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I’m Teaching My Toddler Hospitality Through DIY Napkin Rings

image source: lily glass
image source: lily glass

Holidays have always been a favorite of mine. When each one rolls around it feels like my favorite, and I dive head first into theme and tradition, despite the fact that my family had few traditions growing up. In fact, it became a joke that our tradition was trying to start a new tradition every year. But I have such fond memories of our house full of people and my mother gracefully preparing the most welcoming environment where folks could eat, laugh, catch up, and stay as long as they pleased. She didn’t stress about the way things looked or having everything spotless, but rather focused on the way people felt. Besides our fancier china, there was no formality and we ran in and out of the kitchen “helping out” as much as we wanted.

This Thanksgiving will be the first holiday that my husband and I will be hosting at our (tiny) home, and I want to offer the same hospitality to our guests — even if there will just be four of them. One of the first holiday crafts on my list are handmade napkin rings. These super easy DIY chalkboard versions also serve as place cards, and are a great way to start talking with your little ones about hospitality. While we rolled out the clay and cut out the shapes, my daughter and I talked about the tiny ways we can make guests feel welcome in our home — sharing warm meals, having delicious scents meet them at the door, and recognizing them each by name. There’s something special about seeing your name on a table, whether you’re family, friend, or new to the scene, to know you were on someone’s mind as they prepared a lovely setting. And allowing your child to be a part of the process gives them a special sense of contribution.

Image Source: Lily Glass
Image Source: Lily Glass

These napkin rings satisfy my every DIY requirement, too: simple, fun, purposeful, and reusable. They enhance a table setting, get the littles involved, and can be used again next year.

Chalkboard Napkin Rings

Makes: 8 napkin rings

Supplies:

  • 4 2-ounce packs black oven-bake clay (I used these)
  • Wax paper
  • Rolling pin
  • 2-4 cookie cutters of choice (here’s a cute Thanksgiving theme)
  • Small craft knife
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Hot glue gun
  • Chalk or chalk pen

Directions:

  1. Each package of clay is divided into three rectangles. Break off two rectangles and knead in your hands or on wax paper until soft and malleable.

    Image Source: Lily Glass
    Image Source: Lily Glass
  2. Squish into a circle, and then use the rolling pin to create an even slab.
  3. Press the cookie cutter down firmly, and carefully remove the shape and lay on a flat surface. Repeat until you have 8 shapes.
    Image Source: Lily Glass
    Image Source: Lily Glass

    Image Source: Lily Glass
    Image Source: Lily Glass
  4. To make the rings, knead one rectangle of clay until soft. Using the palm of your hand, roll into a snake-like shape and then roll flat with the rolling pin. You should have a long slender oval about 1″ wide and 5″ long.
  5. Use your knife to straighten the edges, and cut in half length-wise. Shape into a circle and press the ends together to form a ring. Push gently on one end of the ring to flatten — this is where we’ll attach the shape.

    Image Source: Lily Glass
    Image Source: Lily Glass
  6. Bake clay as directed. Once cooled, apply two coats of chalkboard paint to each shape.

    Image Source: Lily Glass
    Image Source: Lily Glass
  7. Glue the shapes to the flat surface of the ring. Once dried, use chalk or a chalk pen to write each guest’s name and proudly place on your beautiful holiday table. (Bonus points if your kid helps set the table, too!)
Image Source: Lily Glass
Image Source: Lily Glass
Image Source: Lily Glass
Image Source: Lily Glass
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