Tables are not just good for eating at, they also offer a fab opportunity for play! We don’t always consider the table as a destination point for play, but it is in fact a really good one.
Playing at the table encourages increased eye contact. This leads to greater engagement and improved communication because you are using more senses than simply your hearing.
The fact you are sitting inwards and facing each other also means there is far less distraction from the outside. Therefore, everyone’s attention span increases.
Traditionally board games and puzzles are played on the table as you need a flat surface and this is a fab way to have fun as a family BUT there is also way more you can use a table for than just board games.
We have honed our ideas and here is a list of 10 ways to play at the table which may just inspire you to spend a whole lot more time there as a family ….
1. ICE PAINTNG. Great for babies in high chairs and older kids too. Simply freeze ice cubes coloured with food colouring (make the colours bold). Add a lolly stick into the ice cube and freeze. When they are frozen you can paint with them! Protect a wooden table with a plastic cloth or similar and then let them make patterns and colours on the table. This is great sensory play as they get to experience the cold ice, the wetness as the ice melts, the colours produced. It also helps develop their fine motor skills and gives them an opportunity to explore. (Always supervise your babies / children so they do not eat the ice.)
2. ICED FRUITS. Another fun one with ice and great for all ages. These can be made with your little ones. Get an ice cube tray and put a soft fruit or two in each compartment – raspberries and blackberries work well. Add water to the tray and freeze them. Once frozen, your little ones can have fun playing with the ice until it melts and the fruit is released, then they get to eat the ‘treasure’ in the middle! (again, always supervise when food is involved).
3. TABLE-TOP PING PONG. What you need: 2 paper plates and a ping pong ball or a balloon. Simply turn your dining table into a table tennis table! Use the paper plates for hitting the balloon or ball back and forth. Have fun!
4. TABLE MUSIC. This is noisy but brilliant. Put together a ‘family band’ using items from around your house. Suggestions … a sweet tub becomes a drum, two wooden spoons become percussion, elastic bands on a tissue box is an awesome guitar, pasta in a plastic bottle becomes a shaker …. etc etc. Essentially you can make an instrument out of anything! Put your instruments on the table so you can see each other, pop your favourite tunes on and play along! (Psst … If you want to learn how to make rhythms and play together more, you should check out our HAPPY bundle in the shop where we worked with the fabulous musician David James.)
5. SENSORY ‘SQUISH’ BAGS. What you need: a plastic zip-lock freezer bag, hair gel, glitter, food colouring and some fun little objects eg: buttons, beads, little figures, duct tape to seal the bag securely.
Sensory ‘squish’ bags are mess-free play for your little one; they get to squash and squish them and generally explore. Older children can also really enjoy making them and using them as a ‘fiddle toy’, they can be great for relieving anxiety.
What to do: open the bag and put in the objects followed by the glitter, food colouring and hair gel. There are no set quantities … the more gel, the squishier the bag will be! Seal the bag with duct tape. Enjoy exploring the bag with your little one on the table-top. They can make the colour and glitter move with their hands and ‘mark make’ in the colours. (always supervise, the bags are strong but could burst under pressure).
6. FAMILY PORTRAITS (but with a difference!). Sit at the table together with a piece of paper and a pen / pencil each. Look at the family member opposite you. You are going to draw each other BUT you are not allowed to look at the paper or take your pen from the page! This is called continuous line drawing. Put a minute timer on and GO! Check out how gorgeous you are with the finished result 😊. (Psst… If you want tonnes more arty, creative things to do as a family, check out our CREATE bundle in the shop where we worked with the AMAZING artist Jenny Leonard).
7. MARSHMALLOW SCULPTURES. Who doesn’t love making something they can also munch on? What you need: marshmallows and cocktail sticks. (Grown-ups cut the points off if your kids are little). Now get constructing! Give every family member their own stash of marshmallows and sticks. Who can create the funkiest construction? The tallest? The prettiest?
8. FAMILY JIGSAW. Prepare to be all mixed up and put back together! Print out an A4-sized photo of everyone in the family (include grandparents / aunties / cousins etc) and cut them into fairly large pieces. Put the pieces onto the table and mix them up. Then put them back together! You could do this as a ‘joint effort’ or take a family member each to make. You could do it against the clock or take it slow. Whatever works for you 😊 This is a great way of learning who extended family members are for little children.
9. PASS THE PENCIL. You are going to draw a ‘joint’ picture. Grab a piece of paper and a pencil or some coloured pens. Each person gets 30 seconds to draw something on the paper BUT they have to keep their pen / pencil on the paper the whole time. Once 30 secs is up they pass it on. Keep going round until you have finished. What will you end up with?!
10. MIMIC AND MIME. This is a great game for getting the kids to eat their tea. Make one family member the ‘leader’. Everyone else has to mimic how they are eating their food (disclaimer … it could get messy!). If they pick up and eat a carrot, everyone else has to copy. If they take a slurp of their drink… so does everyone else! This makes for a fun meal but the methods of eating may be unconventional.
Have an brilliant time playing around the table.
(Read the other blogs on TABLE TIME: EAT and LOVE.