Mother and daughter sitting the dining table

Table Manners for Kids

Mother and daughter sitting the dining tableOne of the holiday events we all look forward to is that special day when kids, parents, relatives and family friends gather together to share a meal. However, along with the anticipation comes a serving of anxiety: How will the kids behave at the table? Eating can be inherently gross activity. Will they gross others out at the table or embarrass themselves? How can we help them approach the table with self-confidence, so everyone can enjoy the meal to the max?

You might ask, “Why table manners?” The answer is pretty simple. Table manners are tools that can keep eating and mealtimes as pleasant as possible. Also, if you know which one is your glass, you’re less likely to drink your neighbor’s cider. If you know how to hold your utensils, you’re less likely to spill your food in your lap.

The following manners are fundamental to all meals. Share them with your kids and discuss why they’re important. Make them an expectation for everyone (yes, you too), and practice them together as a family:

  1. Come to the table with clean hands and face. No one wants to look at a dirt-covered face while eating.
  2. Put your napkin on your lap. Use it to wipe food off your face or fingers. It will also protect your clothes in case you spill or drop food into your lap.
  3. Start eating when everyone else does – or when given the okay to start.
  4. Stay seated and sit up straight.
  5. Keep elbows (and other body parts!) off the table while eating.
  6. Chew with your mouth closed and don’t talk until you’ve swallowed. Have your child take a look in a mirror while eating. Then, the reason for keeping your mouth closed will become obvious.
  7. Don’t make bad comments about the food. Someone has spent time and effort to make the meal and negative comments can only hurt feelings.
  8. Say “Please pass the —” instead of reaching. Saying please changes a demand into a request.
  9. Don’t make rude noises like burping or slurping. And if a burp slips in by mistake, say “Excuse me.”
  10. Chat with everyone at the table. You can have that intense one-on-one talk that excludes everyone else later, when you and your friend are on your own.
  11. Ask to be excused when finished. You can also offer to help clear the table.
  12. Thank your host and whoever prepared the meal.

Adapted from “The Gift of Good Manners: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Respectful, Kind, Considerate Children,” by Peggy Post and Cindy Post Senning, Ed.D. (HarperCollins, 2002). © The Emily Post Institute, Inc.