You Are Cordially Invited... Part 1

You Are Cordially Invited…

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The finer points on hosting a tea party for children

Part I

By Angela Cornell

If your yard is looking anything like mine, you know that spring is nearly here! The birds are back, the bravest buds are starting to sprout and flower, and the kids are getting an acute case of cabin fever. (sigh) It’s as if hope is floating on the warmest breezes... Well, except for those moments when you just want to pull out your hair because the littles are driving you nuts. Still, overall, doesn’t this time of year make you want to celebrate? Wait a minute… What a fantastic idea! Why not celebrate the change of seasons with those special kiddos in your life by inviting them to a fun tea party that they’ll remember for years to come (and that should cure their boredom that you’re suffering from)?

A little-known fact is that most children—girls and boys—do enjoy a good tea party (speaking from experience here). But the secret ingredient in tea parties is in the word “good.” It can’t be stiff and adulty, or they will eagerly look forward to leaving. But at the same time, it shouldn’t be chaotic, or your “fun” event will be anything but. So, how do you strike a balance?

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • 1.When you invite your young friends, ask them to dress up. Something about wearing a fancy outfit (even if it’s an Elsa costume) makes a person want to sit up straight, use inside voices, and giggle instead of laughing loudly.
  • 2. Let them know how they should act at the table, then gently and kindly hold them to it. I’m not saying be a Miss Hanigan about their manners—by no means! Children will almost always rise to your expectations, as long as they know and understand them. So go through table manners before you serve them, then demonstrate your expectations yourself throughout the meal. When a child remembers to use their napkin instead of their sleeve or asks you to “please pass the teapot,” commend them for their politeness! Conversely, if they burp or say something rude, gently correct them, then move on to a different conversation.
  • 3.Get a copy of the book Children’s Tea & Etiquette by Dorothea Johnson, John Harney, and Ann Noyes. This delightful book has so many hints and ideas for hosting a tea party to remember, and you can get it at New Kitchen Store!

Well Begun is Half Done

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How to plan your party

Like any event, a tea party requires some preparation. You can get as elaborate as you want—like making petite fours, planning several activities, or giving out favors—but in my experience, simpler is better. So, when I plan a tea party, these are the steps I typically take.

Step 1: The basics

Giving yourself enough time to pull everything off—about three weeks— is key to hosting a tea party your guests will never forget. At this point, you want to choose your date and decide what food you want to serve (You want to choose light, yet filling recipes. For the sake of example, let’s say fruit salad, creamed egg sandwiches, and lemon curd bars), at which point you can make a shopping list, if necessary. If you want, you can also plan an age-appropriate activity (Pinterest is a fantastic place to find ideas).

Step 2: Send the invitations

Now that you know what you’re going to do, you need to decide with whom. Which means, it’s time to make your guestlist! You can invite as many as you want, but I’ve found that 5-10, including parents, is an ideal number. You can even make your own invitations, like I did, buy some, or just let them know informally by word of mouth or via social media.

Step 3: Get your venue ready

Do you want to have the party inside or out? Which room? Or if you’re having it outside, how are you going to keep the napkins and tablecloth from blowing away if it’s blustery? Do you want music? What kind? What kind of centerpiece do you want?

All of these questions need to be answered before your guests arrive, then you need to make sure everything is in place: get your table ready, place your centerpiece, and prepare your food.

But wait… is that everything? I’m afraid not. Check out part 2 for everything else you need to know!