Was your Ex handling all the *“girly”* stuff in your daughter’s life up to now? Having a daughter is something special: They don’t call her *“Daddy’s girl”* for nothing. Your little princess might be 3, 6, 12 or anywhere in between, but don’t be surprised if she invites you to a tea party, or asks you to plan one with her. You can make a tea party as simple or as fancy as you both like. She might be the one guiding you through the best parts of sitting down to a teddy bear picnic together, but if not, or if you just want to get a gist of what it means to host your first tea party with your daughter (or son), here are a few pointers.
Daddy Daughter Time – Planning
Invitations. Who do you both want to include? Siblings, other close family members, pets, dolls, toys, or just you and her? This could be special father/daughter time, or you may want to encourage your child to include others. Again, offer the options, and be okay with what she chooses. Sit down with some paper and crayons and make simple invitations together, or let her do the work while you make lists. These are just for show, to sit in front of her teddy bears so they “feel special” or to hand to family members. This will be good writing and drawing practice as well as the importance of being cordial to loved ones.
Leave room for a last-minute invitation to the family cat.
Pick a date/time and commit. It’s important to choose a date and time AND A DURATION and stick to it. A 4-year-old’s tea party is probably a five-minute venture. A 12-year-old might want two hours of your time; if you really only have a free hour on the date you’ve agreed on, tell her. But that hour is hers—and yours—together.
Location. Kids usually have good knees but not all grownups do. Include her in the planning, but the floor may not be right for everyone. The dining table, a kids table, card table, a picnic table outside during nice weather, are all good places, preferably undisturbed and not in the path of flying footballs or frisbees is ideal. Have a backup location just in case. Planning ahead for weather, interruptions, or anything else can keep things going smoothly. Here’s a cute play tent if your crossed-leg game is strong.
Talking points. If it’s pretty rare for you to spend quality time together like this, make it count. Kids might take off running with all sorts of conversation, but what if you are just getting to know this little person? For whatever reason, it can sometimes be hard to make small talk. It’s okay to laugh and talk about your own childhood, and ask about the things going on in your little one’s life. Even little kids appreciate talking about themselves and being the center of attention. Make some mental notes, or some real notes. You can pull out an index card: “I have some fun stuff I want to talk to you about. Want me to share them with you?”
Daddy Daughter Time – Shopping
Food. Set a budget for this. Snacks shouldn’t be too elaborate. Finger foods like PF goldfish, cut fruit, cookies, and such are ideal. You might want to stay away from iced/frosted goodies, especially if you are sitting on the carpet. Some dads have everything they need in the house already for a hot drink, but if you are just starting off in your own place, this could be a good time to stock your pantry. You never know when a rousing tea party could break out at your place.
If there isn’t time for her to join you while you pick up supplies, be sure to sit down with her and go over your list. It’s okay to steer her away from food and drinks that you don’t want her to have, so give her your pre-approved choices, keeping any dietary or allergy restrictions in mind too. “Would you like raisins or dried apples? This is going to be so much fun. I can’t wait for us to spend this time together.”
Tea/Drinks. Is she old enough to enjoy a real hot cup of tea? Younger kids are usually drinking teacups full of lemonade, but you might be surprised. A good starter tea for young kids is a room-temperature decaf mild lemon-flavored tea, decaf orange pekoe (the standard in a Lipton tea bag), or any herbal variety (naturally noncaffeinated). They still sell sugar cubes, believe it or not. It’s okay to ask even the youngest of children what they like, or what they might want to try, and having a list for them to start from is ideal. Kids love to have choices: “Do you want your favorite drink or would you like to try something new and different and talk about it together?”
Accessories. Not every household has the room for a special tea set, even a kid-sized one. Child tea sets come reasonably priced in plastic and pottery, so you may want to get one if she doesn’t have one, especially if this might be part of a birthday celebration. If you’re making grownup tea, there are a few options for an electric kettle and stove top kettle out there. Just supervise the tea-making process at every step. It’s also perfectly fine to bring out the household dishes: unmatched mugs, napkins instead of plates, a small bowl for sugar and a little measuring cup full of cream will do the trick, too. It’s about you spending time together.
Setting up the Scene on Party Day
Getting dressed. How often does she see you in a tie? Does she realize that when Daddy goes to work in his suit that it means it’s a very important job? This is the perfect time to wear the tie again – her party is very important to her, so it’s important to you. These little things may go verbally under the radar, but they sink in. Kids are sponges for the good stuff, too. Help her choose something from her closet that is special to her or meant for nice occasions. Maybe a tea party isn’t enough of a celebration to garner a new dress, but you can make a special time of choosing one of her favorite outfits for the occasion.
During the planning stage is a good time to talk about table manners. Talk about your family—traditions and manners that you grew up with as well as what you want to encourage now.
Be prepared to ignore outside distractions so that you can be there and enjoy the time together. If you need to leave your phone on for emergencies, make sure you are taking plenty of pictures and selfies with it.
Role play. How much of your time spent might be pretending to make her favorite stuffed animal talk? There’s no telling, but as long as you get a bite of your favorite cookie in, all is fair in love and tea.
Handling meltdowns. Sometimes things don’t go quite the way you thought they would, and you had to correct a misbehavior in the middle of pinkies-out. One of the best ways my daughter and I would handle potential crises was for me to tell her what was happening before they happened. If I picked her up from school and I needed to stop at the store, we didn’t just arrive at the store. I told her where we were headed, and what I was picking up. If there was an opportunity for her to pick out a favorite cereal or snack, I told her in advance, and I’d also say if this was a fast run-in/run-out. She knew what to expect, and this made all the difference in her behavior while we were out. Give her a chance to start over. If she makes a mess, be her advocate and fix it together. It’s easy to demand compliance and obedience, but kids more often than not need to know you are on their side no matter what, even when the cause of all the frustration might land squarely in their laps. It’s ok to calmly ask if she wants to end the tea party early. Choices often make a kid stop and think about consequences and next-steps.
Wrapping up/Cleanup. It’s a party and it’s a joint effort, so make sure you’ve scheduled it according to what your schedule can handle. Does a friend want her to go play RIGHT NOW? Well you’ve just finished this amazing tea party together, and things need to be picked up, put away, and washed, and doing these things together will help that go faster. Remind her that to not follow instructions means that a tea party may not happen again, and you had such a wonderful time being with her, what a shame that would be.
You may immediately get asked “When is the next party, daddy?” and you can give her the exact date when you will plan the next one together. But what a success it’s been if that is the outcome, and you’ll have great memories to show for it.
Cheerio and pip-pip, loves! Have a spot of tea!
Contributed post by Renee Groskreutz. Meet Go-Go-Gadget Renee’. Her passion for #kitchen gadgets is matched only by her love for tech. A real #foodie, she’s all heart for red wine and delicious meals. #CookingChewTribe
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