Hallmark set up camp for all things bunny the day after Valentine’s Day and the aisles have been awash in pastels ever since—clearly, Easter’s on its way! But a hundred years ago, Easter wasn’t such a commercial enterprise. Easter then meant bouquets of lilies, dressing up in Sunday best, and maybe a spring get-together with an egg hunt on the lawn to follow. Let your children revel in the slow charm of bygone years with an Easter tea party. Here are some great ideas to get the festivities started.

Arts & Crafts

What would a traditional Easter tea party be without an Easter bonnet? In generations past, there was often no greater pleasure for some young girls than designing their very own Easter hats. Many hobby stores sell inexpensive straw hats (flocked top hats are a great substitute for boys); get one per guest and plenty of silk flowers, beads, ribbons, lace, buttons, etc., for decoration. As children arrive to the party, have a table set up with the findings and allow children—with adult help, naturally—to use hot glue guns to create festive headgear. Younger kids may want to sing Easter songs, such as “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” or tea party favorites like “I’m a Little Teapot” as they decorate. Consider giving prizes for the prettiest hat, the silliest hat, etc.

Another easy Easter tea party craft is a paper towel roll napkin ring. Cut an empty paper towel roll into 1-1 ½ inch segments. Make the napkin rings fancy by covering them with aluminum foil or gold leaf. Children can use the “hat” table (and probably the same craft items) to personalize their napkin rings further. Make pipe cleaners available to twist into egg shapes, by simply coiling the pipe cleaners around in the shape of an oval, or into bunny heads—coil one pipe cleaner into a circle and add two pipe cleaner ears and a bow tie. Use hot glue to attach them to the napkin rings and place the custom-made creations at the table where each child will be sitting.

Minding Their Manners

Manners matter, and the unhurried ambiance of a tea party can be a great time to practice good behavior for erstwhile on-the-go kids. If at all possible, have cloth napkins available for the children to create that “formal” atmosphere. Older children can be taught some simple napkin-folding techniques as they sit to eat—the fan (fold the napkin accordion-style) and the roll (roll each side to the center)—and then slip the napkins into the napkin rings. Once the table is set, have children walk in formally from the left, waiting to take their seats until every member of the party is in place. Giggles will no doubt ensue, but most children will relish the opportunity to act “grown-up”.

As the children sit, give them a crash course in proper tea party etiquette. Cover the basics, like how to use a napkin, how to pass a dish, how to stir the “tea” without clinking the spoon around in the teacup—and absolutely no slurping allowed! Munro Leaf’s book Manners Can Be Fun (Universe Publishing, 2004) and Dorothea Johnson’s Children’s Tea and Etiquette: Brewing Good Manners in Young Minds (Benjamin Press, 2006) may differ in their approach, but both are great, accessible etiquette aids and offer suggestions from everything from table manners to follow-up thank-you notes. For older kids, you may want to print up about 4 of these simple rules on a quarter sheet of paper and slip it inside their napkin as a reminder. Use incentives to help them remember their manners, such as adding an Easter egg to the Easter egg hunt every time you catch a child practicing politeness.

What to Serve

Kids love tea parties—but tea is a little sophisticated for most young palates. Consider serving iced tea, apple juice or homemade lemonade instead. Pour it from a teapot into small china teacups (available at craft stores) decorated with stickers by your older kids, or simply into paper cups for a younger crowd. Kids can still have all the fun of adding “sugar” and “cream” to their tea if you make the lemonade a little tart: put out a real sugar bowl and simply substitute sparkling water for cream.

For tea party food, finger sandwiches are a must. Make peanut butter and jelly, egg salad or chicken salad sandwiches and use Easter-themed cookie cutters to create fun shapes. Serve them either with carrot sticks or with a carrot and raisin salad. Fruit and cheese kebabs are another great idea for light fare, and one that kids can customize to their own appetite. Naturally, everyone will want to save room for these miniature carrot cake cupcakes!

What You Need:

  • 2 4-oz jars of carrot baby food
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (or use 3/4 unsweetened apple sauce and 3/4 cup oil, to reduce the fat content)
  • 4 eggs or egg substitute equivalent
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp of cinnamon
  • small can crushed pineapple (drained)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-17 minutes for cupcakes.
For the frosting:
  • 1 package fat free cream cheese
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 box powdered sugar.
Combine butter and cream cheese first and mix in additional ingredients to make frosting.

Once the last crumbs are cleared from the table, close with a good, old-fashioned Easter egg hunt. Have one adult hide eggs while the children are eating and then turn them loose and let the fun begin!