Drawing At Dinner: Placemats, Tablecloths & Artistic Freedom

I've always been so intimidated by drawing- in fact, I decided to major in Photography because I wanted to do art but was scared to draw! When a friend was teaching me to carve stamps, she said something so eye-opening: the secret to drawing is to just keep drawing. Giving your children unlimited, fun, casual drawing supplies can help them love drawing, and will buy you a little extra time to get dinner done.

  • I love so many things about this Mealtime Masterpiece placemat pad from Rocket St. George. First, they look so cool- and imagine how they'd class up your refrigerator! Second, I love the sophisticated, conflicting messages they send kids: greatness is always possible (so you might as well have an awesome frame), but there's always another sheet of paper (so don't get stressed out).
  • The Doodle Tablecloth from ThinkGeek can help your kids accept that all things are fleeting, as their masterpieces are washed away in the hot-cycle. But that just means an excitingly blank tablecloth the next night! The tablecloth comes with 8 washable markers, is printed to look like a giant sheet of graph paper, and is, apparently, Dungeons & Dragons compatible. You're all set now.
  • Dave Hakkens created the Precious Paper Project, a simple but effective way to help kids (and hesitant adults) drawing. Project 1 is a large roll of white paper printed with silly words (peanut plane, balloon phone) that encourage kids to let loose, while also encourage reading and storytelling. Project 2 is printed with lines and shapes that kids can use as jumping-off points for their own drawings. Project 3 is a roll of blank white paper, with a list of tips & tricks in case all that white is a little too intimidating. The finished paper is intended to be used as gift wrap, making it precious wrapping paper indeed.
  • Doodles At Dinner from Uncommon Goods is a bit more structured, perfect for those nights when kids are burnt out from school and aren't up to creating a masterpiece from scratch. Each page contains handy drawing tips, too.
  • Finally, the options I would choose (the one I chose for myself, in fact) is simply a roll of kraft paper. Available from Uline and many other places, kraft paper is amazingly cheap. Unlike the placemats which come in packs of 36 or 48, a roll of kraft paper feels unlimited, freeing the young artist from feeling like she only gets a certain number of attempts. If she "messes up", there's always more. Cover the table with kraft paper and let the whole family go to town. If your child is old/coordinated enough, a cutter as shown in the photo would be amazing. She can tear off whatever size paper she needs, creating independence and a nice, clean edge.

(All images as credited above, except for kraft paper from Braun Packaging Inc.)