As a sleep deprived and clueless new parent, I read a lot of parenting books. Mostly about sleep, but some more general ones including Bringing up Bebe, which is about the difference in parenting cultures between the US and France. The author, Pamela Druckerman, starts the book by illustrating the awfulness of American children's table manners, as opposed to French children who sit patiently and quietly through meals and eat everything on their plates. I'm happy to report that, so far, M is pretty good at eating with us in public (though I've probably just jinxed us by writing that). But ALL kids (including French ones, I would assume), need a little entertainment to sit at the table while the adults argue about politics and blunt their rage with wine.
Here's what I included on this table:
Butcher paper tablecloth
Twine/burlap (really any string or tape would work to hold the crayons together)
Paper cups (I used real plates, but paper plates also mean no breakage whatsoever)
IKEA cloth napkins
Rice krispie treat turkey with paper feathers
Leftover spices in small vases (rosemary, thyme, sage, etc)
LED flameless candles
This rice krispie treat turkey might have to become a Thanksgiving tradition in our house. It's easy to make and a fun, edible centerpiece for littles who would ignore an artfully arranged gourd, fruit, and flower centerpiece. Here's a tutorial for the drumsticks and the rest of the turkey i just eyeballed from this photo. I made the feathers here, but older kids could easily get in on the action with some kid scissors, bamboo skewers, and tape.