We recently had our first, of hopefully many, tea parties in Forest Kindergarten class. It was the idea of one of our Instructors, Stacey Anderson, who this summer attended a Forest School training where she was inspired to bring back what she learned. Another teacher at the training hosts tea parties throughout the year, culminating in a graduation celebration where the class dresses up and goes out to enjoy a meal at a local restaurant. Imagine that, a room full of 3-6 year olds out to eat. Thankfully they have practiced their manners at Forest Kindergarten.
Tea parties are an opportunity for children to cultivate calmness and respectful manners while gathered around a table. It can form a bridge between Forest Kindergarten class and activities we do in everyday life. At our first tea party, we had the children practice sitting with their bottoms on the picnic benches, backs straight, elbows off the table, and hands folded in their laps – requests that are not easy for a group of excited 3-6 year olds! In Monday’s class, Stacey modeled being a good host, while I modeled being a pleasant guest. We practiced our please’s, thank you’s, and asked to be excused when done. We also made our first attempts at being calm and quiet around the table. In our Tuesday class, Executive Director, Jodi Levine-Wright, gave instructions in her most proper British accent, mimicking her dear Aunt Rose. When Jodi was a child, her Aunt Rose was aghast when she and her brothers strayed from their manners at the table. We continued on for the rest of the party speaking in accents, which added an unexpected element of fun!
Children are included in the preparation of the tea.
How to make Pine Needle Tea
- Instructors harvested fresh pine needles to bring to class (harvest where you have permission, away from polluted areas and avoid potentially harmful species*).
- Early in our day, we had the children help remove the brown papery sheaths on the bottoms of the needle clusters and pinch the needles in halves. Getting kids involved in as many steps as possible brings more depth to the experience.
- Children took turns adding their pine needles to a big jar of water, which we left in the sun. We discussed what the sun was doing to the pine needles, the benefits of drinking pine needle tea, and that it is a local, wild food that has been used by Native Americans for thousands of years. Later that day during our exploration time, we kept an eye out for pine trees and were excited to notice so many
- When it was time to serve the tea, we added a touch of honey and poured the strained tea into each cup… so long as each child was showing good manners.
The children did beautifully and the pine needle tea was a hit. We are excited to learn about and use other local, wild plants that grow in our area including rose hips, horehound, and nettle as the season’s progress. As the weather gets cooler we may also make pine needle tea again, but this time mixed with a little hot cocoa! As the children learn to display excellent manners and calmness at the tea parties, our hope is to allow them to eventually take turns being the host! We had a fun time together at our first intentional gathering around the table. We look forward to seeing how the children grow as we continue to have more tea parties throughout the year. You can find out more about pine needle tea here including which species of pine needles are safe to use and what the health benefits are. Enjoy!
Written by: Nikki Hieb, Former Forest Kindergarten Instructor
Thank you, Karen Graham and Claudia Boden for sewing our table cloths, and Michelle Watts for donating the cups, bowls, and spoons that we use every week. Our classes are held by many loving hands.