A warm environment, good food and freedom from chores all make restaurant dining a special treat for kids. Many restaurants provide place mats and crayons so that children can amuse themselves while they wait for the food to arrive. Designing similar place mats for your own home or for a child's party isn't difficult and will save you the messy cleanup after meals. Personalize mats to fit your child's personality and include a few games for entertainment.
Cut construction paper into a 12 by 14 inch rectangle. You can make smaller mats, but they won't catch as much mess.
Ask your child for design ideas. If you're making the place mats for a party, match them to the theme. For instance, if you are having a zoo-themed birthday event, draw animals around the border of the mat. Keep everyday place mat themes more general. You can simply write your child's name in bold, decorative letters across the top.
Write a menu on the front of the mat. If the place mats are for a party, list food and drink items such as fruit, macaroni and cheese, hamburgers, juice and milk. For everyday place mats, write the days of the week across the top and food groups down the side. You can fill in the menu for each meal using a dry-erase marker.
Design simple games for the back of the place mat. For instance, you might create a crossword puzzle with the names of different foods. For a birthday, make a word search with interesting facts about your child such as his favorite color, animal and food. Draw an easel or a picture frame so your child will have a place to doodle.
Laminate place mats with contact paper or a laminating machine. The protective cover will make them reusable and easy to clean. Give your child dry-erase markers to complete the games on the back of the mats.
Cut construction paper into large shapes such as flowers or stars instead of a traditional rectangle.
Use a sharp knife to cut shapes out of a raw potato. Have your kids dip the potato shapes in poster paint and stamp the edges of the place mats.
Attach a rectangle of clear plastic to the front of a cloth place mat, leaving one side open. Slip a paper menu and games inside the plastic covering.
Include a scavenger hunt as one of the place mat games. Searching for various household items will keep your kids busy while you cook.