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We’ve had a bit of a crisis in sleepovers here in Ottawa.  There are two local museums that run wonderful sleepover programs…but unfortunately, one of them has been forced to close (only temporarily, but probably into early 2015) because of a mould problem. EDIT – Nov 2014 – they’ve decided to renovate and the museum will reopen sometime in 2017.

aviation sleepover

Gathering at the Aviation Museum in 2012. Sorry for the fuzzy photo, but it allows me to give you a taste without showing kid’s faces. =)

As you look into sleepovers, think about why you’re planning one. Of course, you want to provide an educational and enjoyable experience for the girls, but the biggest benefit of a sleepover is for the everyone to get to know each other in a new environment for a longer time. The girls (some of whom have never slept away) can try an overnight. And the Guiders have a chance to watch the girls and see who may need a little more prep before you take them on a two night sleepaway camp. We also try to look for a sleepover location that is close to home (just in case someone needs to abandon ship).

With that in mind…here are some sleepover ideas (if you add your ideas in the comments, I’ll edit them into this list later).

  • The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is open for business and has a top notch program. Try holding a Brownie Opening in the Hall of Honour (so fun!). You need to provide your own evening snack (granola bars) and morning breakfast (easily accomplished with muffins, an apple and a juice box).  And you get to sleep under an airplane! Cost works out to be around $25 per girl (if you have 25-30 girls and 5-6 leaders. Any more or less will increase the price – we had fewer girls so our cost was around $35 per girl). We slept under the Helicopters (it was dark enough to sleep, but there’s a small and well-lit washroom nearby) and it was great.
  • The Canada Science and Technology Museum is currently closed (Sept 23, 2014).  When they are open, they run a marvelous sleepover program.  We like their puzzle hunt program especially – it is very active, interesting, and good for tiring the girls out so they’re ready for bed.  Bonus is that there is a cafeteria and they provide coffee to adults in the morning with a breakfast of cereal and fruit.  And you get to sleep between trains.  Read this though to make sure you sleep in the right spot. Cost is around $38 per girl (includes breakfast only option).
  • Church Basements and community centres are great potential sleepover spaces, if you can book them.
    • PJ party...Have girls arrive at 7:00 in their PJs (bring sleeping bag stuff, toothbrush, etc), sing songs, watch a movie or do a spa/manicure night, introduce your teddy bear/sleep friend, play some games, go to bed by 9:30 or 10. Up by 7:30-8AM.  Breakfast and out by 9:30 or 10.  Done.
    • Drive in Movie – get boxes, have them decorate them like cars, watch a movie with popcorn, go to bed.  Up for breakfast.
    • Superhero Sparks Sleepover – themed evening with a cape to decorate.
    • My favourite is to have them put up a campsite inside!  Borrow some tents, teach them how to put up a dome tent.  Let them set up their beds.  Play some wide games like you’re outside. Do a candle (or flashlight) campfire. Done! They’ll love it.  (And you don’t have to dry out tents in your garage for days!)
  • Cosmic Adventures is an option. I know of groups that went and who loved it. “You can sleep anywhere… just not at the top or bottom of a slide.” Most Ottawa kids have been to Cosmic and it is a popular spot for kid’s birthday parties.  Cost is around $40 per child.
  • Funhaven is also an option (I honestly don’t know much about it, but found group sleepover info so included it here). It is also a hot spot for kid’s birthday parties so your kids may have already been there.
  • I’ve heard unconfirmed rumors that Skyzone and Laser Quest have sleepover options.

Please add to this list. What other ideas are out there?

Previous Sleepover Posts:

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Today’s Parent (June 9, 2014) had a fantastic article from a parent’s perspective about preparing your child for sleepover camp.  It is especially neat because this is a Guiding family with a Spark and a Brownie.  Thanks Snowy Owl for finding it.

Since we’re talking about camp preparation… the 64th Guides wrote a great article about why girls should help pack for camp.

And this is a nifty clip art from http://www.mormonshare.com/sites/default/files/handouts/cg_camp-2.jpg 

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Brownies slept over at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa on Friday and it was one of the best sleepovers we’ve ever had.  We hit the jackpot with a session leader who reviewed our Key to STEM requirements and who took the time to work out a program for us.  The girls loved the program and were super interested.  The leader hit all the points in STEM – people in science, caboosh, Stargazing (we even got to go out to the observatory!), building up… the whole thing.  The program ended around 9:15, and the girls were asleep by 10PM.  Without shushing and goofing around.  Our Owl team is pretty good at settling the girls down to bed, but even we were surprised.  You hear nightmare stories of girls being up all night… but, we’ve never had that happen.

  • Pros: Excellent program, neat place to sleep, they feed you breakfast (with coffee and tea for leaders) in the morning.  Excellent cell service so I was able to send e-mails to parents to update them on our evening (because, as much as this first outing is for us to suss out how the girls will do on a longer trip…it is possibly the first time the parents have left their girls for a non-Grandparent sleepover).  And the museum provides sleeping mats (so you don’t have to deflate 20 Thermarests).
  • Cons: Expensive – we charged $30 per girl to cover most of it with the unit budget covering the rest.  But we were blown away with the program.  In our opinion, we got a great deal.

As a public service for future sleepovers… I thought you would appreciate some direction about where to put your bed.  Some spots are better than others and you can’t tell until the lights are out… and once they’re out, you can’t move people around.

Where to put your bed at your next sleepover at the Museum of Science and Technology.

It was a great night.  If you’re looking for more info, check out Brownie Sleepover, Night at the Museum and don’t forget to advise the Fire Department that you’re in a building that isn’t usually occupied.

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Our sleepover is tonight and my enthusiasm is building for it (last night was a different story).  It’ll be fun.  I hope.  Think of us, will you?

One of our last tasks before heading out is to inform the Fire Service that there will be people in a building overnight that isn’t usually occupied.  They will always respond to a fire (of course!), but they will prioritize the call differently if they know that there are nearly 50 people in a building over one that is empty.

Information for Ottawa, Ontario (Call the non-emergency number in your city or municipality to find out about what you should do in your area)

  • Who to contact: Ottawa Fire Service prefers that we FAX them the details on the day of the event. Here’s my Fax Template: Inform Ottawa Fire about Sleepover.  Fax 613-247-4843.
  • What to tell them: Location, dates, arrival time, departure time, number of people (general age groups), where you’ll be sleeping, and give them a contact.

It is a simple step, but Girl Guides are always Prepared!

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The girls love sleepovers.  They get to go someplace neat and see it in an unusual way.  Suggestions: Church Hall (try setting up a tenting site!), Museums, Cosmic Adventures (Guider Sara from Ottawa tells me that the girls can sleep anywhere in the play structure except the ball pit and at the top or bottom of a slide… super cool!)

For Guiders, sleepovers are pretty neat too.  We get to see how the girls react to being away from their parents without being too far away from a pickup if necessary.  It is a nice safety net that can prep us for camp.  We also like to schedule the sleepover on Friday night.  Yes, you work all day on Friday, then have a restless sleep overnight, but by 8AM on Saturday morning, you’ve still got your entire weekend ahead of you.

My goal for these things is that it is fun for the girls, but that we’re not up all night in sleepless chaos.

Last night we slept over in the train room at the Canada Science and Technology Museum (Ottawa) and followed the Puzzle Hunt program.  There are other programs – we’ve done the Astronomy Night before, and Sparks did Scavenger Hunt.  We LOVED the Puzzle Hunt program.  The girls were active and busy the whole night.  In fact, they were so pooped by the end that they were mostly asleep by 10:15!  Huge Success!

Things to think about:

  • Cost – when you’re planning this sort of thing, don’t forget to account for cost of admission for the Guiders. You’re a volunteer.  You should not pay for admission.
  • It isn’t cheap.  Plan to figure on about $40 per girl for the night we just had.  Don’t forget tax in your calculations!  You can fundraise, use cookie proceeds, or get parents to pay for it.  Or some combination of all three.
  • Planning – It is usually a Yellow Level Safe Guide event, but pretty easy to get permission for if you’ve got enough supervision.
  • Sleeping in buildings that aren’t usually occupied – In Ottawa we’re required to advise the Ottawa Fire Service  of the fact that girls are sleeping in a building that isn’t usually occupied overnight.  The idea is that they will prioritize rescue differently for a building with nobody in it than they will if they know there are children inside.
  • Options – For younger groups, think about doing a Mom and Me.  But the cost of extra adults is pretty big (extra adults at Science and Tech is $15 each)so that might be better suited for a church hall.  The neat thing is that supervision is covered and younger girls get to try things with the security of a trusted adult on hand.
  • Bedtime strategies for putting big groups to bed.  You parents (I am not a parent) already know how important it is to handle bedtime properly.  I’m not saying  this is the only way, but here is an amalgamation of all the strategies I’ve learned to help the girls (who usually don’t share a room with lots of other people) to sleep.
    • The girls are going to giggle, whisper, and maybe worry.  Reassure them.  Have a Q&A so they can get things out.
    • The Museum offered us the option of a movie before bed.  We declined.  The girls were drooping anyway, and TV tends to energize some of them.
    • Let them know the rules… boundaries, how to handle bathroom trips in the night (the rules change from place to place), when and how they can use flashlights (no beaming people in the face), etc.
    • Start using quiet voices.  Require them to do the same.  Everyone into PJs, teeth brushed, and into bed.
    • Have a quiet song campfire.  (Make New Friends, Land of the Silver Birch, Barges).  Finish with Brownie Closing (Oh hear us now)
    • Read a couple of stories (NOT ones they’re familiar with – look for a legend or something that they wouldn’t have heard before – I have a copy of Campfire Activities (GGC 1993) that always comes with me to this sort of event and last night I read Lee Piddle Thrigs and Why we have day and night) .  Rules during stories… you may listen to my stories, you may read your own book with your flashlight, and you may fall asleep.  You may not talk to each other.  When my stories are done it is time for lights out.
    • Then you have to supervise the whispering.  A sharp but quiet PSST usually stops a whisperer … and if they need to ask you a question, they can do that too.  It usually works.  (Note, this only works until girls are about 8.  After that they can wait you out.)
    • Lastly…  pick the most no-nonesense of the Owls to make this happen.  The bedtime owl needs to be compassionate, but they also need to have the ability to be stern to shut down silliness.

Sleepovers are great ways to have a pre-camp preview of how your girls are going to handle being away from home.  They can be pretty expensive… but there are ways to do it on a budget.  Just make it fun.

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