It’s time for an honest assessment. How do your child’s table manners rate? Table manners are an area that often seems to fall by the wayside in this busy world we live in. If asked, most parents would likely say that they want their children to know the ins and outs of civilized dining, but where do we begin?

Following are some simple first steps to set children on the right path:

  • Start early. Toddlers and preschoolers are not too young to start practicing some basics.
  • Be realistic. Very young children are still developing fine motor skills and meal times WILL be a little messy.
  • Eat meals at a table whenever possible. Setting a table and eating at it goes a long way in helping children understand the concept of “table manners.”
  • Eat WITH your children. It’s not always possible with work schedules, sports practices, dance lessons etc., but children need to eat with others to learn about taking turns talking, keeping mouths closed while chewing, passing food carefully, listening to others at the table, asking to be excused from the table, etc. Meal times are also an important connection time for families to stay tuned in to each other and share the day’s events.
  • Turn off the TV and ban all other electronics from the table. Meals should be a time to converse and enjoy a communal experience.
  • Teach your child how to set a table. What are the various utensils for? What do we do with our napkin?
  • Plan times to visit restaurants. Eating out is another chance to practice table manners. How loudly do we talk? What do we do while waiting for our food? What do we do if we don’t like something we were served? How do we talk with wait staff? What do we do if we drop something?

Starting some basic table manners early on with children will help them develop into teens and adults who can be comfortable in social and business situations in their future.