Teatime with Toddlers
I love tea time. Not necessarily anything elaborate, just a simple, quiet cup of tea. If I can manage it (since I’m not in the wake-up-before-your-kids season right now), I like to have a cup of tea and read my Bible for 5 or 10 minutes in the morning, but having a cup of tea later in the day is also good for taking a breath and re-focusing on the day. My boys also love drinking tea and sitting down for a cup together is a great opportunity for us to connect – and for them to practice sitting still.
We’ve been having tea together about 2-3 times a week for roughly a year now, so I thought I’d share with you what works for us.
Both of my boys have learned to be gentle and careful with their teacups – because they own them. Not that my kids never break anything because, believe me, they do. But there’s something extra-special about having your very own teacup and they really do treasure them.
But, I only paid $0.59 each for their teacups (with saucers) at a local thrift shop, so I’m not freaked out over them getting broken. One of the teacups did end up broken after a few months, completely unrelated to teatime, and I was able to replace it inexpensively. (Remarkably, I found an exact match at a flea market!)
If you’re not ready to hand over your great-grandmother’s china to your small children, browse the shelves at your local thrift store, so if/when they do get broken, it won’t be expensive to replace them. You can also use mugs which are typically sturdier and have heftier, easier-to-hold handles.
When we first started having tea together, I showed my boys the process, talking them through each step as I did it. The next time, I demonstrated each step and then let them do it after me. The third time, I reminded them of how to do each step, but let them do it on their own.
Their tea time prep:
- Place an open napkin or placemat at the table.
- Place a second, folded napkin beside the first.
- Carefully set your saucer and teacup on the placemat.
- Place a spoon beside the saucer.
- Put your tea bag in the cup, with the string hanging out.
At this point, I take over a good deal of the process for now, as the boys are only 2 and 3. I pour the hot water into their cups and we talk while the tea steeps. They’re learning how to squeeze out their tea bags, but it takes a combination of strength and dexterity they don’t quite have yet, so we do that step together. Next, I dip each of their spoons into the honey pot, then they stir it into their tea. Finally, they get to pour in their own milk or add their own ice cubes to their tea.
Usually we just have tea, but occasionally we merge tea time and snack time. Because we only do this once in awhile, I think it makes it feel more special. While they’re drinking their tea I can read aloud a few poems, a picture book, or a short chapter from a longer book.
After we’re done, each of the boys is responsible for carrying his own dishes to the counter (not the sink, as they would have to drop them in and they would get broken), so I can wash them. They use their napkins to clean up any drips or spills, then put the napkins in the hamper.
Once everything’s been clean and dried, I set it back up on a tray for the next time we’re ready for tea.
It sounds long and complicated, but having everything broken down into small, precise steps makes the whole thing much smoother, and it really doesn’t take that long at all. From tea kettle to clean-up, our tea time is usually about 20-25 minutes.
Do you have tea time with toddlers or preschoolers? Do you incorporate reading or keep it focused on tea and snacks? I’d love to hear your stories and ideas for sharing this wonderful tradition with little ones!
(Sometimes they pull out a random assortment of teacups and miniature tea sets and have tea with their animals.)
This post was modified slightly from a post I wrote in 2016.