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For some mealtime magic, the award-winning chalkboard table cloth from BenElke is a handy wizard with the ability to transform from table cloth to artistic canvas, teaching tool and game centre with a simple flash of a piece of chalk. 

The school ma’am in you won’t be able to resist grabbing a lump of chalk to start writing up the rules of the dinner table on this blackboard. And yes, blackboard fabric is just like a traditional chalkboard, just in fabric form – you can write on it with chalk, wipe it clean and use it over and over again.

It’s exactly what it says on the can: blackboard cloth. Use is for any of the purpose that you would use a blackboard or a cloth. The reason it’s so very cool is that combination. The kids will love it because – for once – they will be invited to make as big a mess on the table as they like! But before you file it away in the ‘just an art resource’ box, we thought you might like a few more ideas for putting it to what we think is excellent use.

  1. Draw up where all the dinner plates and cutlery should be placed, then have your children ‘set’ the table. After a few sessions using the chalkboard guidelines, they will be a rare talent at setting the table.
  2. Use it as a game board – draw up a noughts and crosses grid, play Hangman or even draft a chess board (adapt your salt and pepper shakers into the king and queen…).
  3. Use it as a snap lesson tool – right now, we like playing “Rhyming Games” on the table. “OP” is drawn all over the table and we then add a letter at the front – HOP, POP, BOP, TOP, SHOP, STOP… then we can turn the whole thing into a rhyming story or poem. Plenty of Dr Seuss inspiration there! But you could also use it to play Categories (name a letter, then call out categories for people to name using that letter… “L” is for: animal “lion”, food “lemon”, name “Liana”, shape “line”, bird “lyrebird”, geography “lake”, school item “lunchbox” etc).
  4. Ask kids to answer the standard “How was your day” by drawing it up on the blackboard instead of having to say it out loud… an emoticon if you like. You will (literally) get a better picture of what went on than the standard stony silence delivers.
  5. Keep score. We are going through a bit of a moment where we need to flag up how many mouthfuls have been finished before it is time for after-dinner play, so this becomes a very convenient place to draw up each of that score chart.
  6. Use it for a motivational quote of the day – for yourself or for the kids. See how you go at mastering a new blackboard “font”… you never know what kind of artistic endeavour you might be starting.
  7. Draw happy family pictures that everyone can embellish before they eat. It’s a good way of attracting the whole crew to actually sit down at the table.
  8. Write up the Menu for the day or the week (and who is responsible for each of the dishes, days or duties).
  9. Draw up a Lego journey map for playing on afterwards… with a table this big, everyone in the family can have a corner of the world that is all their own, whether it’s the City side, the Creators, the Star Wars crew or the crazy Ninjago’s. Then let the battle commence.
  10. Last of all, if you find you’ve got some to spare, you could turn it into something else, as it can be used on the table, floor or wall, and of course anywhere else really that you might think to use a strong sturdy fabric! We’ve seen it used as a “Do Not Disturb”-stye door handle reminder, as a roll-up kids travel play mat bag, as a shopping bag (wearing the list on its sleeve as you do), even as a roll-up/drop-down Day Planner in the kitchen. Wherever you want a place for temporary doodling, it’s the perfect place for a blackboard cloth.

You buy the fabric as just that – a length of fabric. It can be sewn on a regular sewing machine, but, like oilcloth, it doesn’t fray, so there is no need to hem, just cut to size. And of course, to wipe it clean, just use a damp sponge. You can use it indoors or outdoors and you simply use standard chalk for marking up. It can be folded away when you want a more colourful table setting, and you remove any creases with hot water.

Made in Mexico, it is 94 per cent PVC, 3 per cent polyester and 3 per cent cotton.