It's a parent's worst fear to send their kids to a friend's house only to find out that they've been rude at the dining table.
Navigating kids' table manners is important, but can be stressful for parents, and leaves us feeling at a loss sometimes. When we think we've taught our children to eat with their mouth closed or ask to be excused after dinner, and are then completely ignored, it can be incredibly frustrating.
If your child's table manners leave a lot to be desired, then these handy etiquette tips will hopefully help transform bad manners into good manners in no time at all. It doesn't have to be daunting, if we take a relaxed approach at setting an example and showing our kids what we expect at mealtimes, pretty soon it will be second nature to them too. From simple table manners for kids to the perfect etiquette for special family occasions, these important ideas and list of table manners for kids will set your children up to be star dinner guests. Why not take a look at this article about [why manners matter] or this one about [3-year-old behavior] if you want to learn more great parenting ideas.
Basic Table Manners For Kids
We have to learn to walk before we can run, and starting with the basics is a good idea when we try to teach our kids proper eating etiquette. If you're looking for a list of good rules that you can adopt in your home, then we're here to help.
Always come to the table for dinner time with clean hands. Most kids like to get muddy and end up touching all sorts with their hands, so it's best to wash them before they get anywhere near their mouth just in case.
For younger children, learning to hold a knife and fork in the correct way is a good social eating skill to teach. Starting off holding the cutlery in their correct hands will mean it is second nature by the time they are a little bit older.
To chew with your mouth closed is a rule in most households, and a good basic guideline to teach. Encourage kids not to talk while they're eating and to eat small bites of their food. Most importantly, if you're going to preach it then make sure grown-ups aren't guilty of it too.
If you use napkins at mealtimes, teach your kids to get into the habit of putting their napkin on top of their lap while they're eating their food. Above all else, it'll catch any messy drips and their clothes will stay cleaner after meals.
One of the most important pieces of etiquette we like to encourage among kids of any age is to say please and thank you. This easy way to show appreciation will help with gratitude and just generally makes people feel nice.
Try to keep the dinner table a technology-free zone. This means no tablets or phones at the table and encourages everyone to talk to each other during the meal, which is an important thing to start young and try to keep going into the teenage years.
A rule we like to have in place is for each kid to always clear their own plate after a meal, and also to clear the plate of someone else too. It's a good way to encourage kindness in children, and important when parents work hard making dinner and often are left clearing up while kids run off to play.
On that note, we also like to teach our kids to offer to help to lay or clear the table every mealtime, and especially when they visit friends or family.
As well as these seven key points, three more rules make up the basic 10 table manners. These are to only take small sips of drinks, and only once they have finished their mouthful; to eat at approximately the same pace as others; and to sit up straight, without elbows on the table.
Table Manners For Kids Step By Step
This simple step-by-step guide to good table manners for kids is a great thing to print out and keep next to the dinner table to remind them of how they should act. Children are much more likely to remember what they learn if it's repeated, and reading them before you eat can be a good way to keep everyone clear on what is expected. Whilst the decision is up to each individual parent, it is recommended to start teaching your child basic table manners before the age of three.
Firstly, we need to practice leading by example. Kids learn by watching parents and older siblings, so if we want them to say please and thank you and close their mouths when they're eating, then we need to be sure we're doing the same.
Building a routine around dinner time will make it easier for you to teach your children what you expect as a family. If you want kids to wash their hands before a meal, then set up a washing station at the kitchen sink, and take turns as a family to wash the germs away. We are a big fan of a cleaning song to help your child wash hands for long enough to get rid of any pesky germs.
Learning table manners is probably going to take a bit of time for your child, and having lots of different things they need to remember can be a little bit overwhelming. We find it best to put the emphasis on praising good manners around the table instead of getting angry when your child is breaking the rules. In general, it makes for a nicer experience for everyone.
Something that lots of parents find works well when teaching polite etiquette to their kids is creating a sticker chart. This is best for kids that are younger in age, and we can encourage them with a reward sticker for every successful mealtime. Make a reward chart for mom and dad too so that your child doesn't feel singled out, and get the whole family taking part and scrubbing up their manners.
If you are taking your child to a family meal where you want to make sure they have the best possible etiquette, it may be a good idea to role-play a little bit of the experience beforehand so children know what is expected of them.
Follow each of the steps from this article, and your kids will know exactly how to behave at the table always!
Books On Table Manners For Kids
If you want some support on teaching the rules of good manners and social etiquette, then these are our favorite books that are entertaining as well as educational for your kids. When your child starts loving a book about manners, you may just see their behavior start to change without them even having to be taught!
We love 'Don't Dip Your Chips In Your Drink, Kate' by Caryl Hart for a funny look at a kid with very bad manners. This can be a good book for parents feeling stressed out about the little things, to put a little bit of fun into learning the rules.
Any dinosaur-obsessed kid will want to follow the examples set by the dinosaurs in Jane Yolen's book, 'How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?' With clear pictures that teach how to hold a knife and fork and say please and thank you, everyone will want to start eating like a dinosaur after reading it.
You'll fall in love with the adorable artwork in 'Penguin Says "Please"' by Michael Dahl. Little ones can learn all about what may happen if someone forgets to say please, so it is perfect for teaching preschool table manners for kids.
One of our favorite books about rules for table manners for kids is 'Emily's Everyday Manners' by Peggy Post and Cindy Post Senning. Use this book to show your kids that polite etiquette is for every day and not just for special occasions.
Teach kids of any age about the consequences of their behavior with Ellen Javernick's funny book, 'What If Everybody Did That?' If you are struggling with someone who never seems to care about breaking the rules, this is a great choice to help them understand.
If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at our guide to [your evening routine] and different [types of behaviour related to psychology].
The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.