The “Fancy Nancy” series of books by Jane O’Connor, with sparkly pink and purple illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser is very popular, and empowering for a lot of little girls. You can hold a Fancy Nancy Tea Party to celebrate these books and as a way to include more programming for girls, or mother-daughter programming (and father-daughter!). Some of these ideas were from postings on the PUBYAC listserv, and some are my own. You could also adapt these into a program celebrating the most famous tea party in children’s literature – Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Volunteers: When you do a program like this with several food, game, and craft stations, high school volunteers can be essential to your success. Is there a French club at your local high school? They can be great volunteers, and offer to be French waiters and teach some simple French phrases to the kids (like the ones Fancy Nancy uses in the books).
Websites: Here are some handy websites that had several “Fancy Nancy” party ideas –
MCLS Kids Library Blog: http://mclskids.pbworks.com/w/page/20658757/TEA20PARTIES
Many libraries do not allow food or drink in their facilities, but what is a tea party without them? The food and table decorations will be important to a successful “tea party” program. You can make tea, or buy bottled iced tea, and serve it in teacups (purchased at the thrift store) or even paper cups if you expect a large crowd. If tea is not appropriate for some children, lemonade is a nice alternative.
Instead of just putting out plates of cookies or cupcakes, make this area of the program creative. Allow guests to frost and decorate plain cookies – use canned frosting, with sprinkles, colored sugar, and other decorations available. Do the same with cupcakes – let the guest frost her own cupcake and add decorations.
For the health conscious, have simple sliced fruit available, such as orange slices, watermelon if it is in season, strawberries, or apples and pears. If you want to be a little more elaborate, make finger sandwiches: remove the crusts from the bread, then spread cream cheese, tuna or egg salad, or other fillings thinly on the bread. Slice into small triangles.
Use cloth tablecloths to make the setting more elegant, but paper napkins are fine. Flowers will add sophistication to the table, but add some fun lollipops to the flowers and allow guests to take the lollipops.
Fans: Decorate inexpensive paper folding fans, purchased from Oriental Trading Company or other wholesaler, and let the guests glue on feathers, glitter, and other decorations.
Hats or Tiaras: Make paper or craft foam crowns, or hats, and decorate with feathers, glitter, plastic jewels, etc. www.firstpalette.com/Craft_themes/Wearables/easypaperhat/easypaperhat.html
Tissue Paper Flowers: Tissue flowers are fun and inexpensive and are often popular in Latino families: http://spoonful.com/crafts/tissue-paper-flowers or http://rustsunshine.blogspot.com/2012/05/tissue-paper-flowers.html
Butterfly Wings: Fancy Nancy wears a pair of butterfly wings. These can be more complex to make than the other crafts listed, but if you have enough teen volunteers, they can help the kids: www.kiddiefoodies.com/crafts/how-to-make-butterfly-wings
Dress up Relay: Divide guests into teams of four. Have teams do a relay race, where one at a time, they run over and put on the preset costumes, then run back to their team and remove the costumes. The next team member has to put on the costumes, then run over and remove them again for the next person, etc. Costume pieces don’t have to be identical for each team, but should be the same number and difficulty to put on – a feather boa, a hat, a necklace, two gloves, a pair if high heels, a purse, etc. All costume pieces should be able to fit over the clothes the child is already wearing.
Tea Cup Coin Toss: Similar to a carnival game, arrange some old teacups (purchased at a thrift store) on the ground or on a low table. Give each child three pennies; he or she tosses the pennies at the teacups. Prizes awarded according to how many pennies make it into a cup (or consolation prize if no pennies get into a cup).
Story reading: Be sure to start the event with a reading of the original book, Fancy Nancy. You might also feature a display of other picture books with outspoken female main characters, including Ian Falconer’s Olivia, Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline, Kevin Henkes’ Lilly, and Mary Hoffman’s Amazing Grace.
Fashion show: A local consignment store could partner with the library and offer a fun fashion show, for mothers and daughters, as a way to promote their business. A consignment store may be more amenable to this than a store that sells new clothing, and it is nice for families to know about consignment stores, that sell clothing at a much lower price than retail stores.
Manicures or Tattoos: Partner with a local beauty school to offer free manicures and nail polish for the girls. Or, partner with a high school club that can offer nail polish manicures for little girls, such as a drama club. Offer temporary tattoos for the boys (and girls) in attendance.
Ballet or Dance: Ask a local dancing school if they would like to join your celebration, by having students do two or three different dances. It can be fun for the audience to see kids their own age perform, and the dancing school will want to join in as a way to gain new students.
Croquet: If your library has an outside lawn area, set up a crochet game run by teen volunteers. This is great for older children who may find some of the other activities more for their younger siblings.