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Teach Your Children Dinner Table Etiquette, Easy As 1,2,3!

Updated on June 19, 2014

Tame Your Table

We have all experienced the dreaded table manors that children often can adopt. Whether they pick them up at school or from the family pet, it is important to nip the bad behaviors in the bud, or risk not being able to take them anywhere that involves food. Being a nanny for years, and my mother enforcing proper etiquette when I was younger I picked up a thing or two in how to teach kids, even the young ones how to have proper manners at the dinner table. These tools will stick with them for life, and they will come to thank you after they impress coworkers, friends, and family with their ability to carry themselves well through a meal.

Teaching Little Ones To Set A Table

A great way for your kid's to learn what everything on the table is and which utensil to use when is to teach them how to set a table. From a young age my mother taught us how to set a table and we did it every night. It helped so much when I was attending academy dinners when I was attending University, I was able to carry myself well and know how to properly eat at a formal table.

It is important not to over load your child immediately. Take the table setting lessons one step at a time, I have included some steps to follow, so your child is able to learn to set a table one step at a time.

1. When starting to teach your child to set a table have them begin by setting up the table cloth, putting the salt and pepper shakers in the middle, putting place mats and napkins out. Make sure to congratulate them when they are done on the good job!

2. Once they are able to finish step one with ease have them focus on the actual table settings. Have them set up for a simple family dinner. They will need to gather the proper amount of plates, forks, knives, spoons, and napkins to set the table. Explain to them that forks go to your left and knives and spoons to the right. Spoons are on the outside of the knives and the edge of the knife faces the plate. Bread plates and napkins belong above your fork and cups to the right above the knife and spoon.

3. Explain to your child that when you have formal dinners with extra guests the cutlery is set up in the order you eat. I.e if you are starting with a soup and salad they should lie on the outside of the other cutlery. Depending on the number of servings you have planned with change the amount of cutlery.

It is important that the kid's don't see it as a chore and a great way to do that is to make a game of it!

By removing cell phones and other electronics from the table you will be able to talk to your kids about their day! A great little game at the dinner table to get your kids to open up is Happy's and Sad's. Everyone goes around the table and gives something that happened in their day that was happy, and something that made them upset.

Dinner Table Behavior

Obviously your children should know, (and most likely do) that certain things are just not polite to do at the table. Obviously passing gas and crawling on and under the table are major no-no's but there are also other small things that they should know that are important! I like to make a rewards system for the kids when they remember major keys to proper table etiquette! Every time they remember one of my rules they get a sticker for the night, and when they reach a certain amount they get to choose a dessert that they would like the family to indulge in. Here are some things that they should learn!

1. No elbows on the table! There is nothing more irritating to me then going out to eat with friends and they are practically resting their entire upper body on the table. By keeping their elbows off the table they are able to actually enjoy their food instead of shoveling it into their mouths.

2. No media at the table! We have all seen those families that sit around a table when they are out to eat and every single one of them is on their phone. The dinner table is no place for tablets and cell phones. Even though your teens may moan and groan it is important to come together around the dinner table without distractions.

3. Keep Your Mouth Closed! Ick! There is nothing more gag worthy than watching people macerate their food with their teeth and show you step by step the beginning of their digestive process! Make sure your children learn that chewing with their mouths open or talking with food in their mouths is no polite, and that no one needs to see their dinner once it has been chewed.

4. Slurp No More! Children love to slurp, it is pretty much encoded into their DNA and it drives just about everyone over the age of 5 certifiably crazy. My mother taught us how to eat soup and other liquids without slurping by using our spoon instead of lapping it up from the side of the bowl. Now mind you when I am home enjoying a bowl of cereal I have no problem drinking from the edge, but when you are out to dinner the slurping and gurgling leave much to be desired.

5. Napkins On Your Lap! This one is pretty easy for them to remember. Just let them know that it is easier to keep their napkin out of the way and on their lap instead of in a hodgepodge pile on the table. Plus it makes for easy clean up when you are dealing with a messy eater!

Scientific studies have shown that families who eat together 5x a week or more have a lower risk of eating disorders and substance abuse. Also it has been shown that children who come from homes that have family dinners have higher scores in school!

Great Books On Children's Etiquette

These are some of my absolute favorites when it comes to books on teaching children etiquette!

New Amazon

Table Setting & Etiquette Placemat
Table Setting & Etiquette Placemat

These are great especially for younger kids learning how to set a table!


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    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Excellent suggestions. I have found that the littlest ones like to copy their peers and grownups, so we model good table manners first, such as placing the napkin on our laps. My not-quite-two-year-old granddaughter already misses the napkin if we forget to give her one. She's learned it is very handy to wipe messy fingers on her lap. Teaching her not to chew with her mouth open is a bit more of a chore, but we're getting there.

    • georgepmoola2 profile image

      georgepmoola2 3 years ago

      Great lens! Too many children these days display little or no manners around food. Very important to get them formally introduced to behaving correctly at the table, and especially to the apparently alien concept of chewing their food with their mouth CLOSED!!!