The children at Children’s House have been discovering the delights of tea and the tradition and etiquette of tea parties. It started one cold day before holiday break, when Elaine decided to offer the children a warm option to our usual fruit smoothie. She brought some herbal tea and her teapot.
Elaine explained how she bought the teapot at an antique market in Skipton, England many years ago when she was studying to become a teacher.
Just the sight of her beautiful antique teapot sent me back into a swirl of memories of tea parties, I had as a child. I began telling the children about the special rules of a tea party and soon all the children were sitting up high in their seats, their postures erect and excited to try the new drink at snack. Each child would politely ask using the phrase, “May I have a cup of tea?” and one child advised the other children how to extend their smallest finger outwards.
Elaine, not missing the opportunity to bring science into the experience, read the list of ingredients in the Raspberry Red Zinger tea. We spoke about how these are plants that each had their own flavor, and we tried to taste each one. One child was enthused to discover Elderberry was an ingredient in the tea since her family makes an Elderberry tincture at home. Children also recognized that we grow mint at our garden and it could also be found as an ingredient.
Michael shared his traditions of morning and afternoon tea in Australia. Elaine discussed that tea is the world’s most popular or consumed drink, after water.
We talked about our local tea company based in Boulder, the Celestial Seasonings Tea Company. This company began its humble beginnings by the owner collecting and drying plants from the Boulder mountainside, and the tea was placed and hand sewn into teabags.
This first snack with tea sparked an interest in the children, who were eager to have more tea parties. At circle we sang and acted out, “I’m A Little Teapot” and “Do-Re-Mi” from “The Sound of Music” which includes the lyric, “Ti, a drink with jam and bread.” I used the musically scaled hand-bells to accompany this song, so that children could hear the tones that were associated with each note. When children were called to the tea party, they were invited to ring the hand-bell of their favorite note.
In the next several days, we continued to serve tea at snack with one child bringing in Blueberry and Raspberry Zinger and two brothers bringing in Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride tea, all from our local tea company, Celestial Seasonings. One child remarked, “My mom says I can’t have sugar cookies at home but I can have this sugar cookie.” In art, some children made tea box designs and wrote words from the tea boxes. Others participated in cleaning a tea-set. Chelsea brought in her great grandmother’s silver tea-set and did a science experiment removing tarnish from the silver and bringing back the shine. We were able to discuss tarnish and how oxygen mixing with silver causes the discoloring on the outside. The steps involved in this activity included putting aluminum foil into containers and adding water and baking soda. The children worked together to dip the silver pieces, and were so very careful in handling Chelsea’s family heirlooms of the two teapots, sugar bowl and creamer set. We discussed counting four generations in Chelsea’s family that had had the tea-set and that someday Chelsea would pass it onto another family member.
Tea party play was a delight to witness in dramatic play as well as little tea parties with a wide variety of the forest animals available in our forest themed classroom. Over the holiday break I found a tea-set to bring to the classroom and the children unwrapped it yesterday… so let the tea party continue.