Last week I posted about our morning time rhythm, so I’m following up this week by talking about tea time!
What is “tea time”?
Tea time is simply how I refer to us sharing some beautiful books together each afternoon after a snack and some tea. It’s a welcome period of rest and connection at a time in the day when energy levels might be dipping, and one which sets us up for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
Our tea time rhythm
Tea time is less structured than our morning time rhythm, but it still follows a pattern. I make Frida a snack, which she can choose to help prepare or not. This is usually something like: raw vegetables with cheese and hummus; a big smoothie with oats in; an ice lolly made with fruit, yoghurt, and nut butter; fruit and nut butter; or some toast. We eat supper as a family at 6pm when my Sam gets home from work, so I’ve found that Frida needs to eat something fairly substantial mid-afternoon to keep her going. If she’s had a big lunch it might just be some carrot sticks or a handful of nuts.
I also make both of us a drink. In winter that’s probably tea for me and herbal tea or warm milk for Frida, but in summer I might have an iced coffee whilst Frida tucks into a berry smoothie or cold glass of milk.
We then gather at the dining table, or outside in the garden, and I light a little candle and we read poetry and fiction together until Frida is done and wants to do something else.
If we’re out all day, or we’ve had lunch late, we might skip tea time in this form, but I still try to sit down for a quiet fifteen minutes with Frida, a book, and a quick snack. Even if we’re out I usually pack a book with me that we can share together on a bench or under a tree.
A few words on poetry
I strongly believe there is no need to wait until children are older to read them poetry. I have been reading Frida poetry since she was born, and I think it’s a wonderful way to build a child’s vocabulary and language structure. With the rhymes inherent in so many poems, even very young children can easily learn new words. The very nature of poetry demands for precise vocabulary to match the rhythm and rhyme of the poem, which means language is often more imaginative and varied than in a story book.
Poetry also encourages children to recognise patterns, as poems are often repetitive in their structure and/or meter and/or language. Often children will be able to guess which word will come next despite having never heard a poem before, because they have understood the pattern.
Then there’s the (most important?) fact that good poetry is so damn pleasant to read aloud! Poetry doesn’t have to be daunting, and it can be so enjoyable to share with your children. It’s never too late to start either, so if you haven’t started reading poetry at home, pick a couple from my list below and begin…
Our favourite tea time poetry & fiction books
The books we read change all the time, but below are some of my favourites for young children that have received both the Frida stamp of approval and mine too! We tend to read poetry and fiction at tea time, contrasting with our non-fiction heavy morning time. The fiction books and stories we read at this time often tend to be slightly longer or more text-heavy than the other picture books we read, although we do enjoy these picture books too!
When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. I cannot tell you how much I love these two books. I feel like they would both be in my top-ten books for young children – I realise that that is quite a statement, but these poems are just pure joy to read aloud and to encourage learning by heart and recitation. Superb.
A Child’s Garden of Verses. I love this collection. It’s really special, evocative poetry to share with children.
The Waldorf Book of Poetry. A brilliant selection of poetry which is suitable for very young children to much older. I’ve ignored whole chunks of it for now, so there’s lots to grow into. There is a chapter dedicated to poetry on saints, which you may want to be aware of, and some of the poems have a religious theme (though there are enough poems in here that I’d happily recommend this book to other secular families like us, or families of different faiths). I’ll leave you with this endorsement from my husband: “I read the new poetry book you bought with Frida – I thought this would be all fluffy and twee, but it’s actually really good.”
A Year Full Of Poems. I recently ran into a lovely mama at a park, and she recommended this book to me. It’s so good! I love how the poems are separated into months.
Around the Year. We read this through at the start of every month. Gorgeous short poems and dreamy illustrations make this a wonderful book for families with young children.
The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies. I love these poems, and we learn so much about seasonal flowers from them too. The illustrations are very beautiful too so it’s a joy to read.
Summer: A Collection of Poems, Songs and Stories for Young Children. We don’t actually have this one but we have Spring and Autumn and love them, writing this post has reminded me to order Summer and Winter! These collections are full of Waldorf-inspired poems, verses, songs and stories to share with children.
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. I love this book. It’s brilliant fun to read aloud, and Frida loves the different cats described – especially the mischievous ones…
There are far too many fiction books that we love for me to list them all here. What I mainly tend to look for in fiction is rich language that is not dumbed down teamed with interesting storylines. It’s a happy bonus if the story is otherwise educational or shows a moral lesson, but it’s certainly not essential. Although we are Montessori inspired in many ways, we do not follow the Montessori approach of not reading fantasy books (talking animals, fairies, magic etc) until age 6. Some of my favourite tea time fiction readings include:
Anything by Shirley Hughes. Katie and Ollie, Alfie and Annie Rose, Lucy and Tom – they’ve all become good friends over the years. I love that she has books and stories ranging from simple short stories for babies to longer tales for older children.
Beatrix Potter’s books. Some of her stories need a little editing for modern times (!) but I don’t think it means we need to discount them altogether. I am a huge fan of these stories for children, and Frida loves them too.
We also adore Jill Barklem’s Brambly Hedge series. Beautiful illustrations and gentle stories, firmly rooted in the seasons. A joy to read!
Others we currently enjoy at tea time include: Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories, Frog and Toad, Molly Brett’s amazing nature based stories, and Elsa Beskow’s and Sibylle von Olfers books. Like I wrote though, there are simply too many books to list – follow your child’s tastes and interest!