Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tutorial: Place Mats to Teach Place Setting to a Toddler in the Montessori Tradition

I've been wanting to teach my newly-three-year-old how to set the table for some time. Although I sew and could make the place mats myself, I found some place mats I've had FOREVER (and not used in over 10 years); they were just "begging" to be re-purposed! I've also recently discovered the joys of freezer paper stencils. What a great technique to create the outlines of a plate, cup, and utensils to guide the child in learning the placement of these items!

How can you make a set for your toddler and empower his/her independant spirit? It is so easy!
First, I made a template of 2 forks, a knife, and 2 spoons. I printed out the high-contrast template, placed the freezer paper over the template (shiny side facing down), and traced the utensils onto freezer paper. I traced around the actual plate and cup to create the circular stencils for those objects. I then cut the designs out - five sets of them for my five place mats. In the end, I decided we really weren't fancy enough to require 2 spoons and 2 forks at our meals!

I ironed the freezer paper stencils (shiny side down) to my place mat, checked that the edges were adequately "sealed", and the place mat was ready to paint!

Finally, I painted the silhouettes of the place setting, using a foam brush and fabric paint purchased at Michaels. I used navy blue to match the blue place mats.

After the paint was dry, I removed the stencils by simply peeling them off the surface of the fabric place mats! (The freezer paper does not leave a residue on the fabric.)

TA DA!!! My three-year-old sets the table for himself & our family!


  1. What a great teaching tool for your three year old! And, how cute they are!! Bravo!!

  2. Wow--did you cut the stencil to exactly match your current silverware, or was that just magic?

  3. Thanks for visiting, Karen! I found silhouettes of silverware that looked very much like our set, and then I sized them in photoshop to be the exact length of our current silverware. The knife silhouette is slightly more rounded on the "cutting" portion, but it does match up pretty well!!!


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