Input welcome: Carpet in the dining room

Why do so many apartments include carpeted dining areas?! Personally I think carpet + kids eating = disaster! I'm already not a big fan of carpet at all (hello, germs and allergies!) but under the kitchen table? With children eating??!

Our new place, like all the others we looked at, has carpet in the dining area. Yehoshua (4) is a neat and careful eater, so we've allowed him to eat at the kitchen table. Eliyahu (2) is a little messier and so we moved him back into the high chair and set it in the kitchen (which, thankfully, has linoleum!).

But, Ruth is ready for the high chair now. I'm tired of eating one-handed; after all, she's almost 1! And what about when we have families over who have small children?

We're planning to get this child-size picnic table and set it up in the kitchen. From the measurements, it looks like that would take up most of the kitchen floorspace, so it would be something we got out for each meal, and put away (or took into the living room?) afterward. It would seat several children, though, and I wouldn't have to worry every time Yehoshua had a glass of milk, or a bowl of soup. I also liked the idea of a picnic table since it could be used outside in the distant future when we someday have a small yard. :) (We had a borrowed one in Ohio in our yard.)

Other ideas were to get a large piece of plastic and put it under the kitchen table, but we haven't come across any very affordable large pieces of plastic yet.

Surely some of you are also in the situation of children + carpeted dining room. What's your solution? I'd love to hear!! :)

Comments

Have you thought of looking at a used office furniture store. The plastic desk mats that they use in offices come in all different sizes. They have grips on the bottom so they do not slide around, they are heavier/thicker which makes it easy to clean up. They are not very expensive new from an office supply store, but i have also seen them in used office furniture stores.
rose of ny

I've got the same problem - I've been looking into buying one of those temporary dance floors. $5.50 for a 3'X3' section I think. Has anyone done this?

Did you ever do this? If so how did it work out and where did you order it from?

Some people use those clear mats on the floor under their kids' chairs. You could just as easily buy some by the yard at Walmart for not much cash.

We had the same situation when our kids were young. We had the room for a small table in the kitchen for when they ate their lunches and snacks and such. Dinner time was always at the big table, on the carpet. Believe it or not, clean up was rarely a bit deal. Never a spot or a stain I couldn't easily remove and that was not an area of the house that little ones crawled around, so I didn't worry much about it. Rice was messy, but not that difficult to clean up.

They have child sized folding tables and chairs which we just purchased the girls love them and they are easy to clean and put up and out of the way. While not as great for out door use later they are idea for small spaces.

We thankfully don't have carpet in much of our house where food is consumed but that was a conscious decision based on our shedding dog than our messy kids lol.

Eating as a family was my first priority even when all mine were small and our eating area was carpeted.

I would invest in a good hand-held carpet cleaner, use cups with lids and let the chips (or spaghetti or crumbs) fall where they will. The kids need to be at the table eating with mom and dad.

We had this problem in our last apartment, but with only one child. We got two plastic office floor mats, the kind that go under rolling chairs, to go under the high chair. It worked beautifully!

Our kitchen wasn't even big enough for the high chair. I don't really miss it. :)

Mrs. Mordecai
http://be-it-ever-so-humble.blogspot.com./

Carpeting anywhere is pretty gross, and it's awful to have it in the kitchen/dining area. My grandparents always solved the problem by putting a little piece of plastic under neat the high chair. It was a pretty think piece, almost like a tarp and looks like it was meant to be a play mat or something. The problem with plastic is that it doesn't stay down very well. What about a small, cheap area rug that could go under the table and thrown away when you move or if it gets too nasty. Surely that would be more pleasant than plastic.

As far as the picnic table goes, that sounds like a pretty good idea, but I wonder if a folding table would be a better idea since it could be stored under a bed. We got a folding card table fairly inexpensivly.

With two toddlers and an infant, and a carpeted dining area, we bought a cheap rug ($20) at Walmart for under the table, and it worked wonderfully (as long as you mop up liquid spills fairly quickly!) I highly recommend cups with lids to avoid that issue :)

We have that picnic table and it is great! The kids love to sit at it. I would suggest an inexpensive vinyl tablecloth to put underneath it to catch crumbs and spills.

I'm a big proponent of families eating together at one table (because it is such a social thing). Have you looked at the painters tarps at home depot? They are usually really reasonable. We only had one child when we ate over carpet, so we just had a small plastic square. Now we have hardwood in our breakfast nook, so it's not an issue. But I don't understand carpet in dining areas, kitchens, or bathrooms personally!

Get some of those large foam puzzle pieces to put underneath that picnic table or even under their seats at the table/highchairs. The food will land on those for the most part and they are really simple to wipe clean.

They are also very easy to move around so if you are having "nicer" company over who you might not want to show off your child solutions with; you can easily pick them up and store them.

I've seen these come in every things from bright colors to dark blue.

milk spills and the tiniest crumbs work through the cracks onto the carpet, and that is NOT fun to clean up later when you discover it! (Experience speaking here!)

i actually use these under litter boxes. i foresaw this problem. when you put it together flip it upside down and seal cracks with duck tape. works great

You could always invest in a HUGE Tarp .

I would use the clear plastic you can buy from the fabric store on the floor. Or for probably cheaper you could get a vinyl table cloth. The kind that just wipes off. I hope you find something that works.

When we lived in our apartment we just put a super sized bath towel under the girls chairs. After dinner we could just shake it out outside and if there was a spill it went to the wash. We just got the towels on clearance when we could find the. We now use them outside as picnic towels.

Rebekah

I second the suggestion of buying a cheap area rug to cover it. It looks nicer than plastic and get a darkish pattern that will hide stains :)

Living in a military housing we have experienced some of the same problems. Early in our marriage my husband invested in a carpet cleaner. After 18 1/2 years of marriage, 3 boys, 2 cats, and 2 dogs (not all at the same time) we are on our second carpet cleaner. Most foods were allowed to dry up and all we had to do is vacuum but for things like grape juice/chile/spaghetti it was so nice to have the cleaner. It was also good for when children became ill and did not make it to the bathroom. Another reason my husband was adamant about having a carpet cleaner is he likes to go around either barefoot or in socks and can't stand a dirty rug! We have also purchased remnants at flooring stores and even a used area rug or two to cover the carpet. At present we have wall to wall carpeting in much of our house (bedrooms/living room) due to the climate but we do have laminate down in the kitchen/dining area and linoleum in the front room, laundry room and bathroom. I hope this helps you out! In the long run we found having the carpet cleaner to be the most economical way to go as we always had clean carpets, our allergies were kept in check, and we didn't have to pay a rental fee when we moved out. (In military housing you have to pass an inspection to move out, which involves major cleaning or hiring an approved cleaning crew. We always clean ourselves, lots of work but just as much satisfaction and we saved money!!)

I was also going to suggest a plastic tarp! You can even paint it to look like a colonial style floorcloth or a simple country checkerboard.

Meredith from Merchant Ships

in the dining room. i just always laid a large trash bag under the high chair and shook it out when he was done eating. not pretty by any means but it served its purpose.

Use a sheet, or big towel under their chair. booster seat, might help too for Eliyahu. A towel under them as well might help catch crumbs and stuff and not get on the chairs.

I'm a germ-a-phobe too! Carpeting should be done away with. It's awful, and the chemicals used to clean it, are just not good.

When we bought our hichair years ago we also lived in an apartment and bought a "splat mat" which was sold near the hichairs at the store we got our stuff at.It was made to go under the hichair. I think it was a Babies R Us.

I too use clear plastic office chair mats under my kids' high chairs.

If you go to Office Depot/Max, you might find them at $40ish each. I found mine at Sam's Club for less than half that. I have these -->

http://www.samsclub.com/shopping/navigate.do?dest=5&item=200911

I think they look far better than cheap plastic sheeting or vinyl. You don't even notice them at first glance. And they never shift or move at all, which is very nice. They are very durable and will last for many years.

I HATE that! What are the builders THINKING? LOL

We've handled the problem several ways, depending on where we live:

I got a Little Tikes table and kid chairs. It's smaller than the picnic table and we left it out all the time.

Cheap carpet remnants (that you will, sigh, throw away) are available at carpet stores, and WalMart has some inexpensive 5x7 rugs for under $25 right now. The drawback is that the floor will still have stains - just not the RENTAL carpet floor.

Put the table half on the linoleum, and half on the carpet. Adults eat on the carpet side.

At one point I bought a flannel backed vinyl tablecloth to put underneath the high chair. Cheap, easy to clean, portable. A fraction of the cost of special "High Chair" mats. And I totally used packing tape to stick it to the carpet.

HTH!

http://milehimama.blogspot.com

You could try contractors plastic - it is sticky on one side, you put it under your table, or just the side your kids sit on, and you can sweep/vacuum over it. You do need to replace it occasionally, but it is likely the cheapest of the options and with just moving both Home Depot and Lowes will likely be sending you coupons...

Kristy

Phil 2:9-11
http://mrspear.blogspot.com/

We lived in a temporary apartment for 3 months that had beige carpet in the dining room. Our children were 3 and 1 at the time. We didn't want to lose our deposit because of messes on the carpet! So, we took a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth and put it on the floor under the table.

We lived in a temporary apartment for 3 months that had beige carpet in the dining room. Our children were 3 and 1 at the time. We didn't want to lose our deposit because of messes on the carpet! So, we took a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth and put it on the floor under the table.

Heather (married in Aug '00, mom to 4 children 7 and under, with baby #5 due in early Jan '09!)

We despised our carpeted dining area. We came across a large plastic desk mat at a yard sale and used it under the high chair. It was great.

We ended up tossing it back in the yard sale pile when we moved to an all slate and hard wood home this year.

I will echo Heather. We use a piece of a plastic tablecloth with the flannel backing. They are only a couple bucks (as cheap as .99 if your lucky), the flannel helps them 'stick' to the carpet, they wipe clean and are cheap enough you can cut a piece of one to fit the area you need (I don't need it under the whole table, just under the high chair). If you don't clean it enough or if something really nasty spills then you can always hose it off in the shower or outside if needed and hang it to dry. I have my 6yo son sweep up the crumbs every night- although my 4yo could probably handle it as well.
Kate

the cheapest solution. we have that problem too.

A painter's drop cloths is really inexpensive at the hardware stores and they can be painted with acrylic paints to look like old fashion floor cloths . When it gets dirty you can toss it in the wash .

I also bought a little steam cleaning machine made to clean up after pets at Walmart for around $50 after my 3 year old nephew spilled grape juice all over my living room carpet. It works great for spot cleaning .

I only let him drink out of a sippy cup now :)

What about a plastic table cloth? You could put it under Eliyahu's chair and/or section of the table. The after the meal wipe it off and fold it back up. It wouldn't be so much work and you could all eat together. We have gotten the nicer flannel-backed ones at the dollar store.

My parents liked us to all eat together as a family and they had us kids eat over those plastic office mats meant for rolly-chairs. They were easy to wipe up and contained stains nicely. :-) My husband and I don't have kids but that's what worked for my parents when I was young.

We had the same problem in our house- carpeting but no where to eat! I used plastic shower curtains- they were big enough to put under the chairs and cleaned up in the washer with some vinegar. Worked for me!

Anne- married to Henry for 15 years, mom to Jacob- 12 and a half years old

My mom always used a plastic shower curtain under our high chairs, when we used play-dough, or when we did anything messy. That same curtain is now under the high chair of my daughter and nieces when we visit.

Great question!
With 6 kids - I've had many messes on carpet!
:-)
I bought a steam cleaner years ago and used it OFTEN when I had lots of messes, especially in apartments.

Now in our house--with carpet under the table (obviously not a design created by a Mom!;-)-- I have put a large braided rug that I picked up at Big Lots for about $25 or $30, underneath the table. It's been worth every penny of that and more!

-Donna-

You can by clear plastic for about $50 per yard in fabric stores or even the fabric section of Walmart. Or get a vinyl shower curtain from the dollar tree. Or pick up a very large vinyl tablecloth. My mom let's our kids eat in her livingroom on the new carpet thanks to these frugal techniques.

I was going to say shower curtain liner as well. Works great, and can be tossed in the washing machine if need be.

Lots of people have recommended the kind of grippy-bottom plastic mats that go under office chairs. We've gone through many of these (to actually use under office chairs) and we've had them crack and split. I guess ours weren't as durable? But once they cracked, they'd pinch your feet (even if you were wearing socks) and we'd have to replace them.

My old nanny-family kept a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth under the highchair. I wiped it clean after the littlest one ate, or if it was a complete disaster I shook it off outside.

When she moved to a booster seat attached to a chair at the table, we kept a towel between the chair and booster seat, but there was some damage to the rug under the table, over time--of course, the family chose to buy a textured, not-very-cleanable rug for under their table, and I don't know why. At least they had a choice! :p

Maybe a clear shower curtain?

I had the same awful problem so I just bought a shower curtain and put it under the table. I also cut hair in my house so I use another curtain for that. I lay it out to cut then sweep it off and a quick wipe and fold it back up. I thought it worked great.

For a few years, my family took in children from NJ Child Care Connection. We had converted our garage into a "kids room" for them, and since it was on the ground floor we decided to use it for a play/nap/eating area instead of carrying/letting the toddlers climb the stairs for safety reasons. Since our kitchen was upstairs we had to deal with a carpet covered room as well. We used a kids plastic picnic table and would use a cut-to-smaller size shower curtain underneath. We put the picnic table up against the wall so the littlest ones wouldn't fall off (they were around toddling age, 14-15 months or so). There was actually two benefits for the kids. One, they had to learn self control, especially when they were little. They couldn't goof off and play around because they didn't have a back rest (they could fall off). Second, they did learn obedience as well. We didn't allow the kids to put their hands on the walls (could you imagine the mess!?) so if they wanted to turn around and put their fingers on the wall, they were done eating.
The shower curtains we used were dollar store ones. We usually wiped them up after each meal with a paper towel/cloth to make sure there weren't crumbs on them; the kids liked to use the table as a fort after meals, and we didn't want to deal with ants. At the end of the week, we would through it in the washer with the bibs and bed sheets. It worked for us, and I hope you find something that works great for your family too!

we just vacuum a LOT. lol! like 2x a day right now some days...

Sarah
sydneylouwho.blogspot.com

I used to use a vinyl table cloth to go under the highchair. You could also get an area rug or carpet remnant large enough to cover the ares. While it is still carpet and will need to have messes cleaned off of it, you don't need to worry about the apartment carpet or your deposit.

My girlfriend has that picnic table ( I suspect she may be the one who commented) and it is nice for gatherings. They put it out for the kids and the adults eat at the table...
Depends on your layout- but I think the way you have it described you will all be very close to each other and together at meals... but the kids do tend to wander away a little more easily.

I bought a clear plastic shower curtain from the dollar store for three bucks to use under my table.

to go underneath the table. You can find one at a garage sale or salvation army. Perhaps someone at church will be looking to get rid of one during spring cleaning in the next few months. Surely it will be cheaper than $80 and will allow you to all eat together without worrying about the apartment carpet underneath!

My two suggestions were said... an inexpensive flannel backed table cloth underneath the high chair or reg. dining chair.... or an inexpensive area rug for under the dining table and chairs.

Good luck!!

I would second the previous comments about getting an extra piece of carpeting to go under your dining room table. I woud buy a busy darker pattern so you don't notice spills. In an apartment, there isn't much space and when you have to walk past and look at whatever you put under thet able several times a day, I would personally rather look at a nice piece of carpet than a piece of plastic etc...but's that's just me:)
We used a picnic table with our older ones for awhile and they loved it, but the folding table and chairs ended up working out better in the long run. We simply folded them up and put them in the closet when we needed the space.

I will echo what a couple other commenters said...plastic tablecloth with the flannel back. When we lived in an apartment with beige carpeting, I went to the fabric store and got some of that plastic tablecloth. I got a piece big enough to make a "splat mat" under the chair of my toddler and for a table cloth on my ancient metal table. It was so easy to just move the chair and pick up the mat to shake the crumbs off of it outside. Then when there was a spill it was an easy get on my hands and knees and wipe it up like wiping off a tablecloth on a table. Even though my house now has vinyl floor in the dining room, I still have the pieces and use them for when we have a movie night or want to do an inside picnic, I just lay those out on the floor for my kids to sit on and it makes for an easy cleanup. I just measured the piece that I have used as my splat mat and it is 52"x54".

Sonshine
http://glimpseofsonshine.blogspot.com/

My sister had the great idea when we came to her house of putting down a large plastice table cloth. It catches the mess and then you can roll it up with the mess in it, take it outside and shake it out or even hose it off, depending on the amount of mess! It worked well and would last quite awhile.

Thanks for all the ideas, everyone! :)

Another consideration is that with the size of our kitchen table, whenever we have families over with children, we have had to pull a coffee table into the kitchen for the children to sit at. We no longer have a coffee table (gave it away when we moved) though... so that was where I thought the picnic table would come in useful as well. :)

I like the idea of eating all at the same table, but I'm not sure about fabric /towels (wouldn't milk spills soak through?), an area rug ($25 sounds expensive to me, and there's still the issue of spilled milk and a yucky "floor" under the table) and a carpet cleaner sounds like a good idea if I can just get over the idea of carpet = nasty!! I hate carpet but it's what we have so I may as well try not to think about that. :)

Maybe I can find a flannel-backed plastic tablecloth to try; I keep thinking that with little children it would get wrinkled and messed up constantly, but maybe not! :) Then the picnic table could be saved for eating outside or for when we have company. :)

We actually have a small picnic table like the one you're thinking about getting (Toysrus $40) and it is wonderful for little ones to eat at especially when you have co. over with little ones!
I have hardwood floors in my dining area so I don't have ideas about the carpet. My floors are bad enough without it! I feel for you!
Mandi

http://thelifeofamommy.com

Tammy, if you are still going to go with the picnic table idea, you really should consider thrifting.

I'm a frequent thrift store shopper. Around here, we only have a few, and they are very heavily shopped & picked over. But I still see kid picnic tables at least 1/3 of the time I go shoppping.

Just a suggestion. =D

Definitely! :) I want to scope out the local second-hand stores here. :) The weather has been bad lately, and with traffic -- I've been doing good to get to the grocery stores once every week or two. :) I know there is a Goodwill store close by, which should be fun!! :) I could take the bus but I've never taken a bus and with 3 small children it might be... interesting... to try to figure it out in the winter by myself! Haha :) So we'll see. :)

If go for for plastic mats, I would highly recommend you spend a little more and get thicker plastic. Otherwise it's always shifting, wrinkling, and much harder to wipe after meals. A thicker, stiffer plastic will stay put and you'll be able to wash it like a floor.

Carpet in the dining room/kitchen???

Somebody needs a brain scan.

-Zan

We used a cheap vinyl tablecloth (I got it at Wlmart on clearnace for $.49 after soem holiday or other)under the highchairs and under the kids table (my mom found a wooden one with chairs for less than $20 that is really nice and we still use for school now that they are 4 and 7 yrs old) The tablecloth was large enough to contain spills and crumbs and keep the floor from being filthy and slippery (we have tile or hardwood everywhere) also worked nicely to contain playdough and clay! When it got to the point of being to gross to clean it was easy to throw away and put a new one down under the table.

Mary in Ohio

A cheap, easy solution I used in the past is to buy a vinyl picnic table cloth, the kind backed in flannel and just spread it out under the area. Depending on your space you could even put a chair as well as the high chair on it to eat as a family. You can get a booster seat for about $12 at walmart for the toddler in his chair.

I remember having one of these under my high chair/booster chair when I was a kid. My chair was kept in the kitchen and then for meals at the table my mom would lay down the table cloth and move my chair.
Easy to wipe, move and fold. I would think you could find a plastic table cloth for a good price.

I have the same situation. We rent and its always ugly beige carpets. Kids and kool-aid do not mix. I use an old shower curitan underneath.

We are remodeling in our kitchen upstairs will be wood floor. BUt for now were in the basement that is all carpet. I bought some cheap area rugs. The really big ones. From BI-Mart. they were only 30 dollars and when we move upstairs I dont think ill feel too guilty throwing it away or using it outside for the pets. We did invest in a spot cleaner. For those times our daughter tried to open a gal. of apple juice and dropped the WHOLE thing on the floor :(

when we pull out our little tikes picnic table (you can find them at rummage sales all the time). i put a vinyl tablecloth that i bought on clearance under it. now is a great time to find a Christmas one on clearance for 80% off. carpet in the dining room is crazy, but we have lived in apartments, too. they always do that.

I'm sorry but I hate all of the above suggestions. Who wants an ugly piece of plastic or a shower curtain on the floor in the dining room? How is that better than a stained carpet? And putting another carpet on top of your carpet is still going to be a stain magnet. A splat mat under the high chair is an option, but all of these solutions are not going to look very good.

What I would suggest is one of several options:
1. Outdoor rugs are a popular new trend. They are weather and stain resistant, washable (as in, with a hose) and quite cute. I've seen them for $20-$30 at various home stores.
2. Bamboo rug--same concept. Hard, cleanable surface.
3. Floor cloth--this is a cheaper option if you have some time. Find an attractive fabric remnant and make an old-time floor cloth out of using many coats of polyurethane (google it for instructions). The downside is you probably don't want to do this indoors in the winter time. The floor cloth will stand up to foot traffic and chairs and such without crumpling up like a shower curtain or a piece of plastic.

i see that others have suggested this, but I second the idea of a plastic/vinyl table cloth on the floor underneath the kids places. We did that for years under the little one's highchairs. Works great.

I agree wholeheartedly with you on that, Tammy... I've never been a fan of carpet anywhere except maybe in the bedrooms and living room. But even then it can be
hard to clean stains etc...I always thought that carpet in a bathroom was the worst place to have it!
I really don't have any solutions for you except maybe a wipeable table cloth/vinyl under the table? I know you can pick up cheap ones at the dollar store etc...

i see that you have lots of great suggestions here. i just wanted to chime in about buying a little picnic table. i think a child sized cardtable and chairs is a better option. it can be folded and stored and the moveable chairs are more accomodating for little ones of different sizes. my inlaws have a nice one that has lasted for nearly 40 years. my kids are too big for it now, but loved it when they were small!

There are these outdoor carpets that are made to go outside a camper. They are pretty,(made to look like an area rug) but sturdy, obviously weather and water resistant and I don't believe too expensive either. My neighbor just got one for christmas. You could look on line at an RV supply place.

One thing to consider is that with three children that the likely hood of getting your damage deposit back in full is very slim- even if you are very careful and everything else. I would advise (having done this a few times with rentals and carpets and kids) just count on not seeing that money again, take care of the carpet as best you can (clean up spills right away, get some carpet cleaner in a can, that sort of thing) and not give it another thought.

We use an area rug under our table, mostly because I think it is prettier than the beige/brownish carpet in our place. But it doesn't always get all the spills. It does help a lot though.

~tiffany

I imagine it depends on the establishment, but after 4.5 years at our last place, we did get our full deposit back. :) We rented a carpet cleaner twice during that time, and I think the carpet there was higher quality than the stuff in our new place, because it didn't really stain or show signs of wear during our stay! :)

The carpet-under-the-kitchen-table issue, for me, is more of a cleanliness thing (like, do I really want to try to mop up spilled milk under there?!) than worrying about the deposit... from what I've heard, some apartments just like to keep the deposit $$, no matter what... :P :)

Why not get a carpet remenant...or one of those 5x8 pieces of carpet with the bound edges...Walmart sells them here for like $20. I know the plastic seems logical, but the carpet can eventually be thrown out and things wouldn't slide on the plastic...like the table. And would be more attractive than the plastic.

We have carpet in our dining room (cream colored, horrors!), and we simply got an area rug at a yard sale for $10. Plastic is ugly and crinkly and doesn't work, but if kids spill on an area rug, it's no biggie, because when they get older, you can just change it out or get rid of it completely and the carpet underneath will be safe.

aNNa mArIE

Earlier I mentioned a vinyl type (homemade even) "splat mat". Honestly, our kids, though not terribly neat, didn't spill that much until they were teenagers! They used sippy cups until they were maybe 4 or so? I don't really remember! If we were having spaghetti or something like that, we would just pull out a big beach towel to put it under them. My thinking is whatever you use to protect your carpet is just something you put out and clean up for each meal...not leave out indefinitely. It can even be an older child's job at each meal.

I know that I had seen somewhere once where they took plain canvas and painted it for a floor "rug". The canvas, if treated, would be waterproof and less suseptable to little kids poking holes in a plastic covering. (I say this because my 3 little ones would just need to try that! :) )
Good Luck
Betsy

This might be a little late, but we used to ket a remnant of vinyl flooring and tape in down over the carpet with a matching color tape. It wasn't the prettiest, but then you could mop and it wouldn't move around.

I have the same problem and I am going to buy vinyl carpet runner from our local home store; $1.50 a linear foot or so. I wish I could find a big piece, rug sized, but I'll just have to lay the pieces side by side. It's clear so I don't think it's a big deal. I like the idea of it staying in place with the little prongs on the back and any spills and stains can be wiped right up. I'm going to do the whole dining area.

I have had several apartments, ALL of them have carpet in the "dining" area. Thankfully Apartment complex expect a certain amount of mess BUT I don't like to look at stained carpet. My step children stayed with us over this past summer. Inexpensive "kool aid" was the best option for a bunch of kids too hooked on suger (we got the sugar free kind. they never noticed) But my carpet is still several shades of pink in a zebra/cheeta pattern. Even if we got to the spill immediately there was still some red left. First I outlawed red juice in my home. (Should have to begin with but i tend to learn my lessons best the hard way :) So Long story short they went home after summer and I was left with a pink carpet that started off beige. I went to Wal-mart got a $20 area rug jut like several others have talked about. But I have always found rug on rug does not stay in place. So we invested in a carpet padding (shocker..was 3 times the amount of the area rug) but it holds the rug in place so it doesn't bunch with walking/sliding chairs etc. And adds an extra layer between that rug and your carpet. It works really well, especially since anything drinkable is now a non stainable color, and the thicker stuff like spaghetti sauce, and chili doesnt seep in fast enuf to go thru the cheap carpet much less the padding. Also the carpet is a nice color to compliment the rug and my kitchen colors so it doent look bad or messy like I would expect a tarp,plactic, or table cloth to look, however with the no slip carpet padding is NOT the most economical solution but works really well for me, because I hate to see anything messy or not matching, and to constantly have to clean the plastic or table cloth and constantly pick it up and lay it down are some things I just dont want to spend my time dealing with so the expenditure was worth it in my book.

Have you thought of looking at a used office furniture store. The plastic desk mats that they use in offices come in all different sizes. They have grips on the bottom so they do not slide around, they are heavier/thicker which makes it easy to clean up. Some people use those clear mats on the floor under their kids' chairs. You could just as easily buy some by the yard at Walmart for not much cash. They have child sized folding tables and chairs which we just purchased the girls love them and they are easy to clean and put up and out of the way. Eating as a family was my first priority even when all mine were small and our eating area was carpeted.

I read through the comments and thought about an area rug over something plastic so if there was a spill you could clean it up and then lift the area rug and wipe off the plastic so the rug underneath stays clean. I also think there are outdoor rugs that are water and stain resistant. That way you could wipe it clean pretty easily. Good luck, I know how messy little ones can be!

Mess happens, people. Dont' ostracize your children or make them feel obsessive over 'germs' and 'mess' like obviously all your parents did. lol Teach your children manners, at the table, with you, their siblings, and at restaurants and other people's housees. This creates great, high functioning children and eventual adults.

Let me guess you've never had children!

Not all of us have "perfect" "teachable" children. I've been trying - just because my 2 year-old child throws her food across the room, screams at me, and deliberatly pours things on the floor while rolling her eyes doesn't mean I don't teach manners. I consistently put her in time-out, and I've started spanking too (not angry spanking ... just a single smack to the butt to show I mean business) - yet, none of this has resulted in changed behavior for almost a year now. Also, I always explain why she's been punished, explained the desired behavior, praised good behavior, pointed out good behavior in other children we see & complimenting them in front of her. Nothing has worked - It's called STRONG WILL & it is the reason I have only one child for now ...and may not have any more (yep, I'm serious, not joking). ... well, this is obviously a shift in topic - I was searching tonight because I'm frankly exhausted & need a solution to keep my carpet under the dining room table clean LOL - I love and appreciate all the suggestions ... just wanted to sound off that just because a child doesn't behave like an angel doesn't mean their parents haven't been trying .... and trying .... and trying. ... also if people have parenting advice or books - I read quite a few: Bringing up Girls, To Train A Child, 1-2-3 Magic (doesn't condone spanking), Grace Based Parenting, Parenting is a Ministry, The Strong-Willed Child. ... that's just a few & I've read almost all of them cover to cover. Next book in cue: Dare to Discipline .... - BOTTOM LINE: What works for you doesn't work for me ... obviously. If I find a solution to my child's behavior - believe me, I'll share it with anyone that asks. LOL! And ... I love my child dearly, she's just a nut at the dinner table and in public for this season of life. Please go easy on the judgments with parents who are really trying ... and trying ... and trying .... & yes, my hubby is right on board with me and trying ... and trying .... and trying ..... ;)

in case anybody is still reading this, I have to recommend those plastic mats that go under office chairs. We had an extra one when we moved to an apartment with carpeting in the dinning area. We used it under the high chair and it was perfect! The best part is that they are clear, so you don't really see them.

oh Lord, i just read this entire thing.. soo many comments, all good ideas, i'm a germ-o-phobe and have carpet in the dining room and a 2 year old who always makes a mess especially since he has been feeding himself and still learning to hold a spoon and fork the right way. spagetti, oh no!! hahah! after reading all of these I think I am going to try an indoor/outdoor area rug that i can hose off or wash after a messy dinner. For now I have moved my dining room table into my kitchen but it doesn't fit well at all.. i was also considering buying a smaller table for the kitchen that would fit better, since it's just me, my husband and our son.. so we can still all sit together- just won't have a lot of room for company.. but if you have ANY room in your kitchen area i would suggest that- if you can afford to buy a small table and chairs or a bench, etc. But i like to use my table for crafts and painting too so the rug thing just doesn't work for me and I hate the germs, but after potty training i will be calling 1800 steamer soon! haha

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