Children learn the most from their surroundings and environment at quite an early age, which means that what they learn in the early developmental stages of their lives, goes a long way in becoming their habit and a part of their personality.

No parent would want their child to be an embarrassment at the table.That is why it is important to teach your toddler some table manners on how to sit at the table and say please and thank you from an early age.

When to Start the Teaching Process

You don’t actually have to start by holding a class for these manners. One good way of teaching children how to act at the table is to be their role models. It is an accepted fact that children copy their parents in most things, and that is surely true for table manners as well.

The question of when to start pestering your toddler to abide by the standard table manners is a tricky one. Most experts recommend that it is a good idea to prompt your child gently from their toddler years to say please and thank you. At such an early age, this is quite enough to develop any manners. It is not recommended to worry or trouble the child too much in those early years though.

You can start introducing and adding on rules by the time they reach 3 to 5 years of age. This is the right time to ask the children to obey certain rules at the table. As your kid grows and goes to preschool, their attention span will expand, which means that you can take the table manners one step beyond the simple “please” and “thank you” rules.

Table Manners for 3 To 5 Year Olds

Here are a few tips to teach your children some basic table manners from an early age,

  • Tell them to sit at the table and not wriggle. Also, to sit straight and not wander about or fidget.
  • Ask them to wait till all the family sits down and then to start eating
  • Here comes the tricky part of teaching them how to use the napkin. Show them how to place the napkin in their lap when they sit down for a meal at the table. Next, advise them to use it to wipe their face and then keep it back on their lap after using it. You will need to remind your child and might need to go through the basic napkin use etiquettes a couple of times, before they get used to it.
  • The most important table manner to teach is showing them how to chew their food and eat with their mouth closed. Show them how to take a small bite of the food, close their mouth and chew slowly. If you want to show your child why it is not good manners to eat with your mouth open, you can chew some food, and open your mouth to show your kids why it seems bad and why it is good manners to eat with your mouth closed. This way your child will remember that eating with the mouth open is a gross thing.
  • Reinforce the use of saying ‘Please’ at the table, by asking your child to use it if they want something passed or want more food. A habit instilled at such an early age will go a long way.
  • Also teach your little preschooler not to pass comments like ‘ewww’ or ‘yuck’ on food present at the table as it is a sign of poor table manners.

You can’t expect preschoolers to remember all these rules the first time you teach them. It is going to be a long game of reminding, but it is totally worth it!

Teaching Your Children Table Manners

What Your 6 To 10 Year Old Needs To Know About Table Manners

Now, since your child has grown, you need to take their table manners to a more advanced level. Following are some rules you need to introduce them to,

  • Your child will have developed some fine motor skills by now, so it is time you show them how to use a knife. Teach them to use the knife with a gentle sliding back and forth action, to cut their own food.
  • Now you can tell your child that using negative comments like ‘ewwww’ or something else can really hurt the cook’s feelings and that is why it is best to avoid any such comments on the table. By this age, the children have developed a sense of empathy and they will understand the importance of their actions on others better.
  • Tell your child to put any food back on the plate if they don’t like it, using the same spoon or fork they originally used. Tell them not to slurp it all out, and to use the napkin for throwing any chewed food they didn’t like.
  • Also teach them to thank their host for the meal.
  • By the time your child reaches 8 to 10 years of age, teach them how to act as the host, and offer drinks and food to the guests.

By this time, all your foundations for teaching your child sound table manners have been laid. Now you can just watch these manners become a habit and a part of their personality.

Basic Rules to Teach Your Child for Good Table Manners

While you will surely work at teaching your child about every table manner you can think of to help them fit better in society and to have a complete personality, it is important to have a list of some basic rules, which you can use at an early age. It is important that these rules be very basic and easy to follow, or your young child will rebel at an early age against following any table manners, and that is not the goal.

To gradually build up to teach them the more advanced table manners, make sure you start off your kids on these basic rules,

  • Wash their face and hands before sitting at the table
  • Tell them not to talk with their mouth full
  • To first swallow their food and then talk
  • To avoid making any burping or slurping sounds at the table
  • Keep the elbows off the able

Other rules you can teach later include thanking people for the food, and to help with clearing away the table. If you go out to a restaurant, just ask your child to obey all the table manners observed at home, but don’t expect them to heed all the instructions as there will be many more distractions in a restaurant than there are at home. Don’t reprimand or scold your child in public but keep reminding them of any basic table manners they forget.

Remember, teaching your kids table manners is a gradual time consuming process and you just can’t expect perfect results in a few days. But keep going nevertheless, and make sure that your child is well aware of the basic table manners and knows how to act with proper etiquette at the table!

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options.

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