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Table Manners for Kids: Raising a Child with Good Table Etiquette

table manners for kids

Proper etiquette around the dinner table is a really important skill for children. Not only will it help them make friends and have a more pleasant experience when dining out with your family. But it will also teach good manners and formality, which may help your child in the future when interviewing for jobs or attending formal dinners.

As a parent, we want them to learn good manners, but we also want them to enjoy the experience of eating with us. Learning table manners is an ongoing process that can take years to master. A few simple tips will seriously improve your child’s table manners and make the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved.

At what age Should Children Begin to Learn Table Manners?

There is no specific age at which children should learn table manners. Every child is different, so their introduction to proper table etiquette will vary depending on their personality and experience. However, some experts suggest that you begin teaching your children table manners as soon as they develop an interest in eating with other people. They say that by introducing table etiquette during early childhood, one may be able to train them to make good choices in a social setting rather than encouraging bad habits later in life.

Schools Also Teach Children Table Manners

Parents have an important role in teaching their children proper table manners; however, preschools are also taking a proactive role in teaching students proper etiquette and manners. In Baby Steps Daycare, they teach children proper manners and table etiquette at a young age. They have found that younger children respond better to being taught proper table etiquette rather than waiting until they are older. They also let children know that learning these manners in a safe, positive environment is important.

Essential Table Manners for Kids

Every meal can serve as a chance for children to learn how to exercise proper table etiquette. From using the utensils properly to waiting until everyone has been served, children can learn how to be respectful and practice good table manners.

You should be patient but consistent in giving instructions, and children will eventually get the hang of things.

Here are some simple things you can begin to teach little kids age five and under:

1. Make Children Wash Their Hands Before Coming to The Table

a child washing hands

Clean hands are important for preventing germs from spreading, but they are also a good way to teach children table manners. You should ask children to wash their hands before coming to the table each meal. Explain to them that they should not bring germs to the table and that touching other people’s food or utensils is rude. They may be hesitant at first, but it will sink in as a proper habit soon enough.

2. Ask Kids To Wait Until Everybody Is Served

Learning basic table manners starts with waiting for your food to be served. You should show children that they have to wait until everyone is served and seated before they can begin eating. If your child pounces on their food immediately, without waiting for other guests, they will be considered rude and disrespectful. So take the time to give some gentle reminders to wait until everybody has been to the table before they begin eating.

3. Remind Children To Chew Foods While Mouth Close

The number one offense at the dinner table is talking with your mouth open. You should remind kids that they need to chew their food while their mouths are closed so no food accidentally falls into their laps. It is one of the ideal table manners for kids to learn early on and will last them through adulthood.

4. Teach Kids to Take Small Bites

teach kids to take small bites

Avoid stuffing the mouth with too large of a bite, and teach children to take small bites instead. If you notice that your child is taking really big bites, remind them that it is important to take smaller bites so that they can chew their food properly.

One way children can practice this habit is to lay their fork down between bites. They can even put their hands on their lap while chewing.

5. Teach Children To Be Polite

Tell children that it is important to be polite when eating. There are many situations where being polite at the table will help them fit in and make friends. Remind your kids that they should not speak with food in their mouths. They should also say please when asking for something and thank you when someone gives them food or water.

6. Use Utensils and Napkins

Teaching your kids how to use forks and spoons properly is one of the best ways to teach proper table etiquette. It would be best if you showed them how to hold and use the utensils. Also, you can teach them to sit up straight when using a utensil, so they do not slouch or chew on their silverware like a dog with a bone.

Napkins are another important part of good table manners for children. Show them how to put their napkin on their lap neatly so they are ready when food is served. If the napkin falls off their lap, they should pick it up and re-set it properly. You can also teach children how to properly use a napkin when eating messy foods such as pasta or pizza for the first time.

7. Remind Children Not To Criticize Foods

remind children not to criticize foods

Children should never criticize the food at the table. If they do not like the food, they should not say anything about it. Just because something does not taste good to them does not mean that it is not good for other people.

You should also show them how to be polite when someone says something rude about their food. It is important to respect the food and eating choices of other people. It is one of the most important table manners for kids to learn.

Essential Table Manners for Bigger Kids

As children become older, they will have more control over their behaviors and manners at the table. However, there are still some table manners they should be following when they are older.

Once children are six years old and older, you can teach them to:

1. Encourage Your Children To Always Ask The Grown-up

table manners for kids

Encourage your children to ask adults if they can help do something to get the dinner started. Young children are eager to help and enjoy being responsible for getting the work done. Adults should be willing to loan them tools so they can help.

If your children cannot see what you are doing, tell them each step you are taking to ensure that you prepare the meal correctly. If they do not have any helpful ideas or questions, encourage them to ask a grown-up for advice on how they could get involved in making a meal.

2. Encourage Kids Not To Bring Devices To The Table

It is important to encourage kids not to bring electronic devices to their meals. Explain that they should put the phone, tablets, computers, and other devices away because it will take away from family time. They can use their devices after the meal is over.

3. Practice Having Your Kid Wait Their Turn To Speak

Encourage your children to wait their turn to speak when they have a question, are unsure what to say, or are uncomfortable with the topic of conversation. Children need to learn that waiting is an important part of being polite at the table.

4. Avoid Reaching

You should remind your kid never to reach across the table to get something. Instead, tell them to politely ask someone at the table to pass something they need.

5. Teach Kids To Put Their Napkin on The Chair

Teach kids that they should always put the napkin on the chair if they briefly leave their table. A used napkin must never go on their plate or the table.

6. Asked To Be Excused

It is also one of the most important table manners for kids to learn. Teach kids to politely ask to be excused when they need to leave the table. They should say “excuse me” when they stand up and properly thank the guests when leaving the table.

7. Never Leave A Mess

table manners for kids

Encourage kids not to leave a mess behind when finished eating. It is important that children pick up their plates and put them in the sink. If your child does not understand why this is an important rule, explain that leaving a dirty mess for someone else to clean up after them is disrespectful.

Final Thoughts

Parents should teach children proper manners at the table. The sooner you start this process, the better. Mothers, fathers, and other family members should implement these rules of good table manners into their children’s lives.

The rules of good table manners are not difficult to understand or teach, but it will take patience and consistency. If you need more information about the subject, many resources are written specifically for parents. In NY Baby Steps, we are pleased to share the knowledge we have gained while nurturing and educating children. Hopefully, some of the tips in this article will help you to do so.