several calls and updates throughout the evening and next day. I would not be comfortable with the arrangement had it been an acquaintance. If you aren't comfortable with the idea, it's too soon.



answers from Atlanta on

I started having sleepover around that age. My oldest has done sleepovers at a family friend's house starting at 4, my second was 3 (same family friend) and I've had her 3 year old over for a sleepover, too. Oldest has been talking for a year about having his 6th birthday party be a sleepover for a year now. Now that the birthday is upon us, I'm still fine with it, but I can tell some of the parents are uncomfortable (or in some cases the kids are). So, I do not feel age 5/6 is too young, but it is if either of your isn't comfortable with it.

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