How to Make Training Placemats
Many years ago, when Sharnessa and Tory were 5 and 4 and old enough to help set the table, I found myself repeating instructions (over and over and over...) regarding where to position each of the place setting items on the dinner table: plate, cup, silverware, and napkin. Did I mention that I did this over (and over and over and over...) ...
So, to get myself out of the broken-record rut and free from the frustration of repeating my instructions over and over (and over...), I created placemats that not only served the purpose of being fully functional, usable placemats, but that were instructional as well!
We used these for many years, far beyond the kids’ need to have them for training. When I first wrote this blog article, I wrote: “I wish I'd saved them, or had at least gotten a picture, but alas, I did neither.”
Well last week, going through a bin of keepsakes, I FOUND THEM!!! At the verrry bottom of a keepsake storage bin, not even looking for them! Decades ago, when I put them in the bin, they were already not in the best of shape, having actually been used – and well-used, at that! But they were there, nonetheless, so I'm delighted to get to share them with you!
Fast-forwarding three decades, Sharnessa had the same challenge with her sons ~ two of our grandsons, Chase and Weston ~ as they got to be of table-setting age. So Sharnessa asked me if I would like to make a set of these placemats for their family! And, of course, I did! She had all four of them choose a scrapbook paper for their own plate, gave that to me, and I went to town on them, coming up with these:
Sharnessa posted the above picture on Facebook, and said: "A shout-out to my amazing momma for making these adorable place-setting guides for my lads - just like we had when Tory and I were kiddos! Thanks, Momma!!!"
It would also be great for grandparents to have these on hand, as a goodly amount of training goes on at their homes, too!
These placemats are lots more FUN than training, of course, seeing as "FUN" is our primary job description this time around, but this ends up being some very easy and stress-free training!
Plus it would be a fun project to do with the grandkids. While you're at it, make two sets ~ one set for your house; one for the kids'!
Here are the various supplies you'll need for each of the components:
PLATE: gift wrap or scrapbook paper
SILVERWARE: aluminum foil or silver cardstock
CUP / GLASS: paper or vellum (vellum is kind of frosty)
PLACE MAT BASE: poster board (in whatever color you want, but white is generic as it accommodates any color scheme you might have in the plates
PLATE: Place one of your actual dinner plates on the paper, trace around it, and then cut it out inside the line (so that your pencil mark doesn't show) or trace on the back of the paper. If you have certain parts of the pattern/design you want to include or position in a certain place in the circle, then you need to do your tracing on the front to be sure to capture that particular part.
SILVERWARE: Trace each of your actual silverware pieces onto aluminum foil You can do it onto single thickness foil, but, since it's rather fragile, it's easier to cut and work with if you glue two pieces together ~ or even just regular paper onto the back. Better yet, if you have silver cardstock, that's sturdier and easier to keep from tearing as the foil is flimsier.
CUP: I traced a circle onto vellum, and then traced a smaller circle inside that, and shaded it like the bottom of a cup. (You can just trace a simple circle, but I tend toward the more detailed way of doing a thing.)
PLACE MAT BASE: Cut your poster board to 12 inches by 18 inches. I rounded my corners by placing a small circle in the corner, tracing it, and cutting it. You could also use a corner rounder punch, but it probably won't give you as large of a curve.
COVERING THE PLACEMATS: You will definitely want to cover these in some way ~ front and back, with the sides sealed. I used clear contact paper, which works well enough, but look at my original ones below. Considering that I made these 35 years ago, they ain't too bad! But you can see that the corners didn't fare so well, with stains having seeped into several. This must have been because I didn't allow enough protective overlap to prevent liquids from finding their way in ~ which they will on a dinner table! So just be sure to amply protect the corners.
(I'm not sure what was up with having a different napkin
for Tory's placemat ~ in the northwest quadrant.)
Heat laminating with plastic looks the nicest, because the plastic is clear and shiny ~ other than a few bubbles ~ and is also the most durable. So if you live near a shop/store that has a laminating machine large enough to coat these, that's your best option!
They'll probably ask if you want the thinner or thicker plastic, and I'd go with the thicker. It's worth the extra money. You'll want to round the corners, or they can easily poke skin. (A small corner rounder works well for this, or just do it by hand with scissors.)
And we'll end with a picture of the second-generation placemats in action! Weston (a couple years ago) setting the table with them. You can hardly see them because everything they're supposed to "position" is now sitting on top them. So they're doing exactly what they were intended to do!
Let me know in
the comments if you
make a set of these, and if
you did anything fun and different!