Teach Your Kids to Set the Table
Start by making a Thanksgiving placemat to teach patterns, over and under, and strengthen gross grasp manipulation.
Kids love it when they can contribute. Even if they don’t jump for the chance to help, they will feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that can boost their desire to help again and again. Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks for what we have, and giving to one another. One way, kids can be a part of the giving is by helping to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner by setting the table. Of course, the table will need more than just standard dinner dishes for the holidays. Make it fun and festive with a brightly colored placemat made by the kiddos!
This project can be done with kids of any age, however I recommend it for kids who are in kindergarten through 3rd grade. I used the project for preschool age kids, but that meant many of the steps shown here had to be done ahead as prep work. For the preschoolers, I used their latter half of the steps to teach them to weave over, under, and through. I also used it teach teach them to identify and follow a pattern.
Here’s what you need:
- Brightly colored construction paper
- Pencil for marking “were to cut” lines
- Optional laminating sheets to protect and duct tape to trim the edges
For the placemats shown in the photos, I used large construction paper. The sheets are 8 1/2 x 16″, however these can be made from 8 1/2 x 11″ paper.
Begin selecting the selecting at least three different colored pieces of paper for an ABA pattern, or alternating the colors every other for a 2-color pattern to weave through the third color paper which will not be cut into strips. Using the 2 (or more colors) planned for the color pattern, mark guide lines with the pencil and ruler, 1″ apart vertically across the full length of the shorter edge of paper. Then, using the guide lines, cut the papers into 1″ wide by 8 1/2″ strips of paper.
Once the strips of paper are cut, set those aside. Using the third piece of colored paper that was not cut into strips, but left whole, use the pencil and ruler to mark lines that will act as guides for cutting. First, create a border around the paper that is also 1″ wide on all four sides. Then mark lines 1″ apart all from the top border to the bottom border along the longest length of the paper.
Once all the lines are marked, I think it is easiest to cut along the lines without cutting into the border by folding the page in half and making a snip in the center of each line, then unfolding the paper and inserting the scissors into the holes made to cut to the inside line of each edge border.
Up to this point, the steps have all been prep for the preschool age kids. If working with older kids, just remember the cuts do not have to be neat or perfect. This project works just as well for kids in kindergarten or 1st grade and are much better at using scissors, because the next steps will still look great with wavy lines and uneven sized strips of paper.
To teach the kids to identify a pattern, I weaved the first four strips of paper. Then, I asked the kids to tell me what they observe. They told me which color was the first strip, second strip, and so on. Then I asked them to tell me which color would come next in the pattern. They were pleased with themselves for picking the correct color each time. Next, I pointed out to the kids that every other color was either over or under the strips of paper that I had weaved through so far. Based on this observation, I asked the kids to tell me whether they thought the next color in the pattern should start over or under. Again, the joy and satisfaction was all over their face when they were praised for their excellent observation skills.
My group is preschool age and these kids always leave a mess around their plate. Also, I planned to use these placemats each day, till Thanksgiving, to teach them to set the table. For these reasons, I decided to use sticky laminating sheets and duct tape to cover and protect each mat to make it easy to clean and so they would last longer.
The steps to laminate using these sticky sheets (I use the Avery Self-Adhesive Laminating sheets) is fairly simple. Just peel off the backing from the sheet leaving the thin strip to keep as a guide, line it up, and press it done from one side to the final edge.
Finally, peel off the tiny strip kept in place to line up the first edge. The laminating sheets were just large enough to cover edge to edge which just left enough of a seam to allow moisture to soak in the paper, so I went one step further and bordered these with fun and colorful duct tape. These steps were extra work for me, but could easily have been completed by older kids than the group I work with.
The kids are asked each day to set the table and they love using the placemats to designate their assigned seats. They are learning where to place the plate, napkin, silverwear, and cup using these images that I printed and cut out for them to practice with: