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A Girls Tea Party Guide for Planning a Child's Tea Party Themed Birthday
Age-by-age party suggestions for preschoolers, elementary school children and older girls
Planning a Tea Party to celebrate a special little girl's birthday? Need some help with party ideas and planning? Take a look at our behind-the-scenes guide with tips of the trade to learn how to turn ho-hum into spectacular. In this article you'll find practical recommendations for staging tea parties for children of various ages, helpful links, a variety of theme and menu suggestions and more.
As a starting point, will it surprise you to learn that the delightful event you have in mind may not be the same event your guests are expecting? Those two little words -- Tea Party -- seem have a remarkable ability to evoke wildly different images in the minds of those envisioning the event! For some Tea Party Girls, it's all about hats, boas, pearls and fun; for others it's more about childhood nostalgia such as dolls and teddy bears. One girl's preference for properly brewed tea is eclipsed by another girl's love affair with linens and lace.
If you're not sure what kind of Tea Party Girl you are, you can take our fun Girls Tea Party Quiz to find out. There are no right or wrong answers, just individual preferences. Find out whether you're a La Ti Dottie, an Elegant Ellen, a Nosalgic Nellie or fall into one of our other Tea Party Girl categories.
Your preference is only important here in that advice for planning the perfect Tea Party hinges on the style of Tea Party you’re seeking. Success also hinges on the age of the child for whom you are planning a Tea Party. Here are some of our age-by-age recommendations.
Tea Parties for ages 3-5: Preschoolers have notoriously short attention spans, so a successful Tea Party for this age must be carefully crafted, with plenty of structure. Most of the activities should take place before the children ever sit down at the table. The idea is more about the preparation for coming to the table than actually remaining there for any length of time.
Plan two to three simple party crafts and games tied into the theme of the party, take a few minutes to review proper tea party manners, and plan to spend only about 15 minutes at the table. Crafts for 3-year-old should be VERY simple, and plenty of helping hands will be necessary. Crafts for 5-year-olds can be a little more involved -- but please resist any urge to make complicated crafts. This age group will have a much better time if you offer several simple crafts rather than one complicated craft.
Need some ideas for simple crafts? Paper and crayons offer the simplest and most cost effective way to entertain a group of preschoolers, particularly the younger 3s and 4s.. Copy and cut out pictures of tea pots, and have the children color the paper teapots and glue on fancy gemstones. Copy and cut out pictures of cupcakes and have the children "make and decorate" a tray of paper cupcakes with crayons, "sprinkles" made of confetti, cherries cut out of paper, etc.
Five-year-olds are old enough to enjoy decorating their own real cookies as part of a Tea Party, and this can be a delightful activity at your party. Just be sure to recruit plenty of helpers. However, The Party Fairy does not recommend cookie-decorating parties for ages 3 and 4.
Many children enjoy dressing up as party of the Tea Party experience. This is easy to do; simply collect dress-up clothes and costume jewelry and make these items available at your party. If you do not have access to a large enough collection of dress-up clothes, and cannot borrow from friends and family, another option is to invite children to wear their own dress-up clothes.
Many vendors offer kits to make Tea Party Hats as an activity at the party. The Party Fairy does not recommend these kits for parties where the guests are ages 3 or 4. Even with adult assistance, it takes a few too many minutes to put together the hat to hold the attention of the average preschooler. If you are planning a Tea Party for children 4 or younger, provide hats already made, or invite children to wear their own.
Consider carefully before adding boas to the dress-up portion of your Tea Party. Little girls look adorable in boas, and make such sweet pictures -- but all feather boas shed. Bits of feathers can create a mini snowstorm at your Tea Party -- falling onto the table and getting into the food. Bits of feathers will stick to your cupcake icing and drift onto the trays of cookies. If you must have feather boas, try to contain them in a dess-up area of your home, perhaps for pictures only, and encourage little guests to leave them behind when heading to the table. And be prepared for some serious vacuuming after the party.
One other idea is to provide the boas at the end of the party, as party favors. You'll have time to snap a couple of adorable pictures, but there wont be enough time for the girls to let loose a true featherstorm on your table and home.
At the table, skip the tea sandwiches, savories and scones for this age group. Your efforts will not be appreciated, as young children are notoriously picky eaters and rarely welcome the chance to try new foods. Cookies, teacakes, muffins and cupcakes are all great choices for ages 3-5. Limit your menu to finger foods only.
Other moms may be nervous if you use real china for this age group, so you may want to provide cute and colorful disposable tableware featuring Tea Party themes. Many adorable paper products are on the market.
Few American preschoolers actually like the taste of tea, so you will be better served to fill the teapot with pink lemonade or fruit punch, and reassure little guests that you are not serving them real tea. Adults often forget how stressful it can be to young children to believe they have to eat or drink something distasteful (and, yes, tea is distasteful to most preschoolers!) A little reassurance on that score will go a long way.
Tea Parties for ages 5-8: The older the children, the more options open up in planning a successful Tea Party. By all means, incoporate bits of tea time tradition and etiquette tips into the party program.
This is an ideal age to offer a Mother-Daughter Tea Party, seating moms at the table with their daughters. Moms may be interested to learn a bit about tea that many people don't know; for example, many Americans are under the impression that High Tea is a fancy tea time. Actually, Afternoon Tea is the tea time associated with royalty, where scones, savories and tea sandwiches are traditonally served.
High Tea isn't fancy at all; it's just a term used to mean plain old suppertime in the UK. This is a common misconception in the United States, frequently appearing on invitations for fancy tea parties, and even some wonderful little Tea Rooms misuse the term, much to the amusement of those who know better. If you don't want to look like you're inviting folks over for supper, avoid issuing an invitation to High Tea! :)
Although it is fine to use Tea Party themed paper products for younger children in this age group, it's fun to introduce china and linens to older girls, especially if moms are in attendance. This can be a learning opportunity for many young girls, who don't yet know where to correctly place a napkin when leaving the table, or where to place a teaspoon after stirring. Learning in a group with other girls can be fun.
Games and crafts are still important at parties for girls in this age bracket, but can and should be a bit more complicated and labor intensive. Don't choose activities that will take too long. Any craft that takes longer than 15 or 20 minutes to complete is not a good choice for a party setting.
If you like the idea of wearing Tea Party Hats, a hat-making kit may be a great activity for this age group. Girls will look adorable in their hats for fun pictures, and the hats double as take-home party favors. Jewelry-making is another great Tea Party activity -- as long as the jewelry is not too complicated.
A longer time will be spent at the tea table for girls this age, and the service of the food and tea becomes a more integral part of the Tea Party. Plan on offering a few sandwiches and an assortment of dainty desserts.
Although a traditional Tea Party calls for scones and jam on the menu, that's not really necessary for children in this age group. It is perfectly acceptable to substitute fruit, and many American children actually prefer a fruit and cheese tray. Many children in this country are not familiar with scones, finding them heavier in texture than a more familiar biscuit.
Tea sandwiches should include some child-friendly fare; don't rely totally on cucumber sandwiches if you expect the younger children to try them. Be sure to include some plain offerings such as cheese or PBJ for the less adventurate palates. Slightly more adventurous choices with are still child-friendly include thinly sliced apple slices served with cream cheese on raisin bread, and thinly sliced turkey served with a bit of cranberry jelly.
Cupcakes are better than cake for this age group, and delight little girls when served along with an assortment of cookies or muffins, creating the feeling of a luxurious sweet feast of treats. Many moms spend a great deal of money on teapot-shaped cakes and other works of art, but it truly is not necessary. A proper Tea Party is about daintiness, and all things small. Expand the choices and keep your offerings small to contain costs and fool the eye into thinking less is more! Wait until the girls are 8 and up to splurge on expensive cakes.
By all means, offer real tea if you'd like -- but have a back-up such as lemonade! You might offer a choice of flavored teas to this age group. They are more likely than preschoolers to want to attempt a flavored tea.
Tea Parties for ages 8 and up: This is the age to offer real tea to girls, complete with a choice of milk or lemon slices. Set the table with your best china, linens and lace; the girls will appeciate the finery.
A hat-making kit and a more complicated jewelry-making activity are ideal options for a Tea Party for this age group. Many party games can seem juvenile to this age group, so it's best to avoid them.
The menu becomes more important than ever before at a Tea Party for girls this age. A proper Tea Party will offer three very important courses: savories, scones and sweets, or desserts. To many people, the term "sweets" implies candy, but here it is used to cover a broad category of dessert items.
Tea sandwiches fall into the category of savories, as do mini-quiches, popovers filled with meats, etc. Many girls ages 8 and up will enjoy sampling new menu items, but some will still prefer familiar PBJ or plain cheese. Make sure to offer both for a successful menu. Cut sandwiches into small, dainty shapes.
Serving scones? Be sure to offer clotted cream (imported from England and available in most grocery stores, but not inexpensive!) and strawberry jam for a touch of authenticity. Scones are best served warm, and the clotted cream takes the place of butter. An alternative to clotted cream is Devonshire cream, which often appeals more to the palates of American children.
The category of "sweets" includes anything from specialty candies and chocolates to muffins, cookies, cupcakes and teacakes. Girls this age truly appreciate a showstopper dessert such as an elaborate, teapot-shaped cake, so it becomes worth the investment.
This hub was contributed by The Party Fairy, a children's birthday and special events business serving Richmond VA.