Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I am not a professor of etiquette and your children have lovely table manners, of course, but it never hurts to practice. If you assume that your child will just know what to do when the situations arises--believe me they won’t (I speak from experience). We will never be invited to dine with the President but it’s nice to know that my boys wouldn’t drink his water by mistake.

Start by teaching your child how to set the table. For a simple supper, from left to right, your place setting should include: a napkin, one fork, one plate, one knife, one spoon and one glass or cup. The acronym BMW will help your child when seated at the table, from left to right B (bread) M (meal) W (water).

A formal table can be set up at home any night so that your kids are comfortable and familiar enough to wow everyone with their great table manners when it truly counts! For a formal table print out Martha Stewarts place setting guide.

These bullet points are taken from Table Manners for Kids by Robin McClure

Teach kids how to greet relatives and guests. Many kids simply don't know what to say or the appropriate action to take. If the occasion is at your home or you're serving as host, instruct your kids about properly opening the door and taking any coats. (Show them how to hold them and not to roll them up in a wad.) Teach them how to properly shake hands and how to appropriately hug relatives, especially elderly or individuals with disabilities.

If you're serving appetizers, ask your youngsters to act as a host/hostess. Instruct them what to ask, how to not interrupt conversations, and to tell them what the choice is. If they are on the receiving end of an offering of hors d'oeuvres, be sure to tell them how to say hors du'oeuvres and what it means to avoid the normal kid reaction of "what's that?" Instruct them how to take one or how to graciously refuse. If it is an item that sounds unappetizing to a kid's palate (and many do), tell them to simply decline without offering any commentary about how it looks, smells, or seems to taste.

At the table, show them how to pull out a seat for a guest and to hold it and help them scoot to the table. Boys can do this for ladies or girls, and boys or girls can do the same for older guests as a sign of respect.

Teach kids how to place the napkin in the lap and how to sit up straight and near the table. Be sure to let youngsters know not to plop their elbows on the table.

Practice table manners such as passing food, asking for something rather than reaching across the table to get it (and risk spilling a drink or worse), and to take only as much as they know they'll eat. The proper table manners protocol is to pass food from left to right (counterclockwise).

Talk with kids about how tables are set up, where forks, knives and spoons go, why sometimes there are utensils above the plates and what particular order means (using the outside utensil first). Emphasize that proper table manners are for everyone to be served and the host/hostess to pick up a fork to begin eating.

• Talk about the no-no's of "double-dipping," slurping, licking fingers, or the ever-tempting dragging a finger across the side of an item to taste it (i.e. icing on the cake).

• Practice sitting up straight and not hunched over, and remind them to bring food from their plate to their mouth and not hunker down over it.

• Explain bread etiquette and how bread plates are positioned to the upper left of a dinner plate. Kids need to learn not to butter the entire piece of bread; rather, butter is placed on the bread place, and then a bite-sized piece is to be buttered only. Explain how some breads are to be "torn off" with your hands while other types may need to be cut. Younger kids won't be apt to understand the differences, but older ones should be able to make a distinction.

• Practice napkin use about how they should wipe their mouth appropriately, and where to put the napkin if they need to get up or go to the bathroom.

• Offer your kids some conversation ideas, and be sure to emphasize that they are not to talk with their mouths full or too stuff too much in their mouth, or chomp with their mouths open, or other disgusting kid habits. Kids should be reminded to eat slowly and to not gobble down their food.

• Use utensils and only eat with fingers if it is meant to be eaten with fingers. Explain to youngsters the difference, and how french fries are even meant to be eaten with a fork and dipped into ketchup rather than with hands during certain occasions.

• Tell kids to always thank the cook for the delicious meal
--even if it wasn't to your youngsters. Someone put forth an effort, and kids should be taught to find at least one or two things they did like, and to praise those items in particular.

• Kids should stay seated until the dinner is concluded or until there becomes an obvious point where kids are being excused and going elsewhere so that adults can linger.

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