Children can be hard to please; any parent will tell you that, in fact I’m sure we can all vouch for having been so at some point during our childhood! They can be demanding, and when it comes to buying them gifts for their birthdays, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest trends, crazes and fashions that are currently popular at school, on television, and online. Buying them gifts that they actually want seems to get harder as each year passes, and I don’t believe there are many timeless gifts for older children. But for younger children, there can be no doubt that the tea set is a classic gift that will never go out of fashion.
A brief history of the children’s tea set
Tea sets for children were originally designed on a smaller scale, to enable them to play at making and serving tea for their dolls. Many tea sets were made in porcelain and were hand painted, meaning that they were given to children as gifts to be treasured and taken good care of. Their use was only permitted in the presence of an adult, and only upon special occasions.
Tea sets as toys for little girls, may have been in existence before the sixteenth century, but that is when the first records of them appeared. They were made in Germany and from materials like copper and pewter.
It then took a couple of hundred years for children’s toys like the tea set to gain popularity, in part because such ceramic items were expensive and available only to the wealthy for many, many years and also because the industrial revolution – making mass production of such items, easier – had not yet occurred. In 1855, at the Universal Exhibition, children’s tea sets were a feature and from that point on, the toy industry as a whole, seems to have gained momentum.
Then, in 1865, plastic came into use, and history seems to suggest that dolls were the first toys to be made from plastic. As the decades passed, plastic became the material of choice for many more children’s toys, and in the 1960’s, the ceramic industry was overtaken by the production of plastic items.
Why have tea sets remained so popular among young children?
I’m not sure that there is any one single reason why the tea set is still such a popular gift for children, but perhaps it has something to do with children’s desire to mimic adults and to be able to do something that feels grown up, and yet is perfectly safe and fun to do.
They can of course, also be helpful tools for younger children as they learn to drink from a cup, and when they have their teddy bears and dolls all gathered together to take tea, they can practice their communication and social skills!