Utah kids who don't go down 'til the sun comes up may be in for some nights of creative fun.

As the summer deepens and entertainment ideas may have evaporated with the heat, there is one thing to keep in mind: 70 percent of all slumber parties happen in the summer.And it's not just the girls who have the fun.

Penny Warner, a children's party expert in Danville, Calif., says elementary-school-age boys have a blast at some of the themed sleepovers local parents hold.

A theme or central idea may be the most important ingredient in a successful slumber party, Warner says. Some good ideas come from popular movies, such as "Men In Black" or "Godzilla," which set the tone for decorations, dressup, food and games.

For Amy Farmer, 13, Highland, a favorite sleepover is a "How-to-Host-a-Murder" mind game. Twice now, Farmer has invited seven friends over to put on costumes and read scripts in a play that unfolds a crime plot. It is like "Clue" without a gameboard, Farmer says.

Half-way through, the characters have dinner, chucking the recipes in the game guide for chips and soda. Then they continue their play, reading their parts into the wee hours of the morning.

None of the characters can lie when they are asked questions, but they can change the conversation and distract other characters. Farmer purchased the $30 game from Games People Play at University Mall in Orem.

Not all slumber parties have to be purchased at the store. Most people get a lot of good themes by exploring children's interests and imaginations.

"To plan a good party, you have to think on the child's level," said Connie Smith, a Salt Lake mom who puts on a themed slumber party for her children's birthdays.

On one son's birthday, she invited a passel of his friends to a cowboy event at a grandparent's farm. For invitations, she designed Western-style wanted posters delivered in holsters with plastic guns.

At the farm, the little "crooks" shot down cowboy and Indian figurines tied to tree branches with BB guns. Then they were "deputized" and helped solve a staged crime by following clues.

In a relay race, the boys put on oversized cowboy clothes, climbed on to a saddle atop a bale of hay, and lassoed a target.

And dessert? The heroes chowed down on cowpies and cactus juice (big cookies with milk) to finish off the fun.

Other ideas for themed slumber parties:

A "Star Wars" theme. This could mean driving into the country with telescopes to study the Big Dipper, or even a trip to an observatory. Don't forget some action play with light sabers and the costumes.

A breakfast party. Kids come really late, 9 or 10 p.m. Play a few games, call it bedtime and then roust them early in the morning for a breakfast at Denny's in their pajamas.

A Barbie party. Start off with an aerobics video, then invite "Barbie" (a blonde friend) to come and help girls with their hair and makeup. Top it off with a fashion show with Polaroid pictures.

A Hawaiian or tropical party. Go to a swimming pool for an evening of fun, then serve a fruit buffet at a "tropical island." Don't forget the smoothies and music. Playing flashlight limbo in the dark can be a lot of fun. In this version of limbo, the flashlight beam replaces the traditional stick.

A dinosaur theme. Have a sandbox to dig up "old finds." Or go to a museum and see the real thing. "Jurassic Park" may be a good flick to show.

A wilderness party or campout. Whether the party is in a canyon or in the backyard, guests should bring sleeping bags and flashlights. Adding a campfire or barbeque dinner, telling stories, and doing skits will help wind the night down.

A food party. The kids help cook, cut up, and prepare the food for individual pizzas or a taco buffet. One dessert idea is hamburger cookies. (See recipe in accompanying story.) Or have each guest frost his or her own cupcake or sugar cookie. If it is a girl's slumber party, have someone could teach cake-decorating designs.

A carnival theme, with traditional games. Face painting, pie eating, throwing balls into buckets.

A Robin Hood party. This could include watching the movie, going to an archery range to practice, and having a feast with a forest theme.

A "Princess Bride" night. Start off in regular clothes and go to a fencing center for a group lesson. Then dress up and have a medieval feast.



Follow tips to make slumber party a winner

More tips on planning a killer slumber party:

- Start with a fun invitation. This could include assigning each guest to a role or giving him or her a character name.

- Keep it simple by inviting only as many kids as there are supplies - eight kids if all the plates, cups and napkins come in packages of eight, etc.

- Plan a theme, colors and decorations. Shop at bargain stores and close-outs for the goody bag items or accessories.

- Have a list of games and activities that tie in with the theme. Don't set down a schedule, but have an activity ready that fits your crowd's mood: energetic, sleepy, hungry.

- Decorate the cake with action figures matching the theme.

- Have an activity for the kids to do as they arrive. Don't let guests just sit around. Good ideas include a theme-related puzzle or movie.


Sweet treat

Hamburger cookies: Take two vanilla wafers and squirt yellow, red and green frosting on the flat side. The colors represent mustard, ketchup and lettuce. Then take a chocolate Snackwell cookie for the "patty" and put it in the middle of the two frosted halves.


What to do all night?

Did you know?

- Sixty percent of girls ages 8 to 15 wish Leonardo DiCaprio would come to their slumber party.

- Pigging out and telling ghost stories make a cool slumber party for 70 percent of these girls.

- Twenty-nine percent surf the Net at their slumber parties.

- Top five slumber party activities are: hanging out with friends, staying up late, listening to music, talking about boys and watching videos.

- Seventy percent of slumber parties are in the summer.

Information provided by Pillow Buddies and All About You magazine in a survey conducted March 9-12, 1998, about slumber party habits and wishes. Two hundred fifty-three girls ages eight 8 to 15 were sampled.