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A Fun Tea Party

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Miki Duisterhof

In England, preschoolers enjoy a tea party at least twice a day. Every midmorning and midafternoon, they gather at tiny tables, filling their teacups, munching their biscuits, and singing their favorite nursery rhymes.

While this time-honored British tradition will probably never replace milk and cookies in U.S. preschools, interest in children's tea parties in America has exploded, says Dixie Duffey, founder of Protocol International in Phoenix, who recently hosted one for the daughter of rock legend Alice Cooper. "A growing number of hotels and resorts offer children's teas -- or have a special children's menu during adult tea. And they sell out fast."

Tea parties in the home -- for birthdays or just for fun -- have become increasingly popular too. "Parents see tea as a great opportunity for their children to learn social graces in an entertaining way," says Duffey, a children's etiquette consultant. When Duffey hosts teas for children ages 4 to 8, she teaches them how to hold a teacup, how to properly use a napkin, and how to introduce themselves to other kids at the table. "Children who learn manners during tea will behave much better when you take them into other social situations -- like out to dinner or to a friend's house," promises Duffey.

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Miki Duisterhof

And while traditional tea parties conjure up images of ruffled pink dresses, floral china, and lacy tablecloths, they don't have to be fancy to be fun, says Sue Christian Parsons, Ph.D., an assistant professor of elementary education at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK, and coauthor of Let's Have a Tea Party. You can plan a tea party with your child and her friends on the lawn, in the playroom, or in her bedroom. Paper cups and plates are fine. "A tea party can just be a gathering of friends who share a cup of tea or lemonade, a tasty snack, and a good time," says Dr. Parsons.

Duffey has hosted parties where young guests can bring their favorite toys, especially teddy bears. "Taking along a stuffed animal helps children overcome their shyness," she says. "Some children who might otherwise feel reluctant to introduce themselves will happily tell the group about their special bear." You can set places for the toys at the table, if there's room.

While you can certainly use store-bought foods, we prepared a thoroughly modern tea party for six, complete with delicious and easy-to-make recipes kids will love. Use these recipes and ideas to help brew a new family tradition.

Tutti-Fruity Tea

While this warm beverage doesn't really contain any tea, it has all the vitamin C that children up to age 10 require for the entire day. Plus, it'll help them practice how to hold china cups.

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. quart cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup lemonade
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced

Instructions:

Step 1: In a large saucepan, bring ingredients to a simmer. Cook for a minute or two and remove from heat. Cool before serving.

Nutritional Facts:

Each serving: 72 calories, 0 g protein, 18 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 16 mg calcium, 0 mg iron, 2 mg sodium.

Banana Scones

This dessert isn't nutritionally vacant: It squeezes in fiber, potassium and calcium.

Makes: 14
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 12 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Canola oil spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut in chunks
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 2 Tbs. molasses
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 Tbs. low-fat milk for top of scones

Instructions:

Step 1: Heat oven to 400°F.

Step 2: Spray baking sheets with canola oil and set aside.

Step 3: In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With a pastry blender or your clean fingers, mix in butter until the texture resembles coarse crumbs.

Step 4: In a food processor, combine eggs, yogurt, and molasses.

Step 5: Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture. Gather dough and turn onto a floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic.

Step 6: Shape dough into 2-inch circles that are about 3/4-inch thick. Place on prepared trays and brush the tops with the egg wash. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the bottoms of the scones are golden brown.

Nutritional Facts:

Each scone: 151 calories, 3 g protein, 20 g carbohydrate, 7 g fat (4 g saturated), 2 g fiber, 33 mg cholesterol, 100 mg calcium, 1 mg iron, 34 mg sodium.

Secret Bread

Ask children to identify the trio of dried fruits hiding inside this bread and tell you which one they think tasted the best. Chances are, they won't be able to make up their minds.

Serves: 18 slices
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Canola oil spray
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup chilled butter, diced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbs. grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 3 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries

Instructions:

Step 1: Heat oven to 350°F.

Step 2: Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with the canola oil and set aside.

Step 3: In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix well and add chilled butter. Using your hands or a pastry blender, combine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Step 4: In another bowl, blend egg, zest, orange juice, rind, and oil. Add dry ingredients and stir just until mixed. Add wheat germ, raisins, apricots, and cherries; do not overmix.

Step 5: Spread dough into loaf pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cut when completely cool and wrap in foil before storing.

Nutritional Facts:

Each slice: 183 calories, 3 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (2 g saturated), 2 g fiber, 21 mg cholesterol, 44 mg calcium, 1 mg iron, 125 mg sodium.

Apple-Spice Tea

When brewing tea for children, be sure to use herbal tea instead of green or black, which may contain as much caffeine as coffee. And if your kids don't like the taste of tea, simply heat up the spiced apple juice.

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 32 oz. apple juice
  • 4 orange-spice herbal tea bags
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Peel of one orange

Instructions:

Step 1: In a large saucepan, heat ingredients to a simmer. Remove from heat. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Facts:

Each serving: 73 calories, 0 g protein, 18 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 17 mg calcium, 1 g iron, 5 mg sodium.

Coconut Tea Squares

This super-easy three-ingredient treat makes a delicious dessert any night of the week.

Makes: 24
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 12 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk, such as Carnation or Eagle
  • 6 slices cinnamon-raisin bread, cut into quarters with crusts removed
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut

Instructions:

Step 1: Heat oven to 350°F.

Step 2: Spread a teaspoon or two of milk on each quarter of bread. Top each piece with a teaspoon of the coconut.

Step 3: Place on ungreased cookie sheet, and bake until the bread begins to toast and the coconut turns light golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Nutritional Facts:

Each square: 46 calories, 1 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 2 g fat (1 g saturated), 0 g fiber, 2 mg cholesterol, 22 mg calcium, 0 g iron, 48 mg sodium.

Vanilla Cocoa

This creamy drink provides 25% of the bone-building calcium that children ages 4 to 8 need for the entire day.

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cooking Time: 6 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 4 cups low-fat milk

Instructions:

Step 1: In a medium bowl, combine bean and sugar. Allow to sit for at least 24 hours as the bean imparts its flavor to the sugar.

Step 2: In a large saucepan over low heat, combine cocoa, 4 Tbs. of sugar, and milk. Bring slowly to the boiling point, but do not boil, whisking almost constantly for 4 to 6 minutes. Pour cocoa into cups, and serve when cool enough for children. Store remaining vanilla sugar.

Nutritional Facts:

Each serving: 111 calories, 6 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 2 g fat (1 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 7 mg cholesterol, 205 mg calcium, 1 g iron, 83 mg sodium.

Extra-Special Egg Salad

Makes: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 0 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices whole-wheat bread, with crusts removed
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, mashed
  • 2 Tbs. low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Step 1: Cut bread with small cookie cutters. (Each slice should yield 3 pieces.)

Step 2: In a small bowl, combine eggs, mayonnaise, dill, salt, and pepper.

Step 3: Spread the mixture on half of the bread; top with remaining bread.

Nutritional Facts:

Each sandwich: 96 calories, 6 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat (2 g saturated), 2 g fiber, 106 mg cholesterol, 28 mg calcium, 2 g iron, 270 mg sodium.

Jammin' Squares

Makes: 6
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 0 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 slices white bread, cut into 2 circles each, with crusts removed
  • 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam

Instructions:

Step 1: Spread 6 pieces of bread with jam. Using mini cookie cutters, cut shapes out of the remaining pieces of bread, and place them on top of the jam pieces.

Nutritional Facts:

Each sandwich: 87 calories, 2 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 1 mg cholesterol, 19 mg calcium, 1 g iron, 97 mg sodium.

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Copyright @ 2001. Reprinted with permission from the April 2001 issue of Child Magazine.