Must-Know Table Manners to Teach Kids

Must-Know Table Manners to Teach Kids
29 May 2021

Image by Elena Altman from Pixabay

Knowing table manners may seem like an outdated notion these days – but they are still very important! Your kids will eat meals with all kinds of different people over their lives — friends, family members, co-workers, and more — and they must know how to act properly at the table.

By giving your kids a strong foundation in table manners, you’re setting them up to succeed in various social situations. Whether it’s a casual meal with friends or a dinner with important clients, people who know how to act properly at the table will feel more comfortable and confident.

So let’s get started on the basic must-know table manners for your kids — you may even learn a new thing or two for yourself along the way!

Wash Your Hands Before You Come to the Table

This is an essential rule that everyone should follow — after all, clean hands mean healthy hands! Explain to your kids that it’s very important they wash their hands before they start to eat — because if they have any germs on their hands and don’t wash them off, those germs can get in their mouth while they are eating. And that can make them sick!

You may need to have a step stool in the bathroom for younger children so they can reach the sink. And you may need to show them the proper technique repeatedly until they can get good at washing their hands properly. For older kids, you should be able to just verbally prompt them before they come to the table to wash their hands.

Put Your Napkin on Your Lap Before You Start Eating

While you may not use napkins for casual meals, your kids must understand when and how to use them. You can even use a paper towel as a napkin if you don’t have cloth napkins in your house.

The first step you need to teach your kids to take the napkin off the table and put it in their laps. Then, you need to teach them when they should use the napkin — for example, when they have food on their face or their hands.

They may be tempted just to lick the food off. You can teach them that while it’s OK for a very small child to “clean up” like that, that’s not acceptable for older children or adults! The best way you can encourage napkin use is to model it yourself.

Wait Until Everyone Has Been Served and Is Seated Before You Begin Eating

This is a flexible table manner that will depend very much on both your hosts and how formal or casual the meal is. If it’s a large family gathering or buffet-style meal, then it’s unlikely your hosts will expect everyone to wait to start eating until everyone has been served. If it’s a small, intimate gathering, then it’s more realistic to expect everyone to wait.

The best rule of thumb here is to teach your kids to ask the hosts whether they can eat as soon as they are served or if they should wait. Expecting very small, hungry children to wait may not be realistic, but older children should be able to manage this. If your children aren’t comfortable asking the hosts this question, then you can ask and let them know.

Chew With Your Mouth Closed

This is a must-have manner! No one likes to see anyone chewing their food. So it’s very important that you teach your kids to chew with their mouths closed — and that they should never try to speak when their mouths are full.

You can help your kids with this by not asking them questions just as they’ve taken a bite! It’s important to talk around the dinner table but wait for an opportunity to do so that won’t tempt them to answer with a mouth full of food. Again, you can model this behaviour for your children by making sure you chew with your mouth close and don’t try to talk with food in your mouth.

Avoid Using Electronics At The Table

Make it a rule at home that no one brings their phone to the table — exceptions can be made for emergencies only. It can be so tempting to bring your phone to the table — but it’s disrespectful to everyone around you to pay attention to your phone and not them!

Remind your kids that mealtimes may be the only time you really have a chance to connect with each other during the day. And if they are visiting friends or other family members — those people don’t want to see them with their noses buried in their phones!

Again, this is a behaviour you can model. You may occasionally need your phone by you at the table due to a work or personal crisis, but other than that, you shouldn’t bring it to the table.

Ask To Be Excused

Your kids shouldn’t just bolt from the table the minute they’ve finished eating. And while you may like them to stay at the table until everyone has finished, that may not be realistic or fair if you have slow eaters or lengthy conversations going on at the table.

Teaching your kids to tell you when they are finished eating and asking to be excused helps encourage them to be considerate towards others without expecting them to sit at the table long after they’ve finished.

Don’t Play With Your Food

The temptation to play with their food — especially finger foods like pizza and fries — seems to come to all children! Teach your kids that food is not a toy — they should focus on eating it.

The exception to this if you have really picky eaters or are encouraging your children to try new foods. A little bit of playing is OK if the alternative is that your child won’t try the food at all. Just make sure they don’t get so carried away playing with their food that they forget to try it!

Remember To Say Please and Thank You

While it’s always important to say please and thank you, it’s definitely good manners to do this at the dinner table. Teach your kids that saying “please” when asking for something shows respect to the people they are eating with, and saying “thank you” shows gratitude.

Unfortunately, these practices are getting lost in society — but if you can teach them to your children while they are young, this will pay off in the long run.

Offer To Help Clear The Table

At the end of a meal, have kids clear their own plate and offer to clear others’ plates are necessary. This is a simple chore that most children should be able to handle. Explain to children that it can be a lot of work to prepare a meal and then clean up afterward, and this small task will help out whoever is hosting the meal.

Try New Foods

Encourage your children to be open-minded about trying new and unfamiliar foods whether they are offered at home, at a social event, or in a restaurant. One of the best ways to encourage kids to try new foods is to have them join you in the kitchen while preparing a meal or a snack.

Hello Fresh,understands that it’s hard to get a handle on your kid’s eating habits. Almost 30 percent of parents struggle to cater to their entire families’ tastes and dietary requirements — and over 40 percent of parents with children under five say their kids complain about their meals. And lots of parents and kids bicker when it’s time for kids to try new foods — it’s the second most common thing they argue about after bedtimes!

That’s why HelloFresh is so pleased to offer easy-to-prepare, kid-friendly meals that everyone will enjoy. Kids will be so excited to help you choose the recipes and then “unbox” them when they arrive at your door! Older kids can get in on the act by photographing the meals and posting them on social media. You’re bound to find something the whole family will enjoy with HelloFresh — and you can get those meals on the table in a half-hour or less!

Good Table Manners Take Time, But It’s Worth It

It’s best to start young, but no matter how old your kids are, they are never too old to learn good table manners. Teach them not just how but the “why” behind the manners. They are more likely to be willing to practice good table manners when they realize it will not only keep them healthy it will also show respect and gratitude towards whoever is providing the meal.

Kids will also appreciate how much time and effort go into cooking if they work with you in the kitchen. Letting kids pick out recipes, cut up vegetables, and even use the stove if they are old enough are all part of the process of learning how to cook. It’ll give you valuable time as a family to bond and learn a very important skill.

Big Daddy

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Craig Silva

Craig is a husband, a father, team leader, senior youth group coordinator, designer, brander, community builder, volunteer, blogger, and social media manager. Craig likes to go camping, travel, go on road trips, watch movies, read with his girls, build stuff, operate the grill, and play bass guitar. In June 2017, PR firm Cision identified Craig as one of Canada’s top 10 most popular male bloggers in the parents and family space. Known as Big Daddy Kreativ, his blog specializes in travel, lifestyle, food, automotive, events, parenting, movies, tech, recipes, health, pets, reviews, and giveaways.

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