As most parents would agree, getting your kids to sit down at the table for more than a few minutes is a daily challenge, as are the manners and etiquette all parents hope to inspire. Fall can be an unpredictable time to plan a birthday party, with stormy weather varying between rain, coveted sunshine, and (usually) more rain. As a result, many parents of fall babies opt for safe inside options (think bowling, trampoline parties, and laser tag.)
Here at Luna Bazaar, we wanted to do something the kids would love – but with a little more elegance and ample opportunity for unexpected chivalry. The tea party isn’t a new theme, but it’s one we adore because it gives both boys and girls to chance to have a civilized gathering around a table, and practice the art of ceremony. Add cake and other sweet treats, and everyone is quite happy to put on a dress and bowtie. Luna contributor and New England artist Jennifer Dackert Romans put on such an affair in celebration of her daughter Lucy’s late September birthday.
“We live in New England, where fall can be a lovely autumn with a brilliant fall foliage season – or a dreary, rainy, chilly time with only a few sunny days to enjoy nature’s colorful transition. I wanted the flexibility to go outside if we got the opportunity but rely on the safety of being indoors if it turned out to be cold or wet. In our house, we fancy a chance for the kids to practice their manners, and for the boys to pal around with the girls. They end up having the best, most hilarious conversations together – and we adults try to disappear as much as possible. My sunroom, the star interior of summer, seemed like a fun place to host, as the view to the property is similar to the English countryside (high tea, anyone?). We had everyone ‘dress for tea’ and prepare to sip (no slurping!), use a fork and knife, and of course, eat plenty of cake!”
“With adults, I might have used porcelain, but with 6 to 10-year-olds, reusable bamboo is ideal, and will not break no matter what happens. I also brought out my favorite cake platters to make it charming and featured colorful straws because as all parents know – just add a straw and kids will pretty much drink anything. We used a beautiful tapestry that was easy to throw in the wash afterward, and I noted that it hardly showed the wear and tear or stains it sustained after the Boston Cream. Vintage style glassware and colorful votives added a bohemian energy to balance our preppy Massachusetts sensibility.”
“Soft, natural light and colorful paper lanterns are my first secret weapon for kids parties, second only to hurricane candle holders. I treasure these decorative accents because they aren’t tippy and stand high enough that the littlest ones don’t stick their hands inside them, and they illuminate with shimmery ambient magic. For this party, I placed them not only on the table but also around the living room and other areas to make them feel it was an extraordinary occasion. It’s interesting that when kids feel that something is more formal, they do sweet things like say please and thank you more often and in this case, pour one another tea! Good lighting tends to have that effect – it naturally changes the mood.”
“We had a few gluten-free children as guests, so I baked one regular Boston Cream Pie and did a few GF options that everyone could enjoy. There’s a delightful donut spot in Boston where I was able to pick up fresh, natural ingredient donut holes, and another where I sourced beautiful macarons and other pastries. Color, height, and texture all matter when it comes to kids – they want to feel like they have lots of things to try. I always notice that they don’t eat nearly as much as they serve themselves – enticed by the idea that one can eat whatever and however much one wants. Even if there are leftovers, no one needs to stress about it, so in this case more isn’t always a bad thing.”
“We spent some time outside once the tea was over, to burn off some of that sugary energy, shift the mood and to get them out of the house. We have a trampoline they bounced around on, then put these lovely paper cockade hand fans all over the yard, which turned into an imaginative ‘planting’ game. With kids, you need good transitions – to keep their attention engaged and avoid complaining due to boredom.”
Tips for Kids Parties:
The Tea Party theme was initially a bit of a groan for the boys, but they were pleased with the way they looked all dressed up and dapper. This shift from their usual sport’s jerseys was like wearing a costume – quickly everyone adopted their roles to be polite and courteous in their fancy clothes. Plan for a mess. Don’t try to enforce too many rules, as you might normally do, and let kids be kids. They spilled cake and even a cup of tea on the floor, but I expected it and had a dustpan and paper towels ready. No big deal. Include fun favors for them to play with – we styled coordinating party tassels and paper cockade fans that they whirled around the yard. Kids are so imaginative – I had no idea what they would do with them, but they’re so naturally creative they started decorating each other! Create opportunities for children to be civil together. They spend a lot of time playing and attending sports games; so it’s pleasant to provide the balance of a sit-down experience where a napkin goes in the lap and manners are observed. It’s good for character building and should the grandparents be able to come; they relish demonstrations of good old-fashioned values!