Thursday, December 1, 2011

Simple & Fun Kid-friendly Holiday Table

a post by Jenni {aka Mom}

One can find scads of creative ideas online for a kid-friendly holiday table. Personally, I have found many of those ideas - though adorable - to be time-consuming projects that an adult must prepare ahead of time and that the little guys ultimately destroy while they enjoy. Many also require expensive and/or hard to find materials. Yup, adorable ideas. Yet sometimes a girl's gotta think smarter not harder and just keep things simple. 

Stuff from around the house + good ole' brown craft paper. That's it!

We did this for Thanksgiving, as you can probably tell from the autumn leaf theme. The same "formula" works for virtually any occasion, and kids LOVE it. I have also found that adults enjoy it, too. Almost every person who attended our Thanksgiving Open House this year wrote or drew on the "tablecloth" - from the preschoolers to grandma!

For our two Thanksgiving tables, I simply put on autumn-ish tablecloths, then topped them with a "runner" from a roll of brown craft paper.

My 10-year-old son traced and cut out leaf shapes from felt to use decoratively on the serving and dining tables. These also serve to insulate the table from hot dishes, if necessary. Since we served the food buffet style in the kitchen, the leaves on the dining tables were just for decoration.

We placed a pretty bowl in the center of each table, and filled each bowl with markers or crayons.

We added leaf-shaped place mats I'd found a few days before on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond for $1 each, and wrote a few writing and drawing prompts on the brown paper. Voila! Informal table set!

Simple, Fun & Informal Kid-Friendly Holiday Table
Simple, Fun & Informal Kid-Friendly Holiday Table
(side note: you may notice the "bench" on the left side of the folding table in the photo above. That's actually our coffee table! A good, stout, sturdy coffee table serves many purposes!)

Homemade kids table runner with drawings
People of all ages seem to enjoy having some doodling available. You can tell that a bunch of little boys ended up at this table by all the cartoons and war drawings! LOL

There were some very sweet sentiments and expressions of gratitude as well - even from the very youngest!

One of our boys' buddies expressed his gratitude for them <3
I would suggest that if you will have young children present you make extra sure that the markers and crayons you offer are washable, and remind pretty much anyone under 10 that they are to draw on the brown paper only. Naturally very little ones should be supervised, for the safety of your home and more importantly their safety as marker caps and crayons are choking hazards.

Here are a few adaptations you might consider when converting this concept for other occasions:
Drawings of epic battle on the boys' table

- Add some outline drawings ahead of time that young children can decorate or color. You might have the outline of an evergreen tree at Christmas for the children to decorate, or an empty manger and stable in which they can draw the Nativity.

5 year old Gabe is thankful for his new baby brother Joel - AW!
- Use simple decorations on top of the paper that fit the occasion. This should be obvious, but some people might have trouble seeing past the fall leaves here. A simple wooden train on a circular track around the crayon bowl would be adorable for a birthday. Plastic Christmas ornaments or a candle wreath would work for Christmas. Grab whatever you have around that fits your theme. The kids seem MUCH happier with a table they can color on than with the expensive, perfectly matched tablecloths we hand pick to go with their invitations and cake.

Another AWWW!! No points taken off for spelling today ;-)
- Think of tabletop games and draw accordingly. Ping-Pong basketball is an easy favorite - go ahead and sketch out a crude basketball court! Don't forget favorites such as Tic-Tac-Toe and Squares.

- Go white. Rolls of white craft paper are often about the same price as brown craft paper. White may go with your theme better than brown. If it can be drawn on, use it! Wrapping paper is usually not a good solution because it rips easily and is often to glossy to be drawn upon easily.

More sweet notes from good friends
- Think outside the home. This is a great idea for church dinners and other group gatherings. You'll be surprised at how much the adults get into it!

I hope this gives you some good ideas! I would love to hear your ideas, and how you have adjusted or would adjust this concept.

Enjoy your festivities this holiday season!

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