Girls birthday party ideas: tea party

Girls of all ages will enjoy a birthday tea party. Here are some tips to make your little princess's tea party a success.

By the time birthday tea parties came into fashion, my daughter Melissa was approaching the age of thirteen. I felt the window of opportunity for a birthday tea party had probably closed and was quite disappointed. But, ever the optimist, I tentatively approached Melissa with the idea of inviting her friends, all of whom were young ladies entering high school, to a birthday tea party. Melissa was skeptical at first. Frankly, the idea of forever missing out on a birthday tea party did not seem to bother her in the least. But, as a mother who saw my little girl growing up rapidly before my eyes, I had a hard time letting go of the idea. It took a little coaxing""okay, a LOT of coaxing. But, once Melissa was on board with the idea, it was full speed ahead.

And so it was that Melissa celebrated her thirteenth birthday party with a ladies' afternoon tea. The girls actually had a great time, although years later, when they were high school seniors about to graduate, they refused to let me contribute a group photo from the event to their high school yearbook.

In any case, whether your little princess is three or thirteen, an afternoon tea party is the perfect birthday party theme for a group of special young ladies. Here are some ideas to make your little girl's birthday tea party a happy success.

INVITATIONS

Invitations to a birthday tea party can be grown up and formal, lacey and frilly, or pink and little-girl sweet. For handmade decorations, try a shape that fits the party's theme, such as a tea cup or, perhaps, a teddy bear or doll.

Add fragrance to either homemade or store-bought invitations by incorporating a spicy- or sweet-smelling tea bag into the design, potpourri style.

Make sure the invitations instruct the girls to come in their finest tea party dresses or their favorite clothes for playing dress-up. Tell them also to bring along as a guest their favorite doll or teddy bear.

If the girls are very young (or even if they are not), you may wish to include mothers in the invitations. A mother-daughter tea party can create many lovely memories, and it is helpful to have the mothers available with very young ladies to assist them at tea time.

DECORATIONS

Decorations for a birthday tea party are very simple and can incorporate many things you may already have at home. For this party, femininity is the key. The more pink and lace you can include in the decor, the better. Cover the dining room table with a fancy lace tablecloth. The tablecloth need not be expensive. In fact, an inexpensive lace tablecloth is best, but the frillier and lacier, the better.

Set the table with china tea cups and saucers, a sugar bowl and creamer, and all of the necessary tea accoutrements. Again, you need not use expensive china. You can often find colorful and very pretty assorted tea cups and saucers at local thrift shops. Mixing and matching designs actually adds to the overall charm of the table setting.

As a centerpiece, you can use a teddy bear dressed in frilly, pink, tea party attire, or perhaps a pretty, old-fashioned tea pot filled with flowers. Any floral centerpiece will be quite lovely and will add that grown-up, tea party atmosphere for your young lady.

You may also wish to include more festive touches, such as streamers in pink and white, or other pastel colors, and balloons.

ATTIRE

Of course, every young lady wants to look her very best for an afternoon tea party. You can have the young ladies come in their favorite party dresses. Better yet, have them come in their favorite dress-up clothes, either something of mom's or a beautiful and fancy (but inexpensive) grown-up lady's evening dress or ball gown from a consignment or thrift shop.

Have an assortment of fancy accessories on hand for the girls to borrow for the afternoon, such as gloves, costume jewelry, feather boas, tiaras and hats. You may also choose to have play makeup available for the girls to try on, such as lipstick, rouge, glitter, powder puffs and, perhaps, nail polish. Position mirrors so the young ladies can admire themselves and let them have fun getting ready for afternoon tea.

Another idea is to have doll clothes and accessories available so that the young ladies can dress up their dolls or teddy bears properly for the tea party. You can also let the girls make or decorate fancy hats for themselves, or for their dolls or teddy bears, as a craft activity.

REFRESHMENTS

Since it is a tea party, you must of course have tea available, whether it is real tea or a substitute, make-believe "tea" beverage. You can fill a decorated basket or baskets with assorted, flavored tea bags, such as strawberry, raspberry and orange teas. Depending on the girls' ages and whether moms or helpers are available to assist, you may wish to let the young ladies steep their own tea. Children always enjoy being able to do things for themselves, and it will certainly add to the fun if they are able to dunk their own tea bag, pour a splash of cream from the pitcher, and use the sugar tongs to drop in a sugar cube (or two or three or four). To ensure that the making of the tea is a fun activity, make sure the water for the tea is warm, but not hot, to avoid burns.

Although making the tea will certainly be enjoyable, the young ladies may find that drinking the tea is not all it is cracked up to be. Not many very young ladies actually appreciate the pleasures of warm tea, so make sure to have other beverage options available, such as milk or punch.

If your tea is a luncheon, you may wish to serve finger sandwiches. Simply make regular sandwiches to suit your guest's tastes, such as ham and cheese, or peanut butter and jelly, and cut the sandwiches into small, crustless squares or rectangles. You may wish to decorate the tops of the sandwiches. Very young ladies always enjoy a nice smiley face made of raisins, nuts and carrot curls on a fancy finger sandwich. For dessert, serve iced and decorated tea cakes, petit fours, lady fingers, cupcakes, or even a sheet cake cut into manageable slices.

GAMES AND ACTIVITIES

Traditional games such as musical chairs are always enjoyable at a tea party, even for teens. Just be careful in planning games that you take into account the girls' attire, which may include overly-long dresses, making them susceptible to tripping.

Also, the young ladies will certainly enjoy putting on a fashion show and modeling their beautiful outfits.

However, the most special activity for this birthday tea party is without a doubt the teddy bear circle. Besides the traditional party games, which never go out of style, have the young ladies sit in a circle with the teddy bears or dolls they have invited as their guests. Go around the circle and let each girl tell about her favorite doll or teddy bear. Let each girl tell also why this particular doll or teddy bear is so special to her.

This is one part of the tea party that you will want to make sure to capture on videotape. You can be sure these little girls are going to say some precious things that you will always want to remember. Even with older girls, this can be a very heartwarming moment. It was very touching to hear my 13-year old daughter Melissa share that her worn baby doll was still her favorite after many years because he had been a gift from her grandmother (my mom) shortly before she passed away.

You will certainly want to take pictures of the girls with their dolls or teddy bears, which they can then take home as keepsakes or give to their moms. As an extra arts and crafts activity, you can let the girls design and decorate their own picture frames for the snapshots.

All this talk of little girl birthday tea parties has made me quite nostalgic. Melissa's 21st

birthday is coming up in a few months, and I think it may be time to gather her friends for a festive, but elegant, birthday tea party reunion. Shhhhhh, don't tell her. It will be a surprise!

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