Slumberless slumber party

Late-night play date provides all the fun of a sleepover without the actual sleep

LUDWIG@HOME by Howard LudwigI wouldn’t feel comfortable dropping my four-year-old son at a friend’s house to spend the night. It’s not that Bubba couldn’t handle an overnight stay. Sleepovers for preschoolers just seem like a burden for the host parent. Plus, I’m not willing to return the favor.

However, I stumbled upon a sleepover alternative last month. Bubba’s buddy invited him to a late-night play date on Friday night. The evening intentionally coincided with the debut of a new episode of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”

This cartoon version of the Star Wars saga is in its third season. New episodes have debuted on Cartoon Network every Friday night since Sept. 17. The Ludwig family has made an event of each new episode. We get in our pajamas and watch each new show with a bowl of popcorn or ice cream.

Turns out, we aren’t the only ones. Pretty much all of Bubba’s Star Wars-crazed buddies do the same thing on Friday nights. So this play date was simply sharing an already familiar tradition. It’s damn near genius.

I was so impressed with the idea that I talked it up to a few stay-at-home moms at the park district playgroup I regularly attend.

“Oh, that’s the newest thing. They’re called ‘late-overs.’ It’s basically everything you do at a sleepover, but without the sleep. My (seven-year-old) daughter has been invited to a couple of these recently,” one mom said.

I investigated online a bit and found similar late-night play dates called late-overs, slumberless slumber parties and almost sleepovers. The idea isn’t exactly cutting-edge, but the reviews are all glowing. The praise comes largely from parents who’ve previously dealt with a hysterical houseguest who woke up demanding to see their mommy at 2 a.m.

Bubba was thrilled to attend his first Star Wars late-over. The evening went remarkably well, according to my wannabe Jedi and the mom who hosted the party.

Master Howard and his padawans

The following Friday, I decided to reciprocate. Bubba’s BFF and another Star Wars geek from his preschool class arrived in their PJs at 6 p.m. We started with a grilled cheese dinner and an intense conversation. The dinner table buzzed with speculation on the plot for the evening’s episode.

“I think it’s going to be about bounty hunters,” Bubba said with his mouth full of toasted bread and Kraft Singles.

“No, no. It’s about Obi-Wan,” his buddy said.

“I think it’s about poop,” my three-year-old son said, sending everyone at the table into hysterics.

We then headed to the basement to pre-game. I pretended to be a monster. The boys attacked me with lightsabers, Star Wars blasters and the Force. I had to quickly come up with another game after being whacked in the thigh.

I changed gears by offering snacks. But, I still had 45 minutes to kill before the show started. That’s when genius struck. I dug out some old trading cards featuring characters from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” The first one to name the character on pictured the card got to keep it.

The card game consumed a good chunk of time. Then, everyone unrolled their sleeping bags and settled in for the show. The 30-minute program began promptly at 8 p.m. All of the boys sat glued to the screen. Afterwards, I took Bubba’s buddies home.

It was perhaps the most painless sleepover-type party ever… except for that lightsaber to the thigh.

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