Family dinners around the table were a staple of my childhood, which is why those rare nights when we got to pull out the TV trays and eat dinner while watching Murphy Brown stand out so strong in my memory. Of course, I try to have my family eat around the table as much as possible now, too, but sometimes we break the rules.
If you enjoy a living room picnic every once in a while, too, whether for a little after-school TV break with snacks or family movie night with pizza, take a look at these 7 cool products that make eating away from the table a little less messy — which means more fun for everyone, including the person responsible for clean up.
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I love my Gathre leather floor mat, which is just as useful for older kids to sit on as it is under a high chair, because I can mop it up if anything spills or gets messy. Plus, the chic leather looks nice enough to leave out all the time, which is more than I can say for the raggedy beach towels that I used to have the kids sit on whenever we’d picnic in the living room. That said, if one of these isn’t in your budget, you can always just pick up a few yards of coated oilcloth from your local fabric shop.
Of course, my best memories are all about the TV tray, which is why I love these vintage-style trays that remind me of my childhood. Now, I just need to find one with She-Ra on it.
If you want a tray with a more sophisticated look, this Acacia Wood Tray at Bed Bath and Beyond will do the trick and it’ll run you less than $30.
Having a surface to eat on and something underneath you to catch what falls is great, but the biggest risk of mess from my kids is spilled drinks. They’re too grown up for sippy cups (or so they say), which is why I love this training cup that doesn’t look babyish from Skip Hop. You can adjust the flow to the sipping skill level of your child. Ha.
If a training cup just won’t fly, because older kids, try one of these Sip Snap lids instead. They’re not babyish at all and the silicone cup covers can be used on any glass — even yours. Because, let’s be honest, the kids aren’t the only ones who spill their drinks.
My kids line up behind our long coffee table so that they can all get a good view of the movie while eating. These EZPZ placemats that suction into place and have bowls built right in are a brilliant solution for keeping their food from sliding around while they get (ahem) animated during the movie. Check out all the options; some of the bowls are smaller and off to the side, too, which may work better for older kids.
To keep my kids’ food from sliding all over the plate — and ending up all over the carpet — I let them put bite-sized amounts of food in silicone cupcake liners or in a muffin pan, like in the photo at the very top. For younger kids, you can do this with dinner (veggies in one portion, cut up pizza in another, fruit in third, etc.) and it’s a perfect way to serve after-school or movie snacks to older kids (chocolate drops in one container, pretzels in another, popcorn in all the rest!). It just makes whatever you are eating more fun. And that’s the point.