A dining table, art table and storage container in one — lap trays are inexpensive, available in a variety of different designs and ideal for a multitude of purposes. Leave a few subtle hints around Mother’s Day and your kiddo’s lap tray might just be used to bring you breakfast in bed.
Store-bought Lap Trays
While it’s a good idea to make a habit of dining together at the family table, sometimes the occasion calls for a quick snack on the living room floor or in the playroom. A lap tray makes cleanup quick and easy after a family picnic in the house — simply brush crumbs off and wipe down the washable top. It also gives your child a place to color, mold modeling clay and make crafts when the kitchen table is unavailable. You can find lap trays with fold-out legs for quick and convenient storage, bean bag lap trays that rest on your child’s lap and lap trays with storage pockets on each side for art supplies and other crafting goodies. The type that’s best for your youngster depends on what you’d like to use it for — you might not want your toddler balancing a bean bag lap tray while trying to eat warm soup.
Homemade Lap Trays
If a store-bought lap tray just won’t do for your special little guy, you can make one at home with a few pieces of wood. Simply cut the top of the tray from a piece of plywood — you can make it any size you like — and then cut four legs, each about 8 inches tall. Sand each of the pieces of the lap tray until every surface is absolutely smooth, and then attach the legs to the tray with wood glue. Use L-brackets to add extra strength and finish the tray with a coat of sealant. You can personalize the tray by painting your child’s name across the top, stenciling decals around the edge or painting it with chalkboard paint so your kiddo can even write on the tray.
Travel Lap Tray
Make a lap tray to keep with you on all your travels to prevent an antsy toddler or preschooler from getting bored. Simple make a little fabric pillow and fill it with a few layers of cotton batting or stuffing. Cover a sanded 1/4-inch-thick piece of plywood with another piece of fabric. If you don’t have extra plywood around the house, you can cover an old baking sheet instead. Sew the fabric-covered plywood tray on top of the fabric pillow. Voila — a lap tray with a soft bottom to rest against your child’s legs and a sturdy surface to keep your kiddo entertained! You can take along crayons and coloring books, blank paper and stickers, or any other child-safe art supplies that will keep her occupied throughout any trip.
While lap trays designed for children are generally safe, they can pose fall hazards if you have a little monkey who likes to climb. Teach your child how to use the lap tray properly, and always keep an eye on her when she’s using the tray for meals, art or any other activity. It’s also a good idea to check the tray before each use for any cracks or chips. Most lap trays are made of plastic, and damage to the tray can leave sharp or rough edges that can scrape or cut delicate skin. If your child’s lap tray is wooden, check it before each use for rough spots so your child will avoid splinters.