Teaching Table Manners

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By Martha Nesbit

Teaching young children table manners can pay off big dividends – they will be more confident when dining away from home, and their good manners will cause them to be welcomed guests!

So, what should you teach young children, and how? As with teaching anything to children - like buckling up for safety in the car – use repetition, repetition, and repetition, until manners become habits. And, if you make manners fun, children are more likely to enjoy using them at your table and when dining out.

Here are the most important rules for little people:

  • Wait until everyone is seated and ready to begin eating. In our house, no one can eat until after the blessing. You may also suggest that eating begin after the cook has picked up his or her fork.

  • Don’t talk with food in your mouth. This is particularly difficult for young diners, who are blurters, saying whatever comes to mind as soon as it pops into their little heads! Remind them to chew all of their food, swallow, then speak. Tell them that many adults too do not follow this rule!

  • Likewise, don’t chew with your mouth open. This can happen even if you are not talking, and often leads to the biggest eating no-no of all – smacking!

  • Place your napkin in your lap. This can take little ones a long time to do, as the napkin has to be unfolded and spread, and they can make quite a production of the procedure. Be patient, and let them do it. The beauty of a napkin in the lap is that the inevitable spills go onto the napkin, not onto your child’s clothes.

  • Use the napkin to keep food off of your face and from around your mouth. Teach your children to dab at the corners of their mouths with a small piece of the napkin. Wipe your mouth with the napkin at the end of each meal, just in case.

  • Practice at home which foods can be eaten with the fingers, and which ones are designed to be cut. Fried chicken, French fries, fried shrimp and fish sticks are all OK to eat with your fingers. I’m even OK with picking up little broccoli spears with the fingers. But peas are a no-no, as are carrots and beans. And please, don’t let your children eat creamy foods – like macaroni and cheese – with their fingers. Practicing at home will help your child be ready when he or she is out among other experienced diners.

  • Everyone - children and adults – should remain at the table until all are finished eating. It is impolite to hop up from the table when you are done, or to leave the table at a restaurant and visit another table. There are certain times, like when adults are talking and taking a really long time to eat, when children may ask to be excused from the table. If the answer is “yes,” then teach your children to take their plates to the kitchen, scrape the plate into the trash can, and place the place next to the sink or in the dish washer.

  • Finally, say “thank you” to whomever prepared or purchased your meal. Being grateful is one of the most important of all manners, and it is the one that the cook (or the one who picked up the check) will remember most.

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Reader Comments:

Paula I know that this will help so many of the parents out there that are lookiing to find help. Allso for the many who just might need a few little tips before there 1st date. A first impression is a great thing.
With all my best to you and yours Paula Thanks and love allways. <3

By Tress on March 31, 2010

This is very helpful information because I have a young boy would like to teach good table and wasn’t sure how but this really helps me.

Thank You

By Patricia on November 28, 2009

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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 10:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 4:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm