By Rob Grigor
FEEDING TIME AT THE ZOO
"I think we should eat
now" said Mummy,
Then her look changed to one of dismay,
'Twas a noise like a thousand stampeding Wild Boar
And it seemed to be coming her way!
Well she managed to save the
When the children descended, as one.
"Don't forget that you've all got a blower" she said
"And please put your party hats on".
What do you think of it so
far? ********* (the correct answer is of course "Brilliant",
unless you know better). Armed with the wealth of useful information
contained in the first seven chapters, you are now fully qualified to
organise a near perfect children's party. Having received the little
dears into your well prepared home, tucked the presents safely away,
removed all the parents and treated the expectant hoard to a games programme
par excellence, things are looking pretty good. Indeed all that remains
now is to announce "Tea Time" and the exhausted throng will
be only too pleased to gather at the table for a well earned feast of
delights. Being ravenously hungry and thirsty they are bound to sit
for at least 30-45 minutes, doing justice to your lavish spread. After
tea there should be just enough time for the organised present opening
referred to in that excellent book "The Complete Children's Party
Survival Guide" (see
Chapter 5) and then "Yippee"
it's home time.
If all this sounds too good to be true,
rest assured it is, or at least it was until now. Tea time can be the
making or breaking of any party, in just the same way as any of the
topics we have dealt with thus far. As usual our trusty poem depicts
the worst scenario and as usual I will attempt to guide you through
the pitfalls. The more observant among you will notice that there are
six verses on the topic of Tea time and so in the interests of humanity
I will spread them over a chapter or three.
On arriving at a suitable point in the
proceedings (usually 45-50 minutes into the party) the first job is
to transfer the angelic throng to the Tea Table. There are several wrong
ways of doing this, for example:
"I think we should eat now".
"Who's going to be first at the table"?
"Come and get it".
All of the above translate as one word
in a child's mind:
Even adding phrases like "now don't
all rush at once" or "no running" will have little effect
as once again the children's minds switch into override. Seeing who
can be first at the tea table is another of those little unofficial
games that children love to play. The only way to prevent this and the
potential injury to life, limb and carefully laid out food display,
is to change the rules of the game in your favour.
On arriving at the end of the last event
before tea, tell the children that you are now going to look to see
who can sit the best (arms folded, backs up straight, etc). Say that
the ones who are sitting the best will be able to go to the tea table
first and proceed to choose them one at a time. It's quite a good idea
to start with the Birthday Child to make sure that they get their rightful
place at the table. One of your adult helpers should be waiting to ensure
that the little sweethearts are seated properly and, if you allow a
suitable time lapse between the selection of each child, the miracle
of an orderly sit down will occur. Many people feel that this is also
a good time to ask if anyone needs the toilet. In my experience it is
better to ask this after tea as the children will by then have had plenty
to drink and are more likely to need the loo. Of course any child caught
short before or during tea will usually let you know soon enough.
On the subject of the smallest room, any
teacher will tell you of the astounding effect of a child asking to
"be excused". For some peculiar reason one child's need to
"go" immediately awakens the desire in any number of their
classmates. Of course the most likely reason for this is the opportunity
to escape on their own for a while, rather than any urgent need to answer
natures call. This phenomenon applies equally well to Birthday Parties
and it is as well to be prepared. In the event of the cry to "leave
the room" going up during your games session, call upon a helper
to usher the desperate party in the right direction. If this is done
quickly and with a minimum of fuss you may avoid the copycats altogether.
As a general rule any simultaneous requests to follow suit should be
met with a firm "you can go when **** gets back". More often
than not you will find that upon ****'s return the others will have
forgotten their need to go. Of course if you have two helpers and two
loos you could let two go at the same time but that is up to you. Asking
if anyone needs the toilet after tea will of course result in many of
the guests wanting to go at the same time and here again you can utilise
your helper/s to organise an orderly queue while you stay with the other
children. When everyone has returned you can carry on in the knowledge
that there is little likelihood of anyone feeling "the need"
for the rest of the party.
Well if anyone wishes to be excused after
that last section I will understand. Hurry back now!
Right where were we? Ah yes at the tea
table. Depending on the space you have available you may of course have
to plan the food arrangements a little differently. While seating children
round a table to eat is undoubtedly the most ideal way, there are a
number of alternatives:
a) Standing round the table should be avoided if possible as the children
will tire of standing very quickly. As they are already on their feet
the desire to leave the table and run around is also very strong. This
often leads to dropped food, spilt drinks etc and generally tea will
be over quite quickly with little justice done to your culinary efforts.
b) A buffet style tea with the children collecting their food and drinks
at the table and going off to sit randomly around the room. From a mess
point of view this is probably the worst idea of all. Attempting to
safely transport a plateful of food in one hand and a drink in the other
to a suitable sitting down point is difficult enough for adults. Children
get into all sorts of problems with this ranging from depositing the
contents of their plate onto someone's head, to kicking over numerous
cups of sticky, carpet staining juice as they make their precarious
journey across the room. Avoid this one at all costs and save yourself
alot of unnecessary hassle.
c) Probably the best alternative to sitting everyone round the table is
to lay some large paper table-cloths on the floor and sit them round
those. You can then lay your food out properly, the children will be
seated comfortably on the floor (children have no problem with this),
and teatime can be conducted in much the same way as normal. Cups of
drink are still more prone to being knocked over when they are on the
floor so try using the little boxes of juice that come with their own
straw. More on the subject of food and drink a little later (you have
Whichever method of serving tea you choose, the same rules for avoiding the stampede apply. Once you have everyone
suitably seated you will be ready for phase two of the teatime experience
which could well be entitled "To be or not to be". If that
doesn't make a great deal of sense to you, all will be revealed in the
next chapter which is inspired by Amelia's mother's immortal words...
"Don't forget that
you've all got a blower" she said "
And please put your party hats on".