The concept of poetry teatime has emerged in popularity in recent years. I, too, have fallen in love with the idea of gathering around a lovely table to enjoy a book and treat. However, with three children three years old and under the idea seemed a little overly idealistic. And so, in order to incorporate this idea I knew I would need to adapt the idea a little to be better suited to our current season. The following is a few ways in which I'm learning to create a (fairly) successful teatime.
First, before the tea and tablecloth must come this piece of advice- choose your timing well. I'd like for us to have an afternoon "tea" each Tuesday. However, if attitudes and behaviors aren't cooperating then I don't push it. I don't want it to be an occasion of fussing (me or them) because then the desire to participate and it be a good activity would be diminished. If we need to postpone the activity until the next day or even the next week, then that's precisely what we do.
Second, I simply don't fret and fuss over the details. Instead, I keep things as simple and child-friendly as possible. I want this to be an enjoyable occasion for us all, and in this season of all little ones simplicity is key.
And so, we don't lay out a delicate tablecloth. We don't lay out a tablecloth at all, in fact. The permission to eat and drink somewhere other than the kitchen table is in itself special. For a "teatime" we'll gather around our large living room table. The children really enjoy getting to pull a pillow down from the couch to use as a seat. Perhaps in the future I may add a (vinyl- easy to clean!) tablecloth for the occasion, but for now a bare table is just fine!
|Tennyson - 3 years old|
We also don't display a centerpiece on the table. Again, I want to keep things as simple as possible. Instead of a centerpiece, we simply place a tray with our tea pot and treats. Arranged well, the tray can be just as lovely as any other centerpiece!
Finally, the main elements of a tea time- tea set, tea, food, and poetry. Again, we don't do any of these elements in a traditional manner. The most notable is that we don't even have a tea set (it's on my wish list)! But, even if we had such as that I'd probably be so nervous placing it in the hands of little ones. Again, I want us all to enjoy this time and me fretting of a dish getting broken and someone getting cut is not my idea of a good time. So, we currently use...oh yes, a play tea set! Green toys makes a gender-neutral tea set that can be used with real food and drinks. I really like how we can use the set for our tea time, and then the children can use it to continue having a tea time through their pretend play. It's a perfect size for little hands, and so this is our tea set of choice presently!
|Annelise - 2 years old|
Inside the tea pot goes the tea...except, we don't drink tea. (I don't mind tea, but not for my little ones just yet). Instead, we have drinks that they don't normally get. We might have hot (well, warm) cocoa, apple cidar, a special juice etc. Just something out of the ordinary that signifies that this is, indeed, a special moment. The same idea applies to food served. This is the occasion in which we may enjoy a bite of dessert. If we've made a dessert recently such as cookies that morning, then we'll enjoy them during teatime that afternoon. Or, perhaps I'll purchase something we ordinarily don't such as mini cheesecakes, donut holes, Little Debbie cakes, bakery cookies or packaged cookies etc. Homemade mini muffins are also a favorite. Sweets are "sometimes foods" and tea time becomes an excellent opportunity to be that "sometimes." (And if the children know that this is when they may have a sweet, then they're less likely to beg for at other times). Again, when it comes to food and drink my approach is to provide things that the children rarely get to have and make this time even more special.
|Huxley - 8 months old|
The final element of a poetry teatime is the poetry. The idea is to introduce children to poetry at a young age so they can develop the skills and enjoyment of poetry that will last for years to come. There are many, many resources for poetry books for little ones. I recently browsed the selection at the public library and was tempted to bring home a few more books. At such young ages, I find short and whimsical poems with lively illustrations to be the most attractive. Nursery rhymes are fantastic options. And while there are many resources for poetry for little ones, I don't believe the tea time material needs to be exclusive to a poetry book. I personally believe any rhyming or rhythmic book will suffice. Or, even a lengthier read-aloud book. I recently read portions of the original Winnie the Pooh to the children, and plan to read Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit stories soon. As always, my belief and encouragement is to simply read, read, read to children. Seize this moment to take hold of story and delight in it together. (Visit our online bookshelves to see what we've been reading)