How to Host an American Girl Tea Party
When I was little, I spent hours playing with my Barbie tea set. I would line my dolls and teddy bears up on the benches of our backyard picnic table and set out the little dishes and teacups, so each doll and animal had their own place setting. I would fold the napkins just so and arrange their "silverware" on the napkins. Then I would serve the "tea" which was really Tropical Punch Kool-Aid since I didn't like tea back then. Last, I gave them all a cookie on their little china plates. I stepped back and admired the sweet little scene I had created. And then...then I very methodically drank every drop of "tea" and ate every cookie. Ahhh...the pleasures of being the youngest of four children and getting to eat all you wanted at least once during the day! In my defense, I did help the teddies and dolls take a sip of the tea and a bite of the cookies... but they didn't eat much.
The Tea Party
Flash forward, and now I'm a grown-up having the pleasure of hosting an American Girl tea party for children where I work. If you don't know about the American Girl dolls, just Google them and find their website and you will be amazed at the little merchandising empire that their inventor, Pleasant T. Rowland created. Each doll has a set of books written about her exploits and is set in a historical time period in America. Yes, they are EDUCATIONAL, which is hard to find in this day and age. And wholesome as well which you can't say for some dolls these days. They also have a whole line of look-a-like outfits that their owners can dress in, plus come in a multitude of skin tones, hair, and eye colors, so their owners can pick a doll that looks like them.
The first year I hosted the tea party, I had 34 RSVP's. Seventy-five people showed up in a tiny room with the air conditioning malfunctioning, it was bad. Before you have your tea, make sure what your rules are going to be. If you plan on selling tickets in advance, do so, but make a decision about whether you are going to sell tickets at the door as well, because the number of people has a huge impact on food served and supplies needed.
Our tea party was free for our population, which is why we had an issue with people just showing up. The following year we were sure to let people know that they HAD to RSVP or they would not be allowed to come. Sounds harsh, I know, but it will definitely help with planning. If you're planning your tea as a fundraiser, just do advance ticket sales only. Then you'll know your count ahead of time.
Tea Party Menu
The important thing to remember when you're doing a tea party where children AND adults are involved is to keep the food simple enough to please the palates of children, but interesting enough to please the adults as well. Tea is served in courses with cold tea served along with the meal as well as hot. For those who don't like tea, and many children don't, we served lemonade and water. However, we tried to do everything as if it were a real tea with sugar cubes and cream on the table and real china cups and saucers.
During the first course, we served scones with Devonshire cream and raspberry jam and miniature blueberry, lemon poppy seed, and chocolate chip muffins. During the next course, we served tea sandwiches. To please both children and adults, we served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cucumber, and cream cheese sandwiches, chicken salad and apple and cheese sandwiches, all cut into pretty little shapes with cookie cutters. To do this, you need to make sure your bread is still slightly frozen. It cuts much more easily if you do. The next course was fruits like strawberries dipped in chocolate. The final course was a chocolate cake with a poured chocolate icing. Yummy!
Tea Party Activities
I had a blast looking online for crafts and games that girls of the time period each American Girl came from which might work for the tea. I came up with a great list of crafts, one representing each doll and had a picture of that doll on the table in an acrylic frame along with the title of the craft. In a separate frame, I had directions for how to do the craft with all the supplies laid out on the table. The crafts were a huge hit! Here are some of the ones we've done over the years:
- Kaya's Bracelet: Made from a piece of leather-looking fabric and suede lacing. I cut slits in the leather ahead of time horizontally, and the girls threaded suede lacing through the slits with turquoise pony beads and bells and left enough lacing on either side to tie around their wrists for a cool Native American noisemaker.
- Samantha's Victorian Fan: a 6 x 12 piece of scrapbooking paper or wallpaper with lace glued to one edge, then accordion-pleated and stapled on one end makes a very pretty fan.
- Josefina's Paper Flowers: We made tissue paper flowers, and some of the girls put them in their hair.
- Kit's Whirligig: Since Kit lived during the depression when parents couldn't afford toys, children had to make their own. A whirligig was an oversized button threaded onto a long piece of string which we tied together to make a loop. The button was slipped to the middle of the loop, and the child held the ends of the loop in either hand and spun the loop until it was wound very tightly, then jerked the ends and watched the button spin round and round.
- Julie's Flower Pen: Since Julie's a bit of a flower child, we made flower pins by wrapping an ink pen with green florist's tape and halfway up inserting the stem of a silk flower. You continue wrapping the pen and the stem together until you reach the base of the flower. The girls loved this one!
- Molly's Lei: In one of the Molly stories, she dresses like a hula girl, so we made a lei from silk flowers, string, and pieces of cut soda straws.
American Girl Doll Giveaways
We also gave away two American Girl dolls at the tea, one for the winner of the owner/doll look-alike contest and one for the girl who had read the most books at the library for that month. We partnered with the library and created an American Girl tea party stamp card which the librarians stamped each time a child finished a book. The librarians turned over the cards to us the Friday before the tea, and we found the girl who had read the most books. In case of a tie, we simply drew names.
American Girl Tea Parties for Charity
Many groups host American Girl tea parties to benefit a specific charitable group which I think is a wonderful idea. Our tea party benefits children with military parents, but it is not a fundraiser. I think it would be very simple to get sponsors like florists, grocery stores, gift shops, etc., who would be willing to contribute items to lessen your out of pocket expenses if you wanted to make your tea party into a fundraiser.
I've heard of a tea party begun in 2008 when a little girl in Kansas heard that there were people in Africa without clean drinking water and wanted to do something to help. With her mother's assistance, they hosted what they called an All American Girl Tea Party to raise money to dig wells in Africa. The first year they made $6000, the second year $8000! All the girls and moms have a fabulous time and making it into a fundraiser for a worthwhile cause would just make it that much better.
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