Table Settings

Melissa Kossler Dutton

Amanda Dick never minded setting the table when it was one of her chores.

And even though the task is no longer one of her jobs at home, the 13-year-old still spends time doing it.

The Grove City resident has become a competitive table setter. She earned a first-place ribbon at the Franklin County Fair this summer for her picnic-themed place setting.

"It's really cool," she said. "It's definitely fun to create something."

She likes coming up with table arrangements that fit the themes in the 4-H competitions. The eighth grader at Pleasant View Middle School also enjoys seeing how her competitors interpret the theme.

"It's fun to see what everyone else comes up with," she said.

We asked Amanda to come up with a Thanksgiving-themed tablescape that Columbus Parent readers and their children could recreate. She drew her inspiration from the outdoors and fall.

Centerpiece: Once you have a theme, Amanda suggests designing a centerpiece. Her Thanksgiving centerpiece incorporated dried flowers from her yard, artificial flowers that she purchased at a local craft store and items that her mother had for fall decorating. She also created turkeys - which she thought would be a fun, kid-friendly project - out of artificial flowers and foam turkey kits. She used an inexpensive basket filled with a Styrofoam ball as a base for the arrangement.

Tip: Make sure the arrangement contains pieces with varying heights. You can find advice on creating flower arrangements online.

Individual place settings: Gather all the items that are necessary for the meal you are serving and begin arranging them on the table. Amanda was glad that her mother already had dark green plates because they complimented her color scheme. She purchased fall-inspired glasses at a thrift store. She suggests finding glassware that compliments the theme because it gives the setting "pop."

Tip: Arrange the dishes all different ways because you will be surprised how different things look in different spots.

Linens and napkins: This is another place where it's possible to add interest without spending a lot of money. Amanda found her napkins at a discount store. After several tries, she decided that having them poke out of the glasses was a whimsical touch that kids would enjoy. She was able to use a tablecloth that her mother had, but she said placemats would have worked well, too.

Tip: Place confetti or other small decorations down the center of the tablecloth. "It adds a little something and it's something fun for the kids to do," Amanda said.

Place cards: Amanda wanted to create a place card that was eye-catching and fit her theme. While searching online, she came across the idea to weave string along pumpkin and gourds. She worried that it might be too much but was pleased with the result. She lightly pounded small nails into the vegetables and then wound string around them.

Tip: Use photos instead of written names on place cards - especially if your child helper can't read.

1. After you've chosen your theme, look online. There are lots of great websites that have ideas for centerpieces, place cards or other table props.

2. Look through decorations that you already have for items that fit your theme.

3. Go to a variety of stores before buying. Think about shopping at dollar, thrift or craft stores.

4. Make your centerpiece first.

5. Arrange your dishes on the table in a variety of ways until you are satisfied with the results.

Source: Amanda Dick