Eating with a baby or toddler is a messy business.
Before we had kids and moved to rural suburbia, we were big-city dwellers, living the high life: shopping every weekend after enjoying leisurely Sunday brunches, and eating out at great restaurants several nights each week.
Although we were never parents-to-be who claimed that a child wouldn’t change our lifestyle, I don’t know that we were quite prepared for the reality. Once The K Man came along, just about everything changed (you’re probably reading this blog because you, too, have kids – so I don’t need to go into detail here).
One thing that didn’t change, however, was our love of all-things-food. I’m telling you, it doesn’t matter if it’s five-star fine dining or Swiss Chalet delivered to our front door, we all love our food in this house. And there’s something so much tastier about food you didn’t have to cook yourself.
So, it’s been important for us to take our kids to restaurants. We want them to learn how to behave and eat well in settings beyond our kitchen table; we want them to see us interact politely and respectfully with service staff; and, ultimately, we’ll teach them some basic math skills using tipping and making change as a real-world way of learning. Above all – we just don’t want to give up eating out. We’re selfish like that.
If you also frequent the dining rooms of your local restaurants, perhaps you have a “food bag.” This is akin to our diaper bag but is for, you guessed it, food-related stuff. In it, we pack bibs, kid-sized cutlery, favourite drinking apparatuses (because – God forbid – you end up at a restaurant that doesn’t have the right coloured straw) and any items that generally prevent meltdowns (mini Play-doh, Hot Wheels, tiny board books, etc.).
One thing that comes standard in our food bag is the Kiddopotamus TinyDiner portable placemat. We have one for each kid (one blue, one pink) and we actually use them even when we’re just eating at home – I keep the trays off of their IKEA Antilop high chairs and pull them right up to the table.
The TinyDiner placemat easily rolls up into a neat “log,” making it really portable. Because it’s flexible, you can also fold or bend the log to make it fit into a pretty tight space.
It has what I’ll call a pelican scoop that hovers between the table and baby’s lap to catch any spills. It works most of the time, but don’t expect heavier foods (like lasagna filled with oodles of meat and veg) to be stopped in their tracks.
If you’ve got distracted eaters (“Oooh, look! A bird’s at the bird feeder!”), you’ll appreciate the illustrated nursery rhyme etched into the TinyDiner. As a result of this portable placemat, Hey, Diddle Diddle is the first nursery rhyme both kids learned.
Because the material is slightly cushion-y, a small baby who accidentally does a nosedive towards the table won’t bang his or her little mouth on a hard surface. Think of it as a shock absorber. It’s also grippy and keeps bowls and plates in their place.
The 12- by 18-inch surface is big enough to get a good spread of food on it for babies who are pre-plate/bowl.
At about $12 to 15, the Kiddopotamus TinyDiner placemat has a great price point considering how much you’ll use it. For us, this is a minimum of three times a day – every day of the year (just a penny a day for the first year).
Although it promises to be easy to clean, it could be easier. Remember that nice illustrated nursery rhyme I noted above? Well, it creates ridges all over the surface that food is just drawn to. Frankly, I would rather teach my kids Hey, Diddle Diddle out of a book and have a flat, plain placemat that I can quickly wipe clean.
The TinyDiner suction cups (on the underside) don’t stick to every surface as claimed; there are some tables – like unvarnished wood – that don’t like suction as much as I do. And if you see a table linen, just forget about using the placemat altogether.
It’s shape, which admittedly is what makes it easy to fold into that log shape, doesn’t lend to durability if you have a baby who likes to tug at it. The K Man’s placemat is in near-perfect condition and is 3.5 years old, whereas Miss Q’s top-right corner had a two-inch tear in it in the first couple months. But does that stop me from using it? Nope.
Something like spaghetti sauce is never coming out completely, no matter how hard you wash this thing. I’ve even tried the dishwasher and there are still faint stains. On the upside, it can go in your dishwasher.
4/5 (if Kiddopotamus made it a plain, flat surface, I would give it a 5/5)
So…where can you buy it?