Time to Set the Table

Eliza Clark
November 16, 2016

With lots of big family gatherings and meals ahead of us in the near future (who can believe that Thanksgiving is just a few days away?) now seems like a good time to teach our tots to set the table.

Do any of you have memories of setting the family dinner table as a child? As chores go, it's a pretty great one. Little kids love nothing better than a festive gathering, and setting the stage, so to speak, is an exciting project. Their creative energies are well suited to decorating either a holiday or an everyday table.

Preschool-age helpers are usually eager to wipe down the table, help spread a tablecloth, and transport dishes and utensils from the cupboard. But the trickiest part of setting a table, for kids (and for some adults as well ... ahem.), tends to be remembering where things go.  Do the forks belong on the left or the right? How about the glasses? And the dessert spoon? Mama, help!

A brilliantly simple response to these oft-repeated questions is to draw diagram of a place setting. To help the smallest table-setters, you might want to make copies of your diagram and laminate them as placemats, so that your kids can simply put the utensils in their proper place, as in a simple puzzle. With enough practice, children can start to use the diagram as a guide rather than a placemat, and very soon they'll know the whole procedure by heart.

Once the essentials are properly positioned on the table, the real fun begins: decorating! Kids who are learning to write can help with place cards, and drawing a special picture for each guest is a task any preschooler will enjoy. Children are also eager to chime in with ideas for beautifying the table. They will have a grand time arranging flowers or seasonal items around the place settings, and are likely to come up with all sorts of creative decorating ideas. Your table will be transformed!

Beyond the holidays, a nicely set table is boost for any family meal. If you get your kids in the habit early, this is something they can easily and happily contribute to family life for years to come.

Happy feasting!

From the Parents

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