Everyday Etiquette: Valentine\'s Day Tea Time
by Diane Gottsman

Feb. 14 is Valentine\'s Day, so dust off the china, polish up the silver and put your pinkies down - let\'s have a Tea Party! It\'s a fun way to learn good manners.

Children love to have parties and what better reason than to share a cup of tea with someone you love. Tea parties are not just for children!

Any age and any gender can enjoy the ceremony of tea. There are six different types of tea ceremonies:

  • Afternoon Tea
  • Cream Tea
  • Light Tea
  • High Tea
  • Full Tea
  • Royal Tea
Regardless of what type of tea you will host, the basic rules are always the same and it all starts with the invitation.

  • The invitation sets the tone and children usually have a pretty good idea of a theme they are interested in. Always include the "Who, What, Where and When" along with a telephone number for the all-important, and rarely observed, "RSVP." Remarkably, children\'s RSVP responses are usually better than adults.
  • The tea table is the focal point of the party and also a reflection of personal taste. Decorate the table with favorite serving pieces, using heights, shapes and materials that will add interest. The table does not have to be perfect and it is important to let your child be involved with everything from set up to clean up. Don\'t worry if you don\'t own a complete set of china - mixing and matching adds a special touch.
  • Traditional teatime fare consists of scones, tea sandwiches and pastries. However, it\'s a children\'s tea party and foods made with little hands should be encouraged and welcomed. Putting out plain sugar cookies and letting the children decorate them is always fun and entertaining.
  • Tea Time: The proper time for tea is between 3 and 5 p.m., but, who\'s watching? Have your tea party at a time that is convenient and comfortable for the young guests. Consider a morning, "Mommy & Me Play Date Tea" or a lunch "Teddy Bear Tea."
Here are some teatime dos and don\'ts:

  • Do take small bites and avoid talking with your mouth full.
  • Do look into, not over, the cup when drinking.
  • Do be a good guest and mingle.
  • Do send a thank-you note within 24 hours of the tea.
  • Don\'t shake your napkin out like you\'re flagging a taxi.
  • Don\'t place personal items (gloves, purses or tiaras) on the table.
  • Don\'t touch your face or head at the tea table.
  • Don\'t extend your little pinkie. (Yes, that\'s right! Extending the pinkie does not reflect your good breeding - it\'s actually considered bad manners.)
Most importantly, enjoy the opportunity to spend some special time with your child. A tea is just one way to build a memory. Knowing the tea rules is great, but biting into a gooey, over-decorated, heart-shaped, sugar cookie is even better. Enjoy!

Happy Valentine\'s Day.

Diane Gottsman is a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol expert who leads age-appropriate etiquette programs for children as well as adults striving to fine-tune their skills. She has a master\'s degree in sociology/education. For more information, check out

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