We are often asked about our venture into kids educational placemats.
"Really!" people say "... what exactly are they?"
Well, we're here to tell you! Kids educational placemats are something we value and have used with all our kids, but we struggled to find placemats that were high-quality, well-designed, informative and accurate... so we made our own!!
What exactly are educational placemats?
Kids educational placemats, or learning mats, are placemats designed specifically for children to use at mealtimes. They feature visual learning material that may or may not be related to the dining experience, but is always intended to spark curiosity and conversation at the table.
How do learning placemats work? And DO they work?!
At the most basic level:
1. placemat lies on the table; and
2. child looks at placemat... while eating!
Using these simplistic terms, it's easy to see why some people may question the effectiveness of educational placemats, especially for young children who are easily distracted.
That's why we always tell our customers - they're a tool, not a teacher.
So how should educational placemats be used?
By nature, placemats are unassuming. They sit on a table and get covered by more immediate needs (i.e. food!). In this way, learning placemats present new information to children, which is sometimes noticed, sometimes not. But it's a casual and non-confrontational way of introducing new learning concepts and stimulating ideas. And it's a way of offering that knowledge repeatedly - meal after meal.
Beyond this, the way you use educational placemats for learning is totally up to you!
Maybe you want to be child-led:
- Let your child choose their learning placemat at every meal.
- Watch for your child to engage with the material.
- Wait for their natural curiosity to take hold and respond thoughtfully to any questions they ask.
Maybe you want to be more directive in their learning:
- Rotate your child's educational placemat on a regular basis.
- Ask them to find and examine specific elements of the placemat.
- Think of ways to link the meal with the placemat's learning content
(e.g. A is for Apple, B is for Blueberry, C is for Cherry)
Or employ a combination of both strategies!
Are learning placemats worth it?
In short, it depends - on your measure of value. Cost is always a factor. Quality and longevity are also important. Design can be key to many. However, far above any other consideration (we believe) is the way an educational placemat can change the mealtime experience.
We love using learning placemats with our kids and here's a quick list of the benefits we've seen in terms of skill-building and cognitive development:
Independent decision-making - children may not be able to choose the food that is put in front of them, but letting them choose which placemat they want is a way of letting them exercise choice and maintain a sense of control.
Negotiation - if there are siblings involved then, invariably, they will squabble over the same placemat! As tiresome as these arguments can be, they are an opportunity for children to practice problem-solving and learn how to compromise.
Concentration and focus - placemats provide interesting and varied visual stimuli at the table, which captures kids' attention and, almost magically, they sit still for longer, complain less about what they're eating (or not eating!) and are much calmer and quieter.
Inquiry and discussion - learning placemats present new ideas; new ideas lead to questions; questions lead to conversation... "Mom, what shape is this?" or "Dad, did you know there's a country called Turkey?!". We've had many interesting dinner conversations, which we otherwise wouldn't have had, as a result of using educational placemats with our kids.
Knowledge and learning - educational placemats provide a way to use mealtimes as an additional learning opportunity in a relaxed, informal and non-confrontational manner.
So, in closing, we can wholeheartedly say - yes, learning placemats are worth it. Try some today!