Last week I posted a brunch table setting for the mimosa drinking crowd, but let’s not forget the little ones. Holidays are a fantastic opportunity to create place settings fit for the smallest of guests. Including color, texture, and activity in a child’s dining experience are ways to ignite interest, appease the senses and keep them satisfied to remain in their seats. After all, should we rely on a plate of green beans and brussels sprouts alone to keep them entertained? As adults we often make selections in dining experiences based on ambiance, so let’s give the littles what they want. FUN!
Three key elements…
Invite children to the table in the vibrant language of color! Feel free to have fun with color and play up the details. Borrow from the main dining table in. complimenting shades or pull signature colors from the occasion or theme, such as holiday, origin of cuisine,ie. Japanese, French, Italian, Mexican. Take the opportunity to build upon those, amping up the fun factor. Set a fiesta table for your mini compadrés, or get playful with with red and white check and chefs hats when going Italiano. Exaggerating theme and color make a dining experience memorable.
Give them aTACTILE experience.
I like to think about setting a table that a child can explore while seated for a meal. Give them something to feel. Layer textures- table cloths, place mats, napkins, objects like unique or handmade napkin rings. Include items they can pick up and feel, or use like a pair of chop sticks. Mealtime presents the perfect opportunity to expose children to the beauty of different cultures.
I like to include an activity of come sort at each table setting. Small games, puzzles, occasional novelty items like the wind-up easter bunny candy dispensers in this place setting.
Sometimes when I’m out shopping I will see unique children’s party favors, and pick up a few to have on hand. It’s great to keep these around to grab when you find yourself hosting children.
Some examples more creative than the standard pack of crayons and coloring book at a restaurant: Travel/mini size etch a sketch, finger puppets, joke books, oragami kits, mini table basketball or egg cup pong(not an intentional precursor to beer pong). Sometimes I will place a basket of small art projects on the table and make it kids choice:)
When possible, I take the opportunity to include my children in meal planning, by giving them a role in hosting. Whether they are making the place cards, delivering grace, or giving a toast, it gives them some “buy in” and helps them to see all that goes into planning and hosting (and hopefully encourages good mealtime behavior as well.)
I’m sure we can all recall a time when we had a seat at the kids table. A childs mind is a curator of memories. Sensory experiences like mealtime are part of a child’s development and growth. The children’s table can be a place to expose a child to culture, beauty, history-helping to shape their character, increase their ability to think creatively, and building a rich museum of positive memories. Watching our children experience joy around the table is a gift I cherish.
PS I have a little fun myself, setting special occasion surprise breakfast tables the night before. Happy Easter!