Ah, “The Kids’ Table”. We’ve all been there; it’s a childhood rite of passage to be seated for every holiday meal at the card table in the corner (or if you were me, my Aunt’s kitchen table) with your siblings, cousins and family friends of varying ages and interests. Inevitably, we always finished eating well before the grownups, and were left to our own devices until it was time for dessert…which is a scary thing to think about, now that I’m the hostess and I have a growing number of kids coming along to each holiday event I plan. So I decided to devise a holiday kids’ table to keep the smaller crowd busy in their seats and buy mom and dad a little extra time to enjoy a meal and catch up in some adult conversation, now that we’ve finally arrived at the Grownup Table.
To get started, I enlisted the help of Sophie, my seven-year-old daughter, co-hostess, and creative adviser, to come up with a theme for this holiday kids’ table. We knew we wanted to incorporate Roy G. Biv, but how would we make rainbows feel festive and “holiday-ish”? Sparkles and snow, of course! We decided to call this sparkly, snowy, rainbow theme “Winter Wonderland”. And on my wish list? Something that I could pull out and re-use for any winter celebration, with a vintage-y nostalgic feel to it. Now that we had our vision, it was time to execute it in a kid-friendly way.
First things first: my daughter does not do anything less than fancy. And I like to be eco-friendly wherever possible, so a plastic tablecloth and paper napkins just weren’t going to cut it for this kids’ table. And let’s face it: plain old table linens are Just. NOT. Fancy. So we set out to create our own. Taking a cue from (cool) progeny apple stamped napkins , we used some tiny potatoes (scored for free from our local farmers’ market!) to create these fun snowmen stamped napkins. Tip: to help little fingers grip the potatoes, use an eye-hook to create a handle.
To tie it all together, we sponge-painted a plain white table runner using fabric paint in all the colors of the rainbow, and die-cut foam snowflakes (left from last year’s holiday crafting) turned stencils. These two projects took less than an hour, and made for a great after-school activity on a day we had free from extra curriculars!
Vintage-printed cardstock made quick placemats and added a whimsical, nostalgic feel to the table. Bonus? They’re white on the back and doubled as a blank slate for coloring later on.
I also added a washable white tablecloth under it all for extra fanciness.
For a simple centerpiece, colorful plastic ornaments and a tree (found in the attic among our spring decor) added a sparkly pop of color. On either side of the tree, acrylic wine glasses filled with epsom salt “snow” and an LED candle provided kid-safe ambience. Finishing touches included small metal buckets filled with crayons and placed around the table for every kiddo to reach. For the older girls, I also set out a mason jar full of colored pencils.
Since holiday meals at our house are set up buffet-style, there was no need for a full place setting since dinner plates and utensils were set up alongside the spread in the other room. Instead, Sophie set each place with a clear glass appetizer plate and a jelly jar with a sparkly paper straw, ready for a little snack and drink before dinner! Tip: Save the lids for the jelly jars and use them to send home leftovers or dessert!
When guests arrived, the centerpiece was swapped out for a 3-tiered server full of fruits and veggies in all the colors of the rainbow (prepped ahead of time) to keep hungry tummies at bay, and to give moms and dads a chance to grab a libation and settle in.
As the younger crowd finished up their apps, plates were cleared and centerpieces swapped back out to give the kids some room to get started on their first activity, this DIY Rainbow Snowflake Pennant Banner. Once completed, banners were folded and bagged up, and stored in a basket for later. Tip: This one was a tiny bit tricky for toddlers, since each snowflake needs to be knotted in place, so time it to be done while adults are still mingling, or enlist older kids to help the younger ones.
To keep them busy while the grownups could eat at a more relaxing pace, each child was given a Happy New Year postcard, which I designed and had printed on cardstock at a local printer (turnaround time: 2 hours). After their dinner was cleared with help from the older kids, little hands got busy writing 2014 wishes to far away family and friends. Once those were done, placemats were flipped over and our little artists drew some wild winter scenes. Tip: Provide stamps so postcards can be dropped in the mail whenever it’s convenient. After Christmas dinner at our house, we’ll drop everyone’s right in our mailbox so they’ll make it to their destination by December 31st! You can download the free printable here (front of postcard / back of postcard)!
For a send-off, I pre-assembled treat bags along with a strung tag bearing each child’s name. These were stored in a basket, and this became my drop station for completed activities. While guests enjoy dessert, I added each child’s postcard and a handful of crayons to bags, and tied off with their name tag and an ornament from the centerpiece. The basket was set by the front door and my little co-host(ess) handed off these parting gifts and sent guests out into a real Winter Wonderland!
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Love these tips? Check out our 2013 Holiday Guide for more celebration ideas and our 150 Best Gifts you can purchase locally. It’s all online! 80 pages of holiday fun (and it hyperlinks to all of the featured businesses). Read more…
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