I take my own cloth bags to the grocery store, but these plastic sacks still pile up, from trips to other stores or when the reusable bags are accidentally left at home. To teach my eight-year-old son about reuse, we made some new placemats to go with our new kitchen table.
And while we were at it, I thought we'd work in a "how to set the table" lesson. This is sort of like an Earth Day and life lesson all rolled into one!
Before the tutorial, let me remind you of something you already know. Irons are hot. Kids should NEVER use them without adult supervision. Respect your child's maturity when evaluating whether they can do this activity safely.
What You Need
Plastic Bags (4 for each placemat)
Colored Plastic for an accent
Silverware template (optional)
Lay the plastic bags out flat and cut the handles and bottoms off.
Turn the bags inside out so the ink is inside each bag.
Smooth them out flat, one on top of each other in stacks of four.
Cut silverware shapes out of a contrasting color of plastic. I used an orange cheap plastic party tablecloth. Trace a plate and cup and cut these out as well.
Put the shapes under one layer of plastic (inside the top bag in your stack). As a tip for what goes where, think (left to right) of the word FORKS. The "f" is for fork. The "o" is the shape of the plate. (There's no R.) The "k" is for knife and the "s" is for spoon.
Carefully move your stack of placemats on top of a piece (or two) of parchment paper, placed atop a surface suitable for ironing.
Place more parchment paper (NOT waxed paper) over the stack of sacks, forming a plastic bag sandwich.
With the iron set on medium heat (my has settings 1-6, and I set it at 4), slowly move the iron over the parchment covered plastic bags. You'll see them shrink as they heat up and fuse. It'll take 15-20 seconds (or longer).
The plastic will be hot. Let it cool for a few seconds before removing the parchment to inspect the plastic. If there are bubbles or loose pieces, reapply the parchment and continue ironing.
If your placemat is rippled, iron it more to flatten.
You can trim the edges to make them straight or embrace the rugged nature of your recycled craft. The final result is a Tyvek-like plastic mat.
My son was stunned with the final result and eager to use the placements that evening for dinner. Setting the table was a snap!