In Chattanooga, there is a completely charming little tea room called The English Rose. In college, going to the tea house was my reward for finishing finals. When I was first married, I would pinch my pennies so that I could take my sister to the tea room when she visited me. When I realized that my son enjoyed tea, I couldn't wait to take him. Here are my best tips for taking your four, five or six year old son out to tea.
(I'm writing about boys, because that is what I know best, but most of these may be fairly applicable to girls as well.)
1. Ditch the fancy clothes. It will be a temptation, particularly if the tea room in question is a fancy one, to dress your little guy to the nines. Resist. Settle for clean, coordinated playclothes. It's important that he feel comfortable. Of course, if he happens to be the 1 out of 100 boys who actually prefers a suit and tie to a T-shirt and overalls, go for it.
2. Order a child-friendly tea. Pick a tea that's not too bitter. My favorite choice is Lady Grey, but if your son hasn't had too much experience with hot tea before, go with a fruit flavored tea, one without "Zinger" in the title. Add milk or cream if he complains it's too strong, but try to avoid adding sugar. Once he learns that you can put sugar in tea, it's hard to go back.
3. Order a bowl of ice. Kids have a hard time with delayed gratification, and tend to prefer drinks that are warm rather than hot. A bowl of ice will allow you to cool his tea so that he can drink his warm tea at the same time that you are drinking your hot tea. Put two large spoonfuls of ice into his tea cup and tell him that when the ice melts all the way, he can try a sip.
4. Order an American-style dessert. Unless your child has exceptionally refined taste, he will probably not take to British "biscuits" which tend to be lamentably subtle in their flavor and sweetness. Order tea, a plate of sandwiches that you think will appeal, and a dessert that your son will think is awesome.
5. (the most important one) Ask, "What do you want to talk about?" And no matter what, stay on topic. Whatever he wants to talk about, the whole tea time. Our first tea time, my son wanted to talk about Thomas and Friends. I knew next to nothing about Thomas at the time, so I kept asking What color is [name of engine]? Is s/he a diesel engine or a steam engine? Objectively speaking, it wasn't a particularly sparkling conversation, but the lingering association of tea time is that during tea time, Mama has time to listen.
And that is - and should be - the very best part of tea time.