The group established by our founder Vanessa Ramsay was created to enable a safe & friendly space for existing & new UK (only) based Sleepover businesses. The objective is to help each other to share & implement good, safe practice now, so we can protect our businesses and valued clients in the future.
The safety of our tents is the number one priority and it should be yours too as a supplier of sleepover tents for a commercial purpose. Our tents comply with the very latest standards which came into place on the 1st January 2021, the Toy (Safety) UK Regulations 2011 (BS EN71) and that includes all accessible components, the wood, the fabrics, the velcro and even the sewing thread. All these components have gone through independent chemical and flammability testing by our UK based accredited laboratory Bureau Veritas. This is the required standard for play tents placed in the commercial marketplace in the UK, and is the reason we place the new UKCA compliance mark on all our tents. We also supply CE compliant play tents to our friends in the EU and Northern Ireland labelled with the CE mark.
A play tent is classified as a toy and play tents for sleepovers are no different, they are still toys. In fact in March 2020, the UK Interpretation Group for Toy Safety, directed that play tents for sleepover parties are toys and need to be UKCA compliant in accordance with the Toy (Safety) UK Regulations 2011 (BS EN71).
There is complex legislating applying to the safety of toys regarding hazards due to its structure, mechanical properties any issues regarding flammability and also chemical migration through the skin or saliva. This legislation relates to manufacturers of toys (us) and suppliers of toys for a commercial purpose (you). This is the same legislation that involves the safety of slime (yuk!) and dressing up costumes which can burst into flames (think Claudia Winkelman’s daughter!)
A play tent is a toy, which a child enters. If they were asleep and for some reason the tent caught fire they need enough time to get out safely hence the flammability testing of fabrics. Play tents have their own specialist flammability testing under section 4.4 of EN71 Part 2: 2014. You cannot just stick any old fabric on the tent because you don’t know how quickly it will burn, the flames spread or if there will be any molten drips. Every component of the tent has to be tested for structure, flammability and chemical migration and in the case of play tents the flammability and chemical migration tests have to be undertaken by a UK registered independent test laboratory. Only once all tests have been passed can the UKCA mark be applied to the toy or packaging and a document called the UKCA Declaration of Conformity will be completed by the manufacturer. Ask you manufacturer if you can have a copy of their CE / UKCA Declaration of Compliance. It is good evidence you have complied. As a sleepover business you may be asked by Trading Standards to produce it as proof that your equipment is legal. If your equipment is not legal you risk a child being injured, your insurance being made void, being made to stop trading or worse, prosecution.
Ness our company owner used to sell the frames and canopies separately but found she was encouraging people to break the law by buying her frames then putting any fabric on it. So she decided to no longer sell the frames separately. A word of advice, don't buy frames separately and put your own fabric on them. You are breaking the law and risking the safety of a child!
Your natural response may be that you have seen lots of sleepover companies with lavish fabrics covering their play tents and frames with poles through the holes in their joints! They are not legal and in fairness when Ness started doing sleepover parties 4 years ago making her own play tents with duvet covers she unwittingly was naive of the law surrounding play tents and it was only when she spoke to a friend who made soft toys she made Ness aware of the legal requirements both as a maker of play tents but also as a supplier for sleepover parties. Well we can reassure you Ness stopped trading and put everything right and that’s why we are confident that when you buy from us, you will receive a product which reaches all statutory safety standards but that they are made to endure the rigours of multiple children playing in them as well as being transported backwards and forwards in your vehicles. By the way, duvet covers do not undergo the same test standards as the fabric covers for play tents so please don’t assume duvet covers are safe to use ON your play tent because they are not unless you have had them specifically tested under BS EN71.
Likewise, if you buy a UKCA compliant play tent, don’t go and drape your own untested fabric over the play tent canopy as you undermine the safety of the entire play tent should it catch fire. You may as well not buy a CE / UKCA compliant play tent.
A word of warning. There are manufacturers of play tents on Ebay, Etsy and Facebook who claim their tents are CE / UKCA compliant particularly the fabric. We know from the various forums that the testing of their fabric has been conducted at home with a Bunsen burner. This is strictly prohibited and the legislation specifies a test so technical it would be impossible for fabric to be tested by a novice. Please view the test on our Facebook page timeline. Certificates are issued by independent test houses who conduct the test. All components including the Velcro and sewing threads also have to be independently chemical and flammability tested and have a certificate issued.
The reason we major on these points is two fold. We don’t want you to unwittingly pay a lot of money for play tents you were told are CE / UKCA tested and marked, and they turn out not to be, and secondly don’t be tempted to make your own covers unless you are prepared to take on the responsibility as a manufacturer and have all the components independently tested, produce technical files and issue a UKCA Declarations of Conformity. If something goes wrong, it’s the manufacturer who bears the responsibility if the item is found to be defective. So enough about safety!
This is the first question we will ask you before you buy a tent because it will determine what size play tent will fit in your vehicle. Play tents start at 110cm high and 115cm wide although we now do a slimline version 91cm. The width is variable and the play tents fold almost flat for storage or transport. But we can make them much bigger, up to 160cm tall. You need to decide if you are A) happy to take the play tent and canopies to the venue and set them up there and take them back down afterwards (takes longer) or B) would you like to be able to build the play tents just once, pop the canopies on and off you go in your vehicle (takes less time). 40% of customers build and dismantle the play tents at the venue and with the help of a decent rechargeable screwdriver (set on low speed!) and the right drill bit this process can be speeded up significantly. It also means you have more flexibility re the size of the frame. But remember our new slimline tents give you great flexibility, you build them once which reduces wear and tear on the parts, and off you go! They reduce time spent assembling them and that time could be better spent with your family or doing something you enjoy.
Top Tip - measure the boot opening as well as the inside of your car / van before ordering.
Once you have determined your mode of transport you can start thinking about what size play tent would suit your business.
All sizes of frames we make have exactly the same construction and the same substantial timber measuring 44cm x 36cm. Our usual frames range from 110cm high to 160cm high.
We create by hand 5 sizes of A-Frames so you have lots of choice for your business whether you are starting out, or expanding your business to include older children or even adults.
The Best Friend - Standing at 160cm high and depth of 115cm, the Best Friend tent is one of our most popular tents as you can pop a double mattress inside up to 140cms wide and two friends can sleep under canvas. It can fit in two single mattresses up to 70cms wide too. These frames are perfect for siblings, best friend, mummy and me or even couples sleepovers. They also look beautiful pitched in lace for wedding corners, woodland picnics or afternoon tea parties! Unlike other manufacturers, we use thicker timber measuring 44mm x 36mm for our A-Frame legs to give it both strength and stability, a requirement of the Toy (Safety) Regulations UK 2011. The Best Friend A-Frame is also available in the slimline 160cm tall and depth of 91cm.
The Majestic - Standing at 140cm high 115cm depth, the Majestic is one of our most versatile tents! This is your ideal tent if you want to start a business and include older children or adults as sleepover clients. There is plenty of head height for grown ups to sit up and you can comfortably fit in a mattress up to 80cms width. Unlike other manufacturers, we use thicker timber measuring 44mm x 36mm for our A-Frame legs to give it both strength and stability, a requirement of the Toy (Safety) Regulations UK 2011. The Majestic A-Frame is also available in the slimline 140cm tall and depth of 91cm.
The Standard - Standing at 119cm high and 115cm depth, the Standard is our most popular A-Frame to start your business with. The frame will easily accommodate children up to the age of 12 years (subject to the odd taller one!). Unlike other manufacturers, we use thicker timber measuring 44mm x 36mm for our A-Frame legs to give it both strength and stability, a requirement of the Toy (Safety) Regulations UK 2011. The Standard A-Frame is also available in the slimline 119cm tall and depth of 91cm.
The Starter - Our Starter is exactly the same as The Standard minus the little criss cross at the top. Popular with customers who may have smaller than average transport and need that little bit more room to fit the frame in their vehicle. Unlike other manufacturers, we use thicker timber measuring 44mm x 36mm for our A-Frame legs to give it both strength and stability, a requirement of the Toy (Safety) Regulations UK 2011. Available in the slimline 110cm tall and depth of 91cm
The Mini - At 50cm high, we couldn't resist adding this little gem to our range for teddy bear picnics or a bit of Elf naughtiness at Christmas!
Who doesn't love a wigwam?
The benefits of the wigwams are that they are light, easy to transport and easy to set up ( once you get the knack! )
The smaller wigwams are ideal for indoor sleepovers and similar to the A-Frames, can be accessorised with virtually anything and any colour. Many people panic that they won't fit them into their cars but they will fit into a medium size family car, straight down the centre of the car.
The larger double wigwams have real wow factor and are better used for best friend / sibling sleepovers or look stunning dressed in lace for weddings, afternoon tea parties, beach or woodland picnics.
Wigwams come in two sizes and a choice of 9 colours in plain, machine washable 100% cotton heavy weight Panama or 14 stunning lace colours including our most popular white or ivory. We can also make the canopies in a combination of plain panama with lace curtains. The lace covers are ideal for weddings and picnic settings and the price is the same.
The Standard Wigwam is 180cms tall when closed and has a footprint of 110cm sq when open.
The Large Wigwam is 235cm tall when closed but reduces to 206cms tall when open so it will fit into the majority of rooms. When open, it has a 140cms sq footprint, ample room for two single or one double mattress. Ness even popped it in her saloon car and managed to rest it on the dash.
We only use full length 25mm diameter pine poles with no nasty plastic joints which break plus they can still fit into an average family size car!
We use 8 ply double marine core cord to secure the poles and glued, rubber feet which stop the wigwam moving on smooth floors.
Add to this, fully machine washable, luxurious, hard wearing fabrics, then you know you are buying a top quality product.
Our top quality plain panama fabric is made from 100% cotton, soft to the touch but super tough due to its medium weight credentials. It's a pleasure to launder and iron.
Our stunning lace is 100% easy care polyester, having a luxurious weight and 3 dimensional weave. Its robust while remaining elegant. It also does not crease - heaven!
Your wigwam is finished with UKCA / CE marks on both the poles and canopy so they are fully traceable back to us here, in the UK.
TOP TIP! Make sure when buying your play tents, that the manufacturer also supply spare covers preferably in different colours to give you choice in the future.
Many of the budget online stores which sell lower grade play tents aimed at the domestic market will not supply extra or different coloured covers. you will be stuck with the ones you purchased and be forced to buy new play tents.
Many people new to the industry don't think of this when they first start out and maybe on a tight budget. It is only later when they want to up their game with different colours that they find other manufacturers are not allowed to supply covers for another manufacturers play tents and you cannot make your own unless you are prepared to have your entire play tent tested again for CE / UKCA compliance. It's a sobering moment when faced with this dilemma.
Patterned fabrics. This is a hot topic! Most of you will want lavish themed or patterned fabrics and why wouldn’t you, they look amazing and add an incredible ambience to the party. However when we start looking at the fact each fabric style will need to be independently tested for chemical migration and flammability (approx £200 - £500 per fabric) depending on how many colours it has in it, it becomes very expensive! We tried testing several fabrics to give our customers choice but as you can imagine everyone has different tastes and the patterned fabrics were slow to sell but expensive to test......and lots of them failed the tests! However, we are now slowly expanding our patterned range and there's more to follow during 2021 / 2022.
On a side issue, you cannot put fire retardant fabric on your tents because the chemicals in the coating are toxic to children if they ingest them and they would likely fail chemical testing.
If you have any doubt that plain fabrics are boring and uninspiring, pop over to our gallery and see what folk are doing to accessorize and stylize their venues with plain covers.
Let us share some logic with you. Lets say you start with 6 play tents and six canopies. Most people want to offer themed parties and why not? So that’s 6 unicorn canopies, 6 mermaid canopies, 6 wizard canopies so on and so forth. That’s a lot of canopies and you are tied to that theme. There are more smart alternatives. About 75% of our customers start with neutral colours either white or ivory which can be accessorised for boys or girls parties and then gradually introduce more themes with accessories or coloured canopies. Another option; imagine buying a set of covers for girls consisting for example 2 teal green, 2 bright pink and two sky blue, you could do unicorns, mermaids, flamingos, boho, after prom and many other themes just from 6 covers. Boys, 2 black, 2 green, 2 navy blue, you could theme these as armies, football, wizard, super heros, Halloween ...now that is a smart way to save money on canopies and spend your money on accessories. Remember themes come and go but your canopies are the little black dress of the canopy world, they can go with anything if you choose wisely.
We are always being asked "what mattress should I get"?
Our first answer is quite truthful, what can you afford?
The most important thing to aim for, is to give your guests the most comfortable nights sleep, after all it's a sleepover, not an 'awake - over'. And if the kids are happy, so are the carers.
There are 3 types of mattress which are popular right now in the sleepover industry. The inflatable mattress, the PVC covered foam mattress and the pillow mattress.
INFLATABLE MATTRESS The inflatable mattress is often a smooth or flocked plastic mattress which you blow up either with a foot pump or electric pump. They are relatively cheap, lightweight, easy to wash, store and transport. On the downsize, many tend to deflate mid sleep, and they puncture easy especially during rough play. Also take into consideration the time it takes to inflate them and deflate them. Plan for kids jumping on them as well as pointy sharp objects inside play tents.
FLAT FOAM PVC COVERED MATTRESS Next up are the flat foam mattresses which have a PVC cover which can be wiped down. They come in various lengths, widths and depths. The obvious benefit of these mattresses are they are easy to wipe down. The ones which are 50mm thick do roll up but not as comfortable as the thicker ones eg 100mm thick. The 100mm thick ones cannot be rolled up. They are great to transport in a larger car or van but you need to think about where you will store them when not in use. Ensure when you buy them they have a label in them which states they are compliant with BS 7177:2008+A1:2011. This means they have been flammability tested in a lab to ensure it burns slowly.
THE PILLOW MATTRESS This is like a giant pillow case cover into which 4 or 5 pillows are stuffed into separate openings. The pillows must carry a label in them which says they comply with BS 7177:2008+A1:2011. Again this means they have been flammability tested in a lab to ensure it burns slowly. The advantages of the pillow mattresses are they are super comfortable, can be put into the washing machine for a thorough clean, and they roll up so they are easier to transport and to store between uses. One top tip is to cover the pillows in waterproof covers before placing them inside the opening should there be any spillages which will save you having to wash them.
So the mattress choice is yours – just experiment and find what works for you and your guests.
The other question we always get asked is ‘how many play tents should I start with’? There are so many factors to consider. The first obvious one is how much is your budget? Is this full time or part time? Do you want to grow your business over time? How many can you store and transport?
Everybody has their own reasons for wanting to start a sleepover business and we try to explore that with you if you asked us the question.
Our advice unless you decide to do a full on major investment launch, is start small. Grow organically, learn your trade and add more play tents as you understand the needs of your customers. Consider each frame needs to have the basics, as minimal a mattress, bedding, maybe some lights and accessories. Consider how you are going to transport and store all these items. Trust me just 4-6 play tents complete with accessories takes up a lot of room and requires a great deal of cleaning. Also, you don't want redundant stock laying around not making any money.
Below are some examples of how we have helped customers to begin their business:
A customer had a smaller budget and could only afford to buy two play tent frames and canopies per month or couple of months. She now has 8 frames and is thriving!
Most customers buy 4-6 frames and a single neutral colour / individual colours or two sets of canopies in different colours. And when they have requests for5, 6, 7 or 8 play tents, they buy a few more.
An increasing number of customers are buying 8-12 frames and various canopies as they intend to have a couple of parties running concurrently. We find the majority of these people already have bouncy castle, soft play, balloon or bell tent businesses but want to expand or have options for the winter months.
So as you can see there is no single ideal on how many you should start with as it depends on your budget, time and space available and ambitions.
You need to take out Public Liability Insurance. You are a business like any other business and you are responsible for the services and goods you provide. If something goes wrong and you get sued, at least your insurance will cover you. £5 million is the minimum recommended. Also if you employ someone or even if you take your friend along to help you and they have an accident, they can sue you. It is an offence to employ someone (any age, for money or other gain, or just as work experience) and not have Employee Liability Insurance minimum £5 million in place. If in doubt make enquiries. If you collaborate with another business, make sure they also have insurance.
You may also want to consider insurance for your equipment or any other products you offer such as food, or other party supplies in case they get damaged or stolen.
You can visit our friends over at Risk Kitchen and ask them to give you a free, no obligation quote whether its play tents, bells, igloos or gazebos. Risk Kitchen have worked with the UK sleepover industry to understand the unique needs and challenges faced by sleepover and tent hirers. By 2021 they had provided over 2000 sleepover businesses with public liability insurance cover utilising the 6 specialist underwriters whom they have partnered with. You can get your competitive quote below.
* In the interest of transparency, please note the Bare Naked Wood Company Ltd is given a small commission for any customer who requests a quote and goes on to purchase the policy. Other insurance providers are available .
As a business you are required by law (Section 3 Health & Safety at Work Act 1974) to adhere to all legislation relating to the health and safety of yourself, your employees and the public. You need to consider doing a risk assessment each time you stage a sleepover and include things like escape routes, food allergies, trip hazards, fire hazards to name but a few. It does not have to be in writing, however it is far more professional to have a written risk assessment that is invaluable evidence if things go wrong and the HSE come asking questions. If you are subject of a catastrophic incident involving a service or product your business supplies, it will be a very difficult and worrying time and being able to handover a couple of sides of a basic risk assessment you have completed will make things much easier.
During the current Pandemic, business have been compelled to have a COVID 19 Policy, a risk assessment, method statements and evidence they are operating safely.
We have written a Guide to Risk Management and Risk Assessments for UK Sleepover Professionals. You can get your copy here.
A professional business owner will have as a minimum a booking form and some form of terms and conditions that should be read and signed by the customer. It is the foundation of your business and sets out the expectations you have of your customer and they have of you. It is good to have something to refer back to in writing when things don’t go to plan. It also shows your customer you are professional and care about them and your business.
To ensure your contract with your customer is binding in law, you must give them both the booking form AND your terms and conditions at the same time. Invite them to read the terms and conditions, it's up to them if they read them or not but you must provide a copy.
Don't be tempted to copy someone else's terms and conditions. These are a vital legal document which are to be relied upon by you as the supplier and your customers should something go wrong and either has to resort to a legal matter. get some written up by a professional or head over to the legal websites with correctly drafted instant templates.
Don't make your terms and conditions onerous or unfair. There is law which prevents companies publishing unfair or non legal terms and conditions . Take a peep at it in the link below from trading standards. And remember statuary law will always trump your unfair terms and conditions.
One final word - DEPOSITS - You are a business, not a charity. The vast majority of decent people expect to pay a deposit for items they hire as well as face some extra charges should things get damaged or lost. You should charge a modest deposit, first to secure a date in your diary as you will be turning other customers away and secondly, securing a deposit looks more professional, people tend to care for your equipment, and it is easier to have the money available to you rather than trying to extract it out of a customer after the event.
A word of caution.
You cannot wander into your local shopping store and pick up for example, Harry Potter or Fortnite themed cushions, bedding, lights etc and use them for your business. The vast majority of themed goods sold in many well known UK stores are sold only with the licence for personal use by the buyer. Should you take the item and advertise it or use it for your customers parties, you will be in breach of copyright law. This also extends to the use of music, the written word, sayings, logo's in fact almost any creative content. It is a complex area of law and you risk being sued by the brand owner, prosecuted and also made to confiscate the goods. Check out this real life story of a business who failed to stop selling licensed goods.
Social media is now awash with legal bods looking for breaches of their clients brands. Do not risk it and please don't bring our industry into bad repute.
If you head to the top of this page and join our support group, we can help you create inspired themes without breaking the law.
If you are asked by your customers to provide themed parties which breach copyright, take the opportunity to educate them and explain that you can help put an inspired theme together.
If you want to learn more, read the below guide from Small Business Companion, the online portal for Trading Standards
Due to the economic climate, we will no longer be making new play tents but will continue to support our existing customers with spare covers and spare parts We’ll continue to complete orders already placed. We will honour all product warranties. We will also continue to sell risk assessment packages.