Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review & Giveaway: Doodle Tablecloth Draws Many Mealtime Solutions

Kids can draw on it and they won't get in trouble.  photo: doodle by Stitch

WHAT:  doodle tablecloth by doodle by Stitch
DOES:  excellent tool for teaching and practicing socially appropriate behavior at mealtime; allows children to doodle while they wait and use visuals to aid them in conversations; helps them set the table more independently!!!
INVEST:  $54.86 (Medium 71 x 59 inches) and $62.61 (Large 98 x 59) (You can convert pounds to dollars onsite) Each tablecloth includes a set of 10 markers ($54.86 for an extra set of ten markers -it's worth it if you have a bunch of kids) ) Note- this company is based in the UK but packages are shipped from Boston via USPS; also available at Amazon
TOOLS:  Express Yourself, Family Fix-its, Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy, Holiday/Birthday Build-Uponner, My Body Needs to Move, Social Scene Helper
EXPERT OPINION: Alison Berkley, Co-owner, Special Education Teacher, Emerge and See Education Center
GIVEAWAY: 1 medium tablecloth with a packet of markers (U.S. only)  DETAILS BELOW:

My favorite cafe during my college years was the Olive Tree Cafe in Greenwich Village, New York City.  The special draw there were the chalkboard tables.  Any customer was free to doodle on their own table.  I loved going there because even with good friends, social situations can sometimes become awkward for a moment or two.  There is a lull in the conversation, or someone is telling you something that you don't want to hear like, "I think we should start seeing other people".... you know what I mean... At that point you start to notice that your hands are empty and you wish you could do something with them.

Doodling is one thing and it was quite natural to do given that each table had a bowl full of colored chalk on top of it.  It's not the same thing as taking out a piece of paper and drawing while your friend is talking to you.  That might look very weird but drawing right on the table would not only be acceptable, it would also make those awkward moments bearable.

So much you can do with this.  Number 5's mom used it to write a to-do list while she was thinking about thins at the end of dinnertime.  photo: doodle by Stitch

The End of Mealtime Stress?

Speaking of awkward... Why are mealtimes so stressful with kids now? When I was a kid, if I didn't want to eat something, my father would stare at me with his laser ray vision and the heat would become so painful, I would shove it in my mouth.  This is how I learned to eat raw fish.  Sadly,  I do not have this kind of power over my children and sometimes they tire me so much that I almost wish someone else could be their mother just for dinnertime.

But alas, that is not really possible. so I found the next best option: the doodle tablecloth!  It is gorgeous and it comes with pretty colorful markers that have a very washable special ink.  Your kids can draw on them while they wait for you to put food on the table or while they wait for anything that seems like forever for them ie. glass of water, dessert, ketchup... etc.  You get the picture: doodling is calming and if you're doing it on a doodle tablecloth, it's socially acceptable.  But try grabbing a piece of paper to start doodling at the table and suddenly, you have bad manners.

This is awesome for playdates.  It can serve as it's own activity or break it out when there is a disagreement.  Coloring and drawing is very calming.
Number 5 also tried out the doodle tablecloth.  It was used to keep a bunch of kids busy before a birthday party.  "Everyone really did their own thing and it was a good distraction while I was getting everything ready," said her mom.

That is how we used it in our home but to seek out more possibilities, I called upon Alison Berkley, a teacher who loves children and met her share of picky eaters.

Alison loved the tablecloth and had so many ideas for it.  "A lot of our kids have special diets or special tastes, so food isn't always the most fun thing for them," she told me. 

I love love love those graph lines.   Some people may prefer a wide mass of empty space but I think the graph lines can help kids make patterns and also give kids an opportunity to take on small projects and have them experiment. 

She drew place settings right onto the tablecloth to help guide the kids who were setting up for lunch.  However, she also encouraged them to just doodle on it.  "You don't always need to use it for a set activity."

It's Not the Same as Pen and Paper

Alison is looking forward to Halloween because she will be using her doodle tablecloth to create pumpkin carving stations.  I immediately rained on her annual tradition- Alison, why do you need a doodle tablecloth for that?  Can't you just write something and laminate it?

Can you imagine?  Writing the menu, an even personalized one, right on the tablecloth?  photo: doodle by Stitch

Alison then told me that using the doodle tablecloth instead of paper made it so much more kid-friendly.   She knows kids don't want to be told what to do.  Visual cues work better for many children.  "It's also a bit more self-directing because it's all just written right there."   Leaving the instructions on the tablecloth also ensures that no one will knock it down and let it fall on the floor.   "It sort of sets a different kind of tone," Alison said about writing on the tablecloth, "You're just ramping everyone up to have a good time."

Visual Cues are Awesome for Working Memory

Visual cues are another great strength of the tablecloth.  It's not just for doodling when you're bored.  But drawing in the visual support directly onto the tablecloth helps kids with working memory issues tackle activities that require a lot of different steps to it.  I totally get what she means about that.  I love the way,one can draw and write the steps required to do things.  I could even write a reminder to say, "Remember to clear your plate when you're finished."    I am going to start drawing in place settings for my younger son so that he starts to learn how to independently set up the table too.

My husband breaks out into an after-dinner game mode as much as I break out in song at the bank.  But with the doodle tablecloth, something odd no longer appears to be odd.  My son learned a new game that day.

We have so much fun with our doodle tablecloth.  If I wasn't such a lazypoke I would use it every night because all you have to do is wash it!!!  No special cleaning technique is necessary.  I have even let it sit in the laundry basket for a couple of days and still everything came out when I washed it ... even stubborn Korean food stains!    No kidding.

The tablecloth is like magic.  Moods change once the markers appear.  Even Mr. Toys are Tools got in on the doodling action after dinner one night and taught my son a new game that I had never heard of.  (It was a math game... those graph lines are brilliant!)  Set it out in front of kids and adults and you will find that few can resist the temptation to doodle.  Could you?  

What the heck is a Moshi Monster anyway?  Do I not know this because I don't have daughters?   Still, No. 5 did a great job, didn't she?  Number 5's mom is tempted to buy one for every kid on their birthday.  She thinks that for the littler ones (her child is 9 now), this is a great investment.  I agree.

Now to win your own doodle tablecloth- Get it early to have a very gentle and calm Thanksgiving!!  Try the Rafflecopter widget below and remember... please follow the rules... If you are supposed to make a comment on the blog post, a good rule is... if you can't see it, it doesn't count!   Also, if you have troubling entering Rafflecopter via Facebook, try just using your email address.  This will only be shipped to U.S.  addresses.  

ALSO, if you have troubling entering this through your FACEBOOK account, try to just write down your email address instead.  If you win, and I have your email address, then it's all good.  Winners are always contacted via email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Can't wait to see if you've won?  Try my Amazon links below and support Toys are Tools!

Disclosure statement: Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any fashion by the manufacturer of any of the mentioned products for the publication of this post.  The product was given to Toys are Tools' testers and expert to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised. 


  1. I like the placemats and the duvet cover looks nice too. I don't have a mealtime success tip except to say that we always try to eat dinner together. Sometimes we don't make it but we do always try. And, I don't allow the T.V to be on either. I tried to turn on music once and that was really distracting too.

  2. Mealtime Success: We eat out at restaurants a lot with our daughter. I always have a bag full of busy work (books, crayons/markers/paper, little toys) in case the restaurant doesn't. We also let her order for herself and choose from a limited selection of pre-approved items-- she loves to talk to the waitstaff and be in charge of her own meal.

    On the site, I liked the duvet and pillowcase sets. It reminds me of the Tomie de Paola book "The Art Lesson" where little Tommy draws on his sheets!

  3. You are an awesome mom! Hats off to you. I looked up the book Looks really cool! If I can't find it in the library, I'm going to have to buy it! Thank you!

  4. On the site: I like the doodle memo wall stickers. How useful for the family!

    Mealtime Success: At restaurants we always bring our own disposal saran wrap placemats. They are much sturdier than the plastic and I don't get grossed out when my kids spill and then eat off the table.

  5. my husband and i eat with our 14-onth old on most nights to establish family dinners early on. we have had very successful dinners so far...

  6. i like the placemats and the pillowcases, too, but the tablecloth is the best....

  7. The table cloth is definitely the best!

  8. I use washable tablecoths and the kids like their character bowls and utensils.

  9. When it's a meal my son doesn't particularly like, like soup, I let him tally how many bites it takes him to finish.

  10. I also like the doodle placemats set of 4 - place setting design, I like that they will teach proper place settings.