It's so fun when kids start to eat solids! They make the cutest faces, you start thinking of all the foods you can't wait for them to try, and every meal is exciting — and also a glorious mess.
When my kids were learning to eat real food, I bought a plastic splat mat to preserve the floor. It was cheap, it was clear, and it seemed like it would do the trick. But I only used it for about two weeks. Why? For one thing, it's the same amount of work to clean a sheet of plastic as it is to clean the floors. For another, that clear plastic develops a sort of murky patina of half-wiped food very quickly and doesn't look clear for long. I am also generally opposed to having strictly functional plastic things in my living spaces, particularly in a small apartment where you have to look at them all the time. So I gave up and re-homed the thing as an art mat pretty quickly.
I wish I'd known about these Gathre highchair mats back then!
Buy: Highchair Mat, from $40 at Gathre
At $40 to $60 each, they're definitely a splurge beyond my old $7 plastic mat, but they are just lovely. They are made of wipe-clean and water-resistant leather. The bottoms are scoot-resistant suede, and they come in the sorts of colors you actually want to see in your home, like Mist and Shale and Slate. So that maybe, just maybe, you can pretend you're just doing the cool, layered-rug look over your dining room sisal instead of feeling like you're giving up all sense of style and your home will never look reasonably cool again (note from the other side: It will look cool again, in a few years).
This beautiful square of leather actually looks good in your room! It protects your floor or rug! Sigh. Perhaps your spouse needs one under their chair, too?