I love placemats and always have. I don't like the regular run of the mill pretty placemats designed to make your table look nice, but the placemats with cool stuff on them. It all started out with the holiday placemats, but thanks to the recognition on the part of my brilliant mother that I simply adored all placemats, and that they could be a learning tool as well, my obsession slowly spread to all types of placemats. She started me off with a few learning placemats and slowly added to the collection over the years. This comes in handy when you have three active boys who don't particularly like to sit still at meals or eat quietly. So, mealtime conversation has evolved into discussions about how much things cost, or which president is on which coin (and why Baba gave Ian a dollar when he asked for one and didn't give one to anyone else - Ian was the only one who asked - smart kid - and you know that this topic comes up quite often).
We also talk about what color states are (no, not red or blue states, although in this house that will be a normal topic of dinner conversation soon enough), and how long it takes to get from here to say, Idaho, and so on. We've also had all kinds of discussions about plane flights and driving and why Alaska is on the bottom of the map but how it's really above the top part, and why you really can't drive to Hawaii. Talk about confusing when you are four!
There's also a set of placemats that no longer grace out table. The kids have given up on the Periodic Table placemat and I've basically banished the human body placemat for meals. The periodic table is great when you are learning letters and numbers, but I guess it's just too boring for mealtime use. The human body, while cool to look at and chock full of info, was a bit much for meals. I wasn't so excited about discussing body parts and blood supply while chowing down. So, those are "retired" for now.
We also have some recent acquisitions. We were at the national Zoo and each little man wanted a placemat. So, we have three new additions to the family - the Saltwater Fish placemat, the Old McDonald placemat, and the Counting Animal placemat. These join the Solar System (we have two of those), the Power Rangers (yeah, not so educational but cool), the Multiplication placemat, and the favorite Dinosaur placemat.
So, if you don't have any placemats in your stash at home, check these out and see if there are any that float your boat. I'm sure there are, and they will be handy when we come to visit...