Tasteful Tea Party

Little girls love dressing in beautiful clothes and acting "grown up." And, they are generally delighted with tea parties, from the tiny cups and saucers to the enchanting miniature cakes, fancy cookies and decorative sandwiches.


+ enlarge image You might invite guests to bring Teddy to tea.

There are endless variations on a tea party theme, including teddy bear teas, doll tea parties, Alice in Wonderland tea, Little Women outdoor tea, fairy tea parties, dress-up parties. Whichever you choose, the fancier the better. Make or select invitations and decorations to match your theme.

Inviting Ideas

  • Cut teacup shapes from folded construction paper.
  • Buy stationery with teacups, teddy bears, flowers, or a Victorian-lace theme, and print your invitations on your computer using a fancy typeface.
  • Glue a tea bag, scraps of lace, and hearts on the front of a folded card, then write "Come to a Tea Party!" and the details on the inside.
  • Use paper and envelopes in pastel or bright colors, especially pink, blue, and purple.

Decorations

+ enlarge image Well-dressed guests are part of the decor!
  • Make a canopy over the center of your tea table using colored streamers. Streamers should cascade from a bow in the middle or toward the sides of the room.
  • Tie balloons in bunches of three and attach them to the backs of chairs or near the tea table.
  • Flower arrangements -- real or silk -- add a grown-up note.
  • Set up an area for dolls or teddy bears on a pretty quilt or picnic blanket. Having miniature tea cups or plates for the dolls and bears will add to the effect.
  • Buy child-size white gloves and either colorful women's hats from a thrift store or purcahse inexpensive straw hats that will fit the guests. Distribute hats and gloves to guests as they arrive.
  • Invite guests to come dressed up in fancy clothes and hats, or have a supply of dress-up gowns and other clothing.
+ enlarge image Choose foods kids will want to eat.

Children's tea parties need not stick to the classic, three-course structure of most formal teas (sandwiches, scones, and desserts) and can be modified depending on the time of day and the age of the children. From the bhg.com Recipe Center, we've pulled together four kid-friendly menus that can be served at any birthday bash:

All-Munchies Menu

Classics with a Twist Menu

Hearty Bites Menu

Ultimate Favorites Menu

Dainty Bites

+ enlarge image Special shapes make the food more fun to eat.

For delicious food that ties into the party theme, try these suggestions:

Tea sandwiches. Use flower or heart shaped-cookie cutters to make tea biscuits and sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly or fruit-flavored cream cheese fillings may be more popular with young tastebuds than more traditional tea sandwiches, such as cucumber and cream cheese.

Pink sandwiches can be created by baking challah bread and using a few drops of red food coloring in the dough.

Cookies: Make or buy Linzer hearts, and sugar cookie cutouts shaped like hearts, flowers, or teddy bears.

Linzer Star Cookies recipe

Easy Linzer Cookies recipe

Special Sugar Cookie Cutouts recipe

May Flower Cookies recipe

As for the tea itself, the hostess is usually responsible for pouring the tea. If your child is not old enough to comfortably serve tea, you as parents may want to dress as the "maid" and "butler" and serve the tea.

The tea does not have to be hot tea. You can fill your teapot with iced tea, lemonade, a mixture of the two, or a fancy punch.

Tropical Punch

Garden Tea Punch

Raspberry Punch

Choose two or three relatively calm activities for a two-hour party. Have a few extra ideas ready just in case. Alternate crafts and other sit-down activities with active games to keep the pace of the party moving.

Transitional Activity

Reading is great between activities. It can be used to keep children occupied while a parent sets out the tableware and cake. Also, reading can be effective at the end of the party, when children are waiting for their parents to arrive. Some suggestions:

  • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch (Annick Press, 1988)
  • Bears in Pairs by Niki Yektai (Aladdin Paperbacks, 1991)
  • The Princess and the Pea by Hans Christian Andersen (various editions)
  • Miss Spider's Tea Party by David Kirk (Scholastic, 1994)
  • Tea Party Today: Poems to Sip and Savor by Eileen Spinelli (Boyds Mills Press, 1999)

Craft Ideas

Having a craft activity set up as guests arrive is a good way to corral the excitement in a positive way, since each person can start working immediately.

Edible Bracelets

Ages: 4 and up

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Playing time: 15 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • Red licorice strings
  • Edible candy or sweetened cereal "beads," such as Fruit Loops, Lifesavers, Gummy Lifesavers

Before the party:

1. Buy candy and cereal and separate them by style or color into bowls.

At the party:

2. Show children how to string candy onto licorice.

3. To make bracelets: wrap a length of candy-adorned licorice around the child's wrist and tie ends together.

Making Victorian Fans

Ages: 6 and up

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Playing time: 20 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • Heavy wrapping paper (24-inch x 30-inch will make 4 fans)
  • Scissors
  • Tongue depressors or crafts sticks (2 per fan)
  • Stapler
  • Low melt glue gun or crafts glue (takes longer)
  • Rubber bands (if using crafts glue; 1 per child)
  • Ribbon (10 inches per child)
  • Acrylic paint and brush

Before the party:

1. Paint the tongue depressors or craft sticks, and let dry.

2. If using wrapping paper for the fans, flatten overnight by placing the paper on a table and pressing with heavy books on each end.

3. Cut paper into four 6-inch x 30-inch strips, one per guest.

4. Cut 10-inch lengths of ribbon, one per guest.

+ enlarge image At the party: Accordion-fold, glue sticks onto ends, then fan out the paper.

At the party:

5. Hand each guest a 6-inch x 30-inch strip of paper. Show the children how to fold over the short end one inch, and continue making one-inch accordion folds to the end of the strip. (See illustation, Step 1.)

6. Staple one end of the folds together, about 1/2 inch in from the end.

7. Glue one flat stick to one side of folds about 1/4 inch above the staples; see illustration, Step 2. (If using low-melt glue gun, an adult should assist with the gluing.) Glue the other stick to the other outside folded edge in the same way; see illustration, Step 3. If using crafts glue, wrap rubber band around to hold it tightly closed until dry.

8. When dry, open fan (see illustration, Step 4) and use the ribbon to tie the sticks together to keep it open.

Alternative: Buy solid-white paper fans and give guests watercolor paints to decorate the fans.

Flower Bookmarks

Ages: 5 and up

Preparation time: 10-15 minutes

Playing time: 15 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • Pressed flowers
  • Washable markers
  • White crafts glue
  • Small foam paintbrush
  • Brightly colored posterboard or construction paper
  • Self-laminating sheets (optional)
  • Hole punch
  • Thin ribbon or lace

Before the party:

1. Buy or press flowers. Small flowers with thin leaves, such as pansies, can be pressed between two sheets of paper in the pages of a heavy book.

2. Cut posterboard or paper into small strips, about 2 inches by 6 inches.

At the party:

3. Let children glue flowers to strips of posterboard and decorate their bookmarks with markers.

4. Use a foam paintbrush to lightly coat the flowers with glue (you may need to thin the glue with water).

5. When glue is dry, bookmarks can be laminated with self-laminating sheets, if desired.

6. Punch a hole at the top of each bookmark and add lace or ribbon.

Heart Sachets

Ages: 6 and up

Preparation time: 35 minutes

Playing time: 20 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • Lace and felt, about a 5-inch square per guest
  • Large heart-shaped cookie cutter
  • Large embroidery needles
  • Thin ribbon or embroidery thread
  • Dried lavender, rose petals, or store-bought potpourri

Before the party:

1. Using the cookie cutter as a pattern, cut 1 felt and 1 lace heart per guest.

2. For guests under age 8, machine-stitch the two pieces together, 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the edge, about 3/4 around the sachets.

At the party:

3. Let guests 8 and older stitch a felt heart and lace heart together, 3/4 of the way around.

4. Fill with dried lavender, rose petals or store-bought potpourri.

5. Stitch opening closed.

More Ideas:

  • Make hats for dolls or teddy bears by cutting a hole in the center of a paper plate. The resulting ring should rest on the doll's or bear's head. Decorate the hat with ribbons, feathers, sequins, markers, etc.
  • Gather 2- to 3-inch clay pots, soil, and small flowering plants, like pansies or violets. Set up a work area for guests to pot their own plants. Before they are filled, the pots can be decorated with ribbon or paints.
+ enlarge image A costume jewelry treasure hunt will be great fun.

Plan two or three lively activities for a two-hour party. Choose extra so you're prepared for the unexpected. Alternate them with quieter activities, such as a crafts project or reading aloud, to keep the party from becoming too wild.

Old-fashioned lawn games such as croquet, bocce, and badminton on the lawn are always appropriate for a tea party.

Jewelry Hunt

Ages: 4 and up

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Playing time: 10 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • Small gift bags or felt pouches
  • Marker or fabric paint (optional)
  • Inexpensive costume jewelry such as bead necklaces, children's rings, hair clips, and so on; have enough so that every child is likely to find at least one item

Sugar Lump Relay

+ enlarge image This is a sweet game to play!

Ages: 4 and up

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Playing time: 10 minutes

Players: At least 4

What you need:

  • 2 large teacups (you might want to buy them at a thrift store, as they may get broken during this game!)
  • 2 spoons
  • 1 sugar cube for each child

Before the party:

1. If desired, write each guest's name on a bag or pouch.

2. Hide the jewelry items around the house or playing area (keeping them within a defined space).

At the party:

3. Give each child her bag or pouch to hold the treasures she collects.

4. Let children search until they find as much of the costume jewelry they can.

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