Hosting a tea party can be a special way to make memories with our kids but sometimes we need some extra inspiration to expand our creative horizons and make it a day to remember. In this article, Kristin Demery shares ideas for 5 themed tea parties for kids—with a twist.
If I’m honest, the whipped cream canister was the tipping point. Up until then, my daughters seemed hesitant to try out my nontraditional tea party idea. Inspiration struck as I recalled the sweet treat in my refrigerator. As soon as I crossed the kitchen and emerged from the chilly depths, whipped cream canister in hand, their eyes widened with delight. The “Bad Manners Tea Party” was ready to begin.
Though it was the tail end of spring, we still hadn’t crossed ‘tea party’ off our bucket list. With three daughters under the age of 12, I’ve spent more than a decade creating parties of all shapes and sizes. Most tea parties include food, tea and other beverages, as well as decorations or activities. We’ve had teddy bear visitors, eaten mounds of petit fours, and drunk plenty of cups of juice as an alternative to traditional teas. But as the years have passed, we’ve also expanded our creative horizons to include more unique themes for our afternoon tea parties. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here are a few of our favorite themed tea parties for kids—with a twist.
1. BAD MANNERS TEA PARTY
“Really, Mom? You never let us do that!”
My 6-year-old was grinning widely, but her 9 and 11-year-old sisters looked a little unsure. The table was set, the tea was poured, and we had our fancy dresses on—but then we stuttered to a stop.
As a mom, I’m used to gently reinforcing good manners and healthy habits, including table etiquette.
But a ‘Bad Manners’ Tea Party? That was a whole new concept. The idea was that everyone would begin by acting very civilized and cordial. Then, when someone yelled “switch!” we would put our feet on the table or eat sloppily.
Is That Allowed?
We began eating the tiny bundt cakes I’d purchased in advance from a local baker, until my youngest hollered out, “Switch!”
The girls paused, looking at me. Could they really put their feet on the table? Chew with their mouth open? Be silly?
I hadn’t realized my kids would need an extra nudge to abandon their good manners. That’s when the whipped cream inspiration struck. I returned to the table with it in hand, and my youngest daughter looked gleeful.
“Switch!” My 6-year-old snagged the whipped cream and used the nozzle to pour it directly into her mouth.
“Switch!” Elbows were swept off the table and napkins placed on laps as my oldest politely asked for a cake to be passed her way.
“Switch!” My 9-year-old propped her feet on the table and looked over, brows raised. Was this really okay?
“Switch!” Spines straightened.
By the time the tea party was over, we were laughing uproariously. I took a photo of my kids to commemorate it: two kids making silly faces at the camera, while the other child stood on the table in her socks, pouring whipped cream into her mouth. Strangely enough, the “Bad Manners Tea Party” actually reinforced the good manners they’ve been learning all along.
Food: Traditional tea party food—like cakes or scones—can be used, but it’s also fun to incorporate unexpected items like whipped cream.
Decorations: We use paper doilies for placemats since they are easy to toss if they become messy. Regular plates work well, unless your children are younger and would benefit from using pretty paper plates. Be sure to leave enough room between place settings to allow for silly things like feet on the edge of the table, and avoid having anything too breakable as your centerpiece or tablescape.
Games/Activities: Kids can practice taking turns yelling “switch,” or one person can be the designated instigator.
2. UNBIRTHDAY PARTY
Two of my three children have birthdays that fall within a week or so of Christmas, so most of our family’s big days to celebrate occur within a short timeframe.
For a few years, when my kids were smaller and didn’t mind sharing a day, we’d have a combined birthday bash in the summer. Ostensibly it fell on their half-birthdays, but really it was whenever time and schedule allowed. One year, we rented a bouncy house and played tons of carnival games to win prizes. Another year, an Art Party utilized outdoor easels so everyone could create their own masterpiece, and a friend painted elaborate designs on the children’s faces.
Those parties were fun, but they were also a ton of work. So we decided to try something a little different: an Unbirthday Party.
Have you ever seen Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland?” Alice stumbles upon a tea party and finds the Mad Hatter, March Hare, Dormouse, and a giant tableful of teapots whistling and singing, “A very merry unbirthday to us!” The hatter and hare explain that while you only get a single birthday every year, there are 364 ‘unbirthdays’ that are just as fun to celebrate.
For our purposes, an unbirthday tea party occurs when you throw a birthday party—but rather than a single guest of honor, everyone who attends is special.
Food: For this tea party, we typically make or purchase a birthday cake or cupcakes.
Decorations: I have a bin full of decorations we’ve used for other birthdays, so the children simply get to choose which theme they feel like using that day. We blow up balloons, drape streamers, and create a fun tablescape.
Games/Other tips: What kids’ birthday party is complete without games? We love to play family favorites like “Pie in the Face” (the whipped cream is always a delight) and “Bingo” (with small party favors or candy available as prizes). For extra fun, I also give my daughters a small wrapped gift, usually something that only costs a few dollars.
3. BOOKISH TEA PARTY
We love to read in our house, so a bookish tea party offers a fun twist for an afternoon tea party. You can utilize kids’ favorite books—either several or just one—or choose a series or theme.
Food: It’s fun to tailor your choices based on the book(s) you’ve chosen to feature. For instance, you could make sugar cookies in the shape of the alphabet for “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” feed your guests the various foods eaten by the caterpillar in “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” or include a pile of chocolate chip cookies for “When You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”
Decorations: If you’d like to feature a more general book theme, grab books from around the house to decorate and use them as pedestals to prop up snacks or fan them open. If you’re featuring specific books, tailor your decorations and outfits to them: For instance, a “Fancy Nancy” tea party could include feather boas, fancy costumes/outfits, and lots of sparkles. A “Where the Wild Things Are” party could include crowns and wands, while a “Little House on the Prairie” theme could include bonnets and bandanas.
Games: Try out bookish-themed games, like giving kids a chance to walk across the room with a book on their head to see who can go the furthest without it falling to the ground. The prize? A book, of course. Or, you could play book trivia or fill out mad libs together.
4. AROUND THE WORLD
Tea is consumed around the world, so why not take your family on a little adventure? Whether it’s incorporating minty Touareg tea from Morocco, a dollop of yak butter (Tibet), an elaborate Gonfu Tea ceremony (China), or a spicy chai served in a clay cup (India), it might be fun and educational to broaden your tea horizons. Check out this link for more ideas and help to get you started. You can also have a go at adopting the cultures and customs of your chosen country. For example:
Food: Try your hand at high tea by making or purchasing tea sandwiches (otherwise known as finger sandwiches, sliced thinly) with fillings such as ham, curried chicken, or smoked salmon. Or make a Victorian sponge cake—a delicacy made of wheat flour, sugar, egg, and butter—or English scones, which typically feature a smoother texture than their American counterparts. Don’t forget the jam, butter, or cream.
Decorations: While a ‘high tea’ refers to the high table we so often dine at in our home, you can make things more kid-friendly by using flowers (fresh blooms and tissue paper flowers both work) to create a garden party theme, or turn it into an indoor or outdoor picnic.
Games: Fill a teacup with sugar cubes and ask your guests to guess the number of cubes. The closest guess wins. Or, see who can stack the most cubes.
Food: Pair heartier fare such as a quiche lorraine (bacon and cheese pie) and a selection of cheese with baguettes with delicious sweets like eclairs, madeleines, or macarons.
Decorations: Find inspiration in the pastel palette of macarons or the pink-and-black or polka dot Parisian themes often found in party stores, or simply look for items in your home that would add a feeling of glamor (pearls and curls, a la Marie Antoinette).
Games: Host a runway fashion show, or have guests create or color their own fashion designs.
One easy way to gather food items from a single country is by ordering a box from a company that specializes in snacks and treats from other places. Companies like Universal Yums and SnackCrate feature one country per month (each box usually also includes a pamphlet with information on the country and its customs), while other boxes are country specific (Bokksu and Japan Crate, for instance, both feature Japan).
5. OTHER TEA PARTY IDEAS
Don’t forget to consult your family and see what piques their interest. Do they love listening to a certain style or music or have a favorite band? Did they recently lose a tooth and have an interest in the tooth fairy? Is it close to Christmas, and they’d like to pretend to be from Whoville? Do they want to pretend to be pirates or make a centerpiece out of LEGOs? The only limit to your afternoon tea party is your family’s collective imagination.
And when all else fails, there’s always whipped cream.
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That’s a really fun idea. I am a big time “manners” proper afternoon tea lady. Still working on my 5 year old grand daughter learning proper manners haha – so right now almost all teas with her are ill mannered, haha. such a fun idea but whoa – standing on the table? You are one brave momma, to be sure.
Enjoy every tea time with your girls – they’ll be grown and gone in a millisecond. Trust me. ♥♥♥
Thanks, Michele! I usually wouldn’t recommend letting little ones stand on the table, but once in a (very long) while is okay. 🙂 I appreciate your advice—I’m definitely trying to soak up as much time as I can with my daughters, even on the hard days. Enjoy tea time with your sweet granddaughter!