Don’t be late for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was recently ranked one of the Top 100 Chapter Books of all time in an SLJ poll–it was voted in at #31. This perennial classic has withstood the tests of time, and readers in every generation are drawn to its adventure, its nonsense, its silly poetry, and its instantly-recognizable characters. When a story is this beloved, I think that leaves just one thing for a librarian to do: structure a program around it!

Photo by Amy Koester.

Almost any room can easily be transformed into its own sort of Wonderland. Brightly colored tablecloths set the scene for the tea party, and images of funny hats stuck to the walls or hung from the ceiling add a bit of thematic whimsy. I encouraged all program-goers to wear silly hats if they so desired. The result was a roomful of preschool and elementary children wearing everything from baseball caps and cowboy hats to felt Cat in the Hat hats and wide-brimmed straw beach hats. One girl even went all out and decorated her hat with Alice-themed accoutrements.

Photo by Amy Koester.

The program itself was split into three twenty-minute portions: the tea party, the games, and the craft. For the tea party, I set out finger foods on our mismatched garage sale china–a variety of cookies as well as chunks of watermelon. Volunteers helped pour the children’s drinks, usually juice but occasionally water or iced tea. While everyone snacked, they chatted with their neighbors and made new friends (said “How do you do?” and shook hands, as it were…). About halfway through the snack time, I chimed in to read aloud some funny excerpts from Alice–there are plenty of nonsense poems and rhymes to share with a young audience. The favorite was “How doth the little crocodile,” for which I used the library’s croc puppet for heightened drama.

After our tea snacks and drinks, we moved to the games portion of the program. I had two games planned: The Queen of Hearts Says and a Caucus Race. The Queen of Hearts Says is the same as Simon Says with some nods to Alice; when I was the Queen, I added silly instructions like standing on one’s own hands and making fish faces. A few of the older program participants took turns as the Queen, too, bringing some fresh creativity to the game. Our Caucus Race was a modification of musical chairs–instead of rushing to sit on chairs, children rushed to stand on floor cushions (carpet squares would also work). I used a library copy of the Alice in Wonderland soundtrack to supply the game music, and the children had a fun time trying to end up the Caucus Race winner. Those who found themselves out of both games enjoyed the excitement and anticipation of seeing who would win, so everyone was engaged throughout our games.

Photo by Amy Koester.

We finished up with our craft–I always like to end party programs with the craft so that children who finish more quickly can skedaddle when they’re done without rushing slower crafters. We made Mome Raths adapted from a craft I found online. To streamline the craft, we used colored craft sticks, glue dots, googly eyes, and chenille sticks (the chenille sticks were much easier to handle than feathers in my test run). I had lots of supplies on hand so that each child could make multiple Mome Raths, and by the end of the program the library had a Mome Rath army threatening to overtake the stacks. I’m happy to say that all of these creatures found their ways out of the library with their makers, who also excitedly checked out a variety of Alice materials–books, CDs, DVDs; you name it, they wanted it. If these children’s enthusiasm for all things Alice is any indication, Mr. Carroll’s classic will continue to enchant for at least another few generations.

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3 Responses to Don’t be late for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

  1. Shannon says:

    I read Alice in Wonderland as a child and I loved the poetry and silliness of the whole thing. I still adore Alice in Wonderland as an adult, but for some reason I have never thought to create a program around it. I especially love the creativity this theme can allow for in a program. Plus, I have never seen the Mome Rath craft projects before but they are precious (and cheap)!!! Thank you so much for sharing your ideas!

  2. Julie says:

    Thank you for perfect timing! I was just discussing ideas for a program to be held on the extra (5th) Saturday in March. I think I’ve just found it “The Mad Hatter and the March Hare cordially invite you to tea….”

    My daughter loved Alice so much we all practically have whole chapters memorized from listening to the Michael Page audio from Brilliance.

  3. Amy,

    Thank you so much for sharing this program. In May, I hosted 2 Mad Hatter Tea Parties for teens that turned out reasonably well. I plan to have one again next summer to tie-in with the CSLP teen theme “Beneath the Surface.” I think I have an event for each age group as “Dig into Reading” (the children’s theme) could fit Wonderland as well. I’m definitely borrowing your program! If anyone is interested, here’s a link to my Mad Hatter Tea Party: http://storytimebybridget.wikispaces.com/Mad+Hatter+Tea+Party.

    Thanks again for sharing!

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