I saw this pre-printed craft paper table runner at Pottery Barn Kids the other day and it really stuck in my head. While I'm not ready to throw $19 toward a disposable tablecloth for children this November, it did remind me what a GREAT idea it is to make sure kids have something to do at the table for dinner events where the adults often drag it out over pie and coffee. Sure, the kids can run around and play when they're finished eating, but aren't quietly occupied children SO much more enjoyable? Yes, yes they are.
Craft paper is super cheap when you buy it plain and from the hardware store. I saw a giant roll for $10 at Lowe's recently and it looked like it would last my kids MONTHS. Tape it to a table, floor, or patio and most kids start salivating.
Beyond basic crayons and markers, you could give them a few rubber stamps (bonus points for self-inking!), glue sticks and craft supplies, or even logic puzzles that are sure to have them flummoxed for hours. (This one is best if you have older kids on your hands.) Or, save a few paper towls rolls and cut them into napkin rings for kids to decorate.
Best part? When you're finished, just roll it up and stick it in the recycle bin. It'll be the easiest thing you clean up that day, I promise.