When Liz Sender’s daughter turned 8 in October, she requested a sleepover party.
So Sender, a makeup artist in Los Angeles, did what any modern parent does: She looked on Instagram at slumber-party photos. It was there that she spotted WonderTent Parties, which provides a professionalized sleepover experience.
Instead of mismatched sleeping bags cluttering a living room, the company suggests renting its individual pastel-colored tents stuffed with tiny mattresses, pillows and blankets, starting at $90 apiece. The tents are dotted with fairy lights, balloons and lanterns, and every child gets his or her own special space.
Completing the look is a fluffy, inviting white (white!) blanket placed in the center of the tents, where the young guests can gather to play games.
“They were exactly what my daughter wanted,” Sender said of her $600 investment for seven children.
Back in my day (the 1980s), sleepovers consisted of prank telephone calls, games of truth or dare, sleeping bags tossed precariously on the floor and Blockbuster videos. The highlight was the pizza delivery.
But with birthday parties of the rich moving from the home to hotel suites, spas and even high-end yachts, it was only a matter of time, perhaps, before the old-fashioned sleepover got a makeover.
“It’s not enough to have a sleepover,” Sherry Kelly, a psychologist in Palm Beach, Florida, wrote in an email. Kelly is the founder of PositiviTeens, a life-coaching service, and she has observed the sleepover phenomenon. “It must also be an over-the-top experience,” she said.
While many, if not most, parents still make their own popcorn and organize the details of their sleepovers for their children, businesses offering to help add a little polish to the process seem to be thriving. Today, there are about 20 companies in the United States alone.
Trish Healy, CEO of WonderTent, said the idea for the company came after she and her husband, Andy, adopted their daughter, Celia, three years ago through the Los Angeles foster system, when she was 12. On Celia’s Christmas list were two items: She wanted to be adopted, and she wanted to have her first-ever sleepover.
“So I set about creating the most wonderful sleepover experience I could imagine, and in doing so, WonderTent Parties was born,” Trish Healy said.
The company provides delivery, setup and styling of a choice of 15 themes, then collects the items the following day.
“It’s an elevated experience that’s really designed to get friends and families bonding together by sharing an experience that they’ll remember forever,” Healy said, adding that WonderTent has furnished more than 5,000 parties throughout Southern California.
In the Northeast, there’s Dream a Little Slumber Parties, a service founded in March 2018 and offering tents, mattresses, bedding and party favors, personalized eye masks, matching PJs and yes, fairy lights (starting at $175 for two children). Additional options include selfie stations, “glam” stations and candy buffets.
In Britain, there’s the Spectacular Sleepover Co., started a little less than a year ago. It provides the tents, linens, invitations, games, photo props and a sleepover kit containing a toothbrush, sleep mask, bottle of water, candy and tissues for each child. (According to the company, it is averaging three sleepovers per weekend.)
And Muddy Boots Sleepovers in London said it does almost a dozen slumber parties weekly in England that range from about $300 into the thousands, in total, depending on size and extras.
“The fun of a sleepover party is still the same and will never go out of fashion,” said CJ Hadlow, founder of Muddy Boots. Her company, she said, “has simply made it even more magical,” thanks in part to “foam mattresses and organic cotton bedding.”
For those who don’t live close to a sleepover company, tents and soon tepees can be sent through Ship My Sleepover by Sweet Dreams Sleepover, which began in Pennsylvania in 2017 and went national (except for Hawaii and Alaska) in March 2018.
Hashtags, of course, are free, and will likely be copious when using such services.
“As technology trickles down from the adults and teenagers into the hands of the preteens and younger children, they, too, will be exposed to that sense of extravagance that many people fall into when trying to outdo each other on social media,” said Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist in New York City.
But the actual sleep part? Not guaranteed.