On December 16, 1773 116 American colonists dressed as Mohawk Indians sneaked aboard three merchant ships and dumped 45 tons of tea into Boston Harbor. Preschoolers running amok? Nope. The “Sons of Liberty” were protesting British Parliament’s Tea Act, which granted the British-owned East India Tea Company a monopoly on exporting tea into the colonies. Colonists would willingly pay taxes on British tea, the King reasoned, if it cost less than smuggled imports. Wrong! Led by Sam Adams, the colonists rebelled, starting down the long road that would lead to the American Revolution and independence.

Most kids love learning about the Boston Tea Party. They understand the frustration of “taxation without representation” – being told what to do without being asked for input. Here are some activities that help illustrate other facets of the rebellion.

Mohawk Headdresses

Rebels were committing treason against the British king, a crime punishable by death. To disguise themselves, they dressed like Mohawk Indians. Making a Mohawk headdress is easy if you have a baseball cap, crazy glue, feathers and a needle and thread.

  • Cut the brim off the cap and discard. You’ll be left with a beanie.
  • Glue pieces of feather all over the cap.
  • When that’s dry, glue or sew a few feathers upright along the back of the cap. You can also add ribbons and beads.

Colonial Tea Party

Refusing to pay a tax they considered unfair, patriotic colonists staged a boycott of British tea. Their sacrifice is your children’s gain; a colonial “tea party” features hot chocolate or warm cider instead of tea. Colonial sugar was pressed into cone shapes, wrapped in paper, and broken into bits to sweeten drinks. Although you won’t need it, traditional white sugar cones are available online for under $4 or in Mexican markets as brown sugar piloncillo.

Re-enacting the Tea Party

Tea was big business in colonial times – not only a popular drink, it was also a form of currency. Like sugar, it was sold pressed into blocks, and pieces could be broken off and used like money. The tea thrown into Boston Harbor would be worth over $1 million today. Don’t worry; your re-enactment won’t cost you a cent. All you’ll need is tea bags and a little imagination.

  • Make cardboard signs reading “No taxation without representation!”
  • Dress up in your new headdresses. Optional: paint faces to resemble warpaint.
  • Designate an area of the floor as the harbor, give the kids the signs and the tea and let them go crazy. Not only will they have a blast, they’ll learn about the right to assemble and freedom of speech – principles our revolutionary forefathers had to fight for.

Visit the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum

If you live near Boston, the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum should be on your must-see list – when they reopen in summer 2009, that is. Until then, the website offers information and free activities: www.bostonteapartyship.com

The Boston Tea Party Historical Society also offers activities and a free downloadable poster at www.boston-tea-party.org

So, bring out the Lipton’s and let the revolution begin!