About a year ago, I instituted a new element into my children’s homeschooling routine. We started having an afternoon tea! Why? Well, first because I’m smitten with the idea of drinking caffeine from delicate china and nibbling on sweet treats. Second, there always seems to be a lull in the afternoon when we get simultaneously sleepy and hungry. And lastly, because I thought it would be a good way to teach my children manners and self control all while doing something together as a family. At the time, Ben was almost two years old and I wanted an activity that naturally helped him to practice his fine motor skills. What better way than to give him expensive, fragile china and a hot drink he had never tried before? (Thankfully, he still hasn’t broken any china to this day. Well, one of my teacups broke in an unfortunate Hatchimal accident, but that was really the Hatchimal’s fault.) Aubrey was three and a half and loved anything dainty and princess-y. She was all about any situation where she could dress up and pretend to be royalty so this was really a good fit for her. And so it began. We had afternoon tea daily for quite a while.
But eventually, the novelty wore off and we tapered our afternoon tea’s down to once a week. In the process of moving to a new home, our tradition waned even more. But, occasionally, the kids would beg for tea. On birthdays, we opted for tea parties. We even visited a southern tea house once, which was so much fun but way too pricy for something we could do ourselves at home! So, I have recently reinstated tea time in our home and here’s how we make it work and you can, too.
Have Reasonable Expectations
First and foremost, save this for a day when you feel like you can conquer the world. You know yourself. If you’re already at the end of your rope, maybe today isn’t the best day to sit your kids down with drinks they can spill and cups they can break, especially if they’re not used to that kind of responsibility. Save it for another day when you can be sure they’ll have nothing but a positive experience. Have something ready to clean up spills. Be prepared to lose your china. Yup… it might break. Hopefully, it won’t because your children will see how precious it is and use it carefully. But, accidents happen. If you’re not ready to say goodbye to your china, then buy some that you can replace. Goodwill is a treasure trove for old china (I’m a huge fan of Royal Albert and so were many people who have now given their china away, so I can easily find matching replacements of my Old Country Roses china pattern very cheaply).
Give Them an Example
If this is the first time you’re sitting your children down with tea or with plates and cups that can break, they’ll need a short demonstration on how to properly use the items. As a Montessori-esque family, I prepare my kids by demonstrating things first. Silently show them how to carefully (and SLOWLY) pour their tea (or you can do this for them), spoon a scoop of sugar (or use tongs to transfer a sugar cube) into their cup and stir slowly and silently, being very careful not to make any clinking noises with the spoon. Sometimes, I ask them “Could you hear my spoon?” and they shake their heads ‘no’ and I nod and move on. When my tea is prepared, I demonstrate how to pick the teacup up off the saucer, take a silent sip, and place it back on the saucer as carefully and quietly as possible.
Be sure to give them examples for other parts of the afternoon tea, too! I remind my children that they are only allowed to touch the food that they will put on their plate. Any food they touch becomes theirs. I may also give them short lessons on manners, like how to place a napkin in their lap, how to wipe their mouth properly, how to excuse themselves from the table, etc. You shouldn’t do all these lessons at one tea time, though. You don’t want to overwhelm them with rules. This is still supposed to be fun!
Have Kid-Friendly Options
You don’t have to make tea time extravagant (I mean, you can if you’re up for it) but the main idea here is to relax together in the afternoon. So, have options that your children will enjoy. We prefer to drink actual hot tea but, essentially, you can put any drink in your teacups. One of the main reasons we opt for real tea is because it gives them the opportunity to practice their fine motor skills with scooping, tonging, and stirring. It’s also a great opportunity to try new things – there are endless varieties of tea! But, we often drink fruity herbal teas that my kids have always loved.
As for food, you can make this as simple or as fancy as you want. Traditionally, though, you should serve finger food. This could mean finger sandwiches, a platter of fruits or veggies, or perhaps some cookies. The options are really endless.
Do Something Fun!
Make tea time a time for your kids to look forward to! You could have a special poetry book to read some poems from and discuss (this is our household favorite). Or perhaps have some conversation starters. My favorite is to go around the table and say the “high and low,” meaning the best and the worst, part about your day. You may even want to play a game at the table like I Spy, Would You Rather?, or Simon Says or read a chapter from a book. Just do something that will help you all interact as a family and enjoy the time together.
Make it a Tradition
I challenge you to make this a ritual for your family. Choose to do this on a regular basis, whether that means daily, weekly, or monthly (but if you do it monthly, make it extra special!). Once you see the joy of togetherness that tea time brings, you’ll want to keep it going!