Painted Place Mat

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Toddlers are so determined to use their own utensils, but that often means mealtime is a giant mess. This project is perfect then: your child gets to make a mess guilt-free while putting together the craft, and then has a placemat to contain future messes at the end.

This was Veronika’s first introduction to rubber cement as a material, and boy did she love it. I showed her how to dip in the brush (I’d forgotten how this cleverly attaches right to the lid!) and then hold it over a sheet of thick watercolor paper to watch it dribble down.

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“Dribble!” she said with glee. I thought I might need to guide her hand, but this girl wanted to do it “all by myself”.

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Once the paper is good and goopy, let the rubber cement dry for 30 minutes. Next, I set out tempera paints and we painted all over the paper.

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The rubber cement will act much the same way as wax resist painting with crayons.

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Veronika loved painting carefully, but I also brushed paint in a more even layer on other parts of the paper so she’d see the full final effect.

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Let the paint dry completely, and then rub off the rubber cement. I did this with a finger, but a note of caution: It hurts!

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There must be a better way, perhaps with a cloth or the edge of a coin. Regardless, the rubber cement rubs off leaving neat swirls of white that now stand out against your toddler’s painting.

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Cover the paper on both sides with contact paper to protect it, and your child will have a durable piece of art to look at during each meal. And to make a mess on, of course. Your toddler will be so proud!