Poetry Tea Party

sharing some special together time

Having a poetry tea party is our all-time favourite way to enjoy our tea in the afternoon. We bake together, set the table prettily and make some space for ourselves. We choose favourite poems to share, and we read poetry to each other while enjoying our tea and afternoon snack.

Why have a poetry tea party?

It's a truly wonderful way to inspire your children to enjoy poetry - or to share poetry that might otherwise remain unshared. In our modern world, we don't often take the time to read to one another, to share our thoughts in a quiet and genteel way.

What is a poetry tea party?

A poetry tea party is a time to stop the rush of daily life and take time with friends or family to share tea, cakes and to read poetry or discuss books out loud with one another. Over time, friends and family begin to connect poetry or other literary discussions with a time of contemplation, rest and joy.

I homeschool my children, and I got the idea of doing poetry teas from an amazing curriculum I bought called Writer's Jungle written by Julie Bogart. You can read more about poetry teas and Writer's Jungle at Bravewriter.com.

Here we are, at a summer poetry tea party sharing our poetry, peach scones and green tea. I can't believe how much my children have grown since this picture!

In the picture, I see I am reading Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by TS Elliott.

It's a lovely whimsical book of poems that was the basis for the hit musical, Cats, written back in the 1980s by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

I think our favourite poem from this book is Macavity the Mystery Cat.

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw -
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when the reach the scene of crime - Macavity's not there!

Where to begin?

Choose who to invite.

Start by deciding who is going to join in with your poetry tea.  I like to keep poetry tea parties fairly small and intimate so that people don't feel intimidated about reading aloud.

Just incidentally, I never make my children read out loud if they don't want to. I will read their choice of poem out loud for them if they prefer to just listen. This keeps it fun, which is my main aim.

Let people know what they need to bring.

People need to choose a poem or part of a book to read or to share. For the first time, this can be a little intimidating. If this is the case, you can choose a few poems yourself from a selection of different genres.

If you're not used to reading poetry, choose something fun and easily accessible. I highly recommend the Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, which I have discussed further below.

If you are currently reading a book out loud, you can choose to bring that to the table too.

Create your space

Make an intimate space.... It's like building a den!

We have a deck at the front of our house, and during the summer, we put a carpet out there and screen ourselves off from the world with cloths or with a folding screen. It's lovely and cool until the late afternoon when the sun comes round, and we spend most of our early day out there, studying and playing.

Before we decorate it, it's really quite bleak and it just shows what you can do with a few cushions and some sarongs! It doesn't take much to put up and take down for so much pleasure.

Lay the table

We don't always bring out the tablecloths, but we do always make sure that the table is clear and looks beautiful.

We use our best cups or mugs and serving dishes, and we always use plates.

What to serve

What you serve depends on how much work you want to put in. I think it's important to put in enough work to make it into a clearly special time.

Scones are quick and easy, but feel decadent when served with jam, fruit or cream (or all three....). This is the peach scone recipe which we serve with fresh peaches and cream.

Cookies are easy and great fun to bake with the children. Our all time favourites are these chocolate chip cookies: quick, reliable and tasty every time. Coming a close second for us are Melting Moments, which are just as quick and easy and taste sublime.

When the boys bake, they really love to make cupcakes. We have quite a collection of favourites now - but I think these little vanilla cupcakes topped with natural fruit puree frosting are possibly our current favourites.

Create a beautiful family tradition.

We love to make it special. There's something intimate and very beautiful about making the space to read to one another whilst sharing different goodies for afternoon tea. It's become a tradition - one that I hope my children will remember fondly.

My afternoon tea memories

I remember having tea in the afternoon when I lived out in Kenya. Tea on the covered terrace of the Club was a familiar and soothingly calm experience for me. Although the Club was in the middle of town, it was on a large plot of land with a cricket field in front of the terrace. The club house was an old colonial stone building with wooden parquet floors and dark wooden fittings.

Tea was served every afternoon. Same tea every day. A selection of finger sandwiches (always including egg, tomato and cucumber), some kind of slab cake and tea. Tea was served on a little covered trolley where you could go and help yourself to a plate of sandwiches. I have fond and wistful memories of this time. Sigh.

I love knowing that I am helping to create similar special memories for my own children.

A few of our favourite poetry books

Children's poetry books

With regard to children's poetry for a poetry tea party, I was delighted to see that you can buy the The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems by Jackie Morris on Amazon. The illustrations are gorgeous, and I think this is probably our favourite poetry book.

If you follow this link to Amazon, and click to look inside the book, you can see just how beautiful it is. Try clicking on Surprise Me! which shows you random pages from within the book.

This book includes poems for older children, but both my children have loved listening to the lilt of poetry far before they were able to understand the meaning behind it.

This book includes classics like The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear,Daffodils by William Wordsworth and The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils.
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
- William Wordsworth

Barefoot Books do have a really beautiful selection of books, all available on Amazon. We also regularly enjoy A Snowflake Fell: Poems about Winter compiled by Laura Whipple.

The latest edition to our bookshelf is Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings by Shel Silverstein. It's a fabulous book and we love it!

Poetry books for older people

For a more adult selection, how about Heart on the Mountain? It's a beautiful book of poetry written by a friend of ours who has become an inspiration to us all after losing a leg in an horrific accident several years ago.

Or I always love reading poetry by Rumi. Swallowing the Sun is one of my favourites.

Some of our favourite books to read aloud

Some of our very favourite read aloud books include:

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and

Little House on the Prairie (Little House, No 2) by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

We have read out loud all of the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The children loved them and they are such classics.

Journey to the River Sea is an absolutely beautiful book. We have enjoyed all the other Eva Ibbotson books that we have read so far too.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had everyone laughing all the way through. Especially the part about square sweets that look round. Oscar laughed all afternoon!

Square Sweets that Look Round

   "But they are square," said Mr Wonka. "I never said they weren't."
   "You said they were round!" said Veruca Salt.
   "I never said anything of the sort," said Mr Wonka. "I said they looked round."
   "But they don't look round!" said Veruca Salt. "They look square!"

....at the sound of the door opening, all the rows of little square sweets looked quickly round to see who was coming in. The tiny faces actually turned towards the door and stared at Mr Wonka.
   "There you are!" he cried triumphantly. "They're looking round! There's no argument about it! They are square sweets that look round!"

If you don't want to buy a book on poetry, there's plenty on the internet. Here's a lovely little thread I found with a selection of tea poems.

Does anyone have a favourite poem book to share with us? We're always open to new suggestions.

If you enjoyed our Poetry Tea Party idea, you might be interested to read more about Tea Party Etiquette.