This summer has been especially moist in NJ/NY and trips to the beach have been scarce, but there's a way you can take advantage of a few hours of sun and stay close to home. Throw the kiddies a backyard tea party--all the enjoyment of being outside, but close enough to home if bad weather threatens.
First thing's first: Figure out where to have your party. I live in a two family home but I'm lucky to have a small yard out back. Since we have very little shade I use my pop-up tent to keep the kiddies from getting sunburned. If you have trees, you can dress them up by hanging nettings or garlands. To dress up my tent, I added paper lanterns in bright colors like pink, turquoise, and purple.
Don't stop there with dressing things up. A brightly decorated table will invite everyone to sit and stay awhile. To save money on flowers and avoid pesky bees, make your own centerpiece. I made mine out of tissue paper flowers, but don't be afraid to be creative. A collection of brightly colored teapots or cups could set the mood. A glass cake pedestal filled with treats could also tempt little tummies and provide color.
Since we're talking about treats...what's on the menu? Typical tea fare consists of little sandwiches, scones, and tea. To save time, you can opt to order a finger sandwich platter from your local grocery store like I did or you can make your own finger sandwiches. Check out AllRecipes.com for some great ideas. Sweets don't have to be limited to scones. We had little store-bought cupcakes we decorated with ballerinas and fresh cut fruit.
And tea...the main component of the tea party. Brew your own: herbal, black, or green. Or buy it from the store. To beat the heat, make iced tea served in little tea cups. The kids will get the grown up feeling while drinking something that's refreshing. I found great little teacups that each guest was free to take home as a party favor.
No party would be complete without games or activities. For the little ladies, I laid out foam tiaras and stickers to decorate. Beads were available for making necklaces and bracelets, and paper dolls were colored, cut, and played with. Sidewalk chalk was available for games like hopscotch (boys can play skully) and of course there was pretend play with dolls and paper fans.
At the end of the day, each child enjoyed a new experience. They really got into the idea of playing grown up and we managed to enjoy the sun for a few hours before the clouds rolled in. The key to success with this type of party is to take the basic framework of a tea party and think outside of the box, making it fun and accessible to children of all ages.