Buying a placemat for your child may not seem like a big purchase decision (because it's not really!), but for that exact reason, you should take at least a little time to consider which kids placemat/s you choose.
Let's face it - kids placemats are not on the top of eveyone's wish list (in fact, we're lucky if they make it to the list at all), so your son or daughter might be stuck with the consequences of your quick-and-easy decision for the rest of their childhood!
Why should I bother with kids placemats anyway?
Feeding children can be hard work! Most parents and carers welcome any tool that helps their kids focus and stay still, reduces mess, increases consumption or otherwise makes mealtime more enjoyable.
The primary functions of a child's placemat are to:
- provide a visually defined and constrained "eating area";
- catch spills and random food art;
- protect your table/table cloth from marks, food stains and heat damage; and
- introduce a decorative/educational element into mealtimes.
Today's world is saturated with choice - it can be exhausting! And the category of kids placemats is no different: plastic, plastic-free, low slip, no slip, silicone, personalized, designer, roll up, fold up, paper and PVC... the list goes on!
So here's a quick round up of some obvious (and not so obvious) questions you should ask yourself before making a final choice on placemats for your child.
What is my child's placemat made from? Will it last?
Children's placemats are often made of vinyl and other types of plastic because these materials offer a lot of protection from accidental spills, are easy to wipe off and resist stains. They also tend to be crumb-resistant and very durable.
Paper placemats are appropriate as a hygienic barrier when eating out, or at kids parties, but are typically single use. These can be great in doubling-up as a "coloring sheet" or "activity mat" during celebrations or major events.
Fabrics are a less common choice for kids placemats, as they tend to get wet and stained by food and drink spills. However, if this is your preferred option, make sure you choose a placemat that is color-fast, non-iron (personal choice!) and have a few extra on hand for those days when you just can't face the laundry.
Is the placemat easy to clean? Can my child do it?!
Great question! Getting kids to clean up after themselves is a good way to encourage independence, increase their sense of responsibility and, hopefully, provide an incentive to make less mess next time! Have your child wipe down their placemat after every meal. It's a small but meaningful contribution kids can make on a daily basis.
Will these placemats retain bite or fork marks?
We've had more than one placemat ruined by our children's enthusiastic eating habits. Think about whether the kids placemat you've selected can withstand teeth, cutlery, crockery, ketchup, strawberries and beets. Then think about whether it can hold up against things that don't belong on the table (but invariably end up there anyway!) - toy cars, pens and pencils, lego blocks etc.
How will my child react to these placemats?
We were once the proud owners of some vinyl, rubber backed placemats featuring all different types of chairs, which we thought would be perfect for our kids! Then my 4yo decided to actually use them as chairs and tried various ways of sitting on them. The rubber split and, over time, pieces started falling off and became choke hazards for our younger kids... enough said.
Another time, we bought some fabric placemats that were embroidered with bunny rabbits (a favorite animal and household pet). Well, they never even made it to the table! My youngest was so enamored of them, they became a rather scratchy set of security blankets - one for bed, one for Ted, one for preschool and so on.
Should I personalize my child's placemat?
Personalizing your child's placemat is a nice touch and reinforces their sense of ownership (although we don't know many children lacking in this area!). For the youngsters, it's also a great way to encourage name recognition.
Do I like the style of these kids placemats?
Bearing in mind that it's ultimately your house and your decision, do ensure that any placemats you buy for your kids will also please you. Remember, they'll probably be sitting on your table 3 times a day, 7 days a week.
Happy shopping! We hope you find the right placemats for your child and enjoy them for many years to come...