Whilst working in the kitchen one day, I needed somewhere for Dylan to safely sit and eat. I also needed to get some cooking and cleaning done so I wanted him to have some activities to play with whilst staying in one place. Having a laser cutting and CNC routing business at the time, Rob designed and cut out a little table and chair (now called the Teddy chair as he needed a larger one about a year later.) He loved it! It gave him hours of fun. To be able to get into his own size chair and to have his own little table to put things on brought him so much delight. I have always encouraged my children to sit at the table and finish eating first before they do anything else, as it teaches them mindfulness and to concentrate on one thing. I still tell Dylan that we are now in “eating land” and when we are finished, he can go into “playing land” or “reading land.” When Dylan was small enough, I could just push the chair into the table and know that he couldn’t fall out. I could also put him at his table and come down to his level to feed him. Little snacks could be placed into the table tub whilst he was busy and these could be sealed and put in the fridge if not eaten.
Rob wanted to make this more than just a table and observing Dylan was our guidance. Being at the age where Dylan was able to develop his hand to eye coordination, Rob then designed a board with shapes on it. Dylan would spend ages trying to fit the shapes into their respective holes and when the board was swivelled around, they would drop into the tub. Heaps of entertainment! Dylan also loved dropping these shapes on the floor and watching Mom and Dad scurrying around to pick them up. Another amusing game. These shapes can also be threaded so this all helped Dylan to develop his fine motor skills.
The chalk board insert was then created. There is something about chalk that is different to drawing with crayons. I know that when I was a child, I used my chalk board right up to secondary school, playing teacher teacher with my own classful of teddies and dolls. Dylan has spent heaps of time chalk drawing whilst learning to put all the pieces back into the container. Another favourite of his is to rub the chalk out himself. It becomes a bit messy with all the chalk on his sleeve but it is a great part of messy play. I really have to unclip from my perfectionistic side when I encourage messy play. It’s so good for our little ones to feel different textures and believe me, Dylan’s messy play can be very messy. What does work for me is that I can restrict most of the mess to Dylan’s table and his immediate surroundings. One of the best things about this table is that it is so easy to clean up. The table top cut out is wonderful for just wiping all the bits into a container and the crumbs are gone.
We love to give a variety of activities to our kids, so it seemed like a no-brainer to include a space for drawing. We also wanted to utilise the entire board so when the chalk board is flipped over, it also becomes a drawing board with the hole in it and the tub with the crayons can be inserted.
Having little ones is a full time job and then most moms and dad are working on top of this. With time being precious and tasks being plentiful, I like the idea of making jobs simple where we can. I am always striving to be organised and love that I can have a couple of different containers with lids - one for food, one for chalk, one for crayons. These can be changed as needed. Once done with them, they can just be put away. Changing from one activity to another takes just seconds, as the inserts and tubs are quickly changed. Easy peasy!
Rob and I have always resented the fact that when buying for children, they move through the developmental stages so quickly. Many of the toys and games become outdated before they even get used. I love that Rob has thought of how this table could evolve and never be chucked out, even after it has done its job as a childrens table.
Without any input from us, Dylan naturally gravitated to machines. Cars, diggers, trucks. Anything that made a noise and moved was intensely interesting to him. This time, we had to get creative and think outside the box. The table was turned upside down and the table legs were used as posts to support the idea that he was actually inside something that went vroom. We manufactured a grill, some dashboard symbols and a steering wheel. He needed a place to sit, so we re-introduced his chair. The chair kept falling out the back, so a floor board with captive slots was added to fix the chair securely while he was driving his digger, truck, car or roller through the building site created by his imagination. We remained careful not to make anything that could be swallowed, although by this stage, eating things was becoming a thing of the past.
The sailing boat idea was then introduced, and by adding an additional piece, it became an airplane. Cooking, stirring and serving then came up quite strongly in Dylan so we created the kitchen set. I could either quickly transform the table to allow him to cook on his own stove, oven and grill set, or if he felt like standing next to me whilst I was cooking, he would stand on his table and help. Right from when he was around 18 months old, he loved to stand next to me on his table so that he could be a part of what I was doing. Last but definitely not least, the gear set was born. Dylan loves to see things move and is always trying to figure out how things work. Perhaps an engineer in the making?
The whole idea has been to use as little material as possible but to maximise the adventures whilst aiding the child’s development. We have also placed special attention into making it all sturdy, durable, compact and easy to clean. Small parts have been kept to a minimum. Dylan has found so much joy with this transformative table set. He is really able to let his imagination run wild. He adds chairs to the back of the boat, and it becomes a train. He uses parts from the boat and creates another type of wonder. Watching him get so much enjoyment out of Table Fun brings us so much happiness. In this digital age, we recognise that it becomes more difficult for parents to stimulate their child’s creativity. We recognise the need for kids to have more pretend play. So by providing a simple table which meets so many basic needs in itself plus supporting a child’s development whilst providing a portal of fun, it really is a multi-functional table play centre.