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Children's Tea Sets, Heirlooms of Tomorrow

Updated on February 13, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

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Throughout history children's tea sets have been a popular toy for little girls. The ability to mimic the adults in their lives by celebrating tea can spark a child's imagination and keep her busy for hours.

History of Children’s Tea Sets

Dolls have been a favorite toy since prehistory. Greek and Roman potters made dishes and other utensils for children to use when playing with their dolls however it wasn't until the 1500s that the first toy tea set was recorded. The sets were made for the children of royalty and nobles and were made from pewter or copper.

Most of the children's tea sets were made in Germany and were an exclusive German export for centuries. It was the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1855 that introduced the concept of tea sets for children to the majority of the population. It was also during this time that technological advances in manufacturing made creating children's sets less expensive and therefore more affordable to the general population.

Celluloid and Bakelite were materials that became important materials after the Civil War. These materials could be found in children's toys as well as items made for adults. The plastic was colorful and easy to mold but best of all it was inexpensive. Mass production was increasing and the combination of the new materials and the new technologies meant that almost anyone could buy a tea seat for their child.

These antique toy tea sets are very collectible and command high prices at auction.

Tea Sets for Children Today

Children still love tea sets and the adults in their lives still enjoy buying them. Little girls and tea parties just go together, whether the party is with a collection of dolls and stuffed bears or a dress up party with real tea and real friends.

Tea sets today are made from a variety of materials including porcelain and plastic, as well as recycled plastics. They can be found in many styles and in many price ranges; appropriate for any budget. It is important to check the country of origin and also to ensure that the set meets all United States government regulations for tableware.

Some sets are meant for display only and may be painted with lead based paints that could compromise your child's health. Especially if your child will be drinking real, hot tea from a set you should invest in a good quality, food safe, porcelain set.

Contents of the Tea Set

The sets vary but most will have similar items to a real set.

  • Teapot
  • Cups
  • Saucers
  • Creamer
  • Sugar bowl

Some sets will come in a carrying case or special basket and have linens, dessert plates, a tea tray, or other items.

You can put together your own set for a child by purchasing a basic set and then adding a vintage tablecloth from the thrift shop as well as some felt or plastic foods. You may want to include an apron or other item that seems perfect.

Where to Buy Tea Sets

Tea sets for children are available almost everywhere from ToysRUs to the local thrift shop. Wal-mart, Target, and even the dollar store are sure to have a selection of inexpensive sets that you can buy. For more expensive china sets you may want to look online or at local boutiques.

Tea sets are a fun toy that can capture your child's imagination. They make a great addition to a playroom and the better sets will surely be heirlooms that are handed down from one generation to another.

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    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      6 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      You will need to do some Internet research. Check eBay and online antique stores as well as with local antiques dealers

    • profile image

      janet 

      6 years ago

      I bought a copper tea set and I was wondering how you can tell how much they are worth to sell them

      Navillus@embarqmail.com

    • profile image

      Lori 

      7 years ago

      I am tring to find out info on my Grandmother's toy tea set. She got it when she was like 5, she was 94 when she past away this year. She has held on to her tea set for all these years. We have always tried to find info on them , so if anyone has anything on how to find out what they are worth it would be great. email me at iamLilLuLu@yahoo.com thanks

    • profile image

      BETTY 

      7 years ago

      I found a toy set of metal dishes. they are red on inside and white with ducks and flowers on outside. there are plates saucers, cups, and smaller plates, bowls, sugar creamer and serving tray. they are marked ohio art company on bottom and number 148. Can anyone tell me about them and worth?

    • tlpoague profile image

      Tammy 

      7 years ago from USA

      Great hub! I use to collect unusual tea sets as a child. My dad found some in a mini collection shaped like strawberries and cabbage. They were adorable. Thanks for sharing, it brings back memories.

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