Friday night ESP hosted a sleepover for the extra special siblings of our extra special campers. This was a chance for them to meet other siblings, discuss the common joys and concerns of growing up in a household with children who have special needs, learn how to handle situations commonly experienced by siblings, and learn more about the implications of their brother’s and sister’s special needs. But, first and foremost, it was a chance for these children to have a fun night away from their families where they could forget their everyday stressors and just be kids.
We had children at the sleepover ranging from age six to age twelve. All of these children had different likes, dislikes, talents, and interests, and we wanted to provide an environment where every child felt they could thrive. We alternated between free time and structured activities. We started out the night with a few unstructured activities as a way for the children to get to know each other, and also a get to know the volunteers. From there, we moved on to a more structured “get to know you” game where we used a beach ball to prompt questions and learn names. Then came the favorite activity of the night, “Toilet Paper Bomb Stress Relief.” In this activity the children wrote on a huge dart board all of the things in their life that stress them out, worry them, make them sad, or make them angry. Then they dipped huge wads of toilet paper into water and threw them at their dart boards. The children loved watching the “bombs” stick to the dart board and they began a competition to see who could throw the hardest. After allowing them to get some energy out, we brought them inside to make a “My Life Collage.” This collage was made up of pictures from magazines, pictures of their families, stickers, etc. it was a way for them to open up about their lives and their families and for us to get a glimpse of their families’ day to day lives.
After the activities were finished, we made dinner. Every child made individual pizzas, which they customized with their favorite toppings. Even making dinner was a great, interactive type activity where the children continued to open up to us about their lives. While the girls finished making pizzas, the boys played basketball. The kids all loved the pizza and the Rice Krispie treats we had for dessert! After dinner the children had free time where they ran around playing tag and having races with each other. It was amazing how the children all acted like they had known each other forever when, in fact, they had only just met at the beginning of the night. After they were completely worn out, we all got in our pajamas, put our sleeping bags out on the floor, and watched Madagascar 3.
Saturday morning we made waffles with food coloring and all different fun toppings! There were some very interesting looking waffles – some were blue, green, red, etc.. It was neat to see the children’s personalities even in how they created their breakfast. Then it was time to pack up and go home. We had a hard time getting any of the children to leave because they had all become so attached to each other and to us.
I would say the sibling sleepover was a success! The siblings had fun, expressed themselves, made new friends, and learned (even if they didn’t think that’s what they were doing). Our next sibling workshop is in March and we are looking forward to seeing these same siblings as well as many others!