Table Manners for Kids: How to Raise Children with Good Table Etiquette

Aside from teaching your children essential life skills and how to respect people, table manners are important habits you need to encourage them to adopt. The reason is that, for centuries, society has judged – and continues to judge – a person’s level of education based on table manners. 

Besides, you don’t want your kids to make you uncomfortable in a restaurant or when having dinner at a friend’s place because of poor table manners. This post will highlight how you can teach your children to be well-behaved when dining at home or out of the home. 

Table Manners for Kids
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Table manners for kids should be taught in school

Parents have a key role to play in teaching table manners to kids, however schools are also responsible to guide kids on how to behave at the dining table. For example, in Greensprings School, aside from teaching students about table manners in class, there are also formal dining events organised for kids in elementary and secondary school.

These events allow them to put into practice all the things they have learnt in class and make them exhibit excellent table manners wherever they find themselves. 

Even though some schools teach table manners for kids, here are things you can do at home to complement what the children must have learnt in school. 

Important Table Manners for Kids

  • Make them wash their hands before coming to the table

Regular hand washing is one of the personal hygiene you need to teach your kids, and hand washing before a meal is non-negotiable. You need to enforce this to prevent your kids from consuming dangerous germs along with their food. Explain to them the importance of handwashing before a meal, and make it easy for the younger kids by placing a small step stool by the kitchen sink.

The stool should be climbed to make their hands get to the sink, and by constantly encouraging them to wash their hands before meals, it will soon become a habit and you wouldn’t need to remind them anymore. 

  • Ask them to wait until everybody is served
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Whether the meal is at home among family members, at a friend’s place or a restaurant, one of the most important table manners for kids is waiting until everybody is served before they start eating. If your kids pounce on their food immediately they are served, without waiting for other people to be fully served, they would be seen as gluttons. 

Therefore, tell your children to always exercise patience and wait for everybody to be seated and served before they reach out for their cutlery.

  • Teach BMW rule

For children who are old enough to help set up the dining table, it is good you teach them the BMW rule. In the context of dining, BMW stands for Bread, Milk and Water – and it is a rule that makes it easy to remember the right place to position them on the dining table. 

According to the rule, Bread and Milk should be placed on the left, while Water should be placed on the right. A related rule has to do with the positioning of cutlery based on the number of letters in the words “left” and “right.” The word “fork” is made up of four letters as “left,” so it is placed on the left when setting the table; “Knife” has five letters as the word “right,” so it is placed on the right side. 

These rules not only make your kids know how to set up the table but also help them know the appropriate hand to use when handling cutlery. 

  • Teach how to use a napkin 

Many adults don’t know what to do with a napkin when one is placed on their table at a restaurant or dinner party. For this reason, in order not to make kids look odd when having a meal in public, the use of a napkin is one of the very important table manners for kids that parents should teach. 

The way a napkin is used in restaurants is slightly different from the way it is used at dinner parties; so it will be good you teach your children how to use it in the two scenarios. 

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For restaurants, teach your kids to pick up the napkin from the plate as soon as they are seated, and they should gently unfold it and place it on their lap.  The napkin should remain on their lap until it is needed or the end of the meal. And when the meal ends, it should be left semi-folded at the left side of the plate, setting a signal to the waiter that they are done with the meal. 

As for dinner parties, ask your children to let the host take the lead. The host should first unfold his or her napkin before they follow suit and then place the napkin on their lap. As it is done in restaurants, the napkin should remain on the lap till when needed or the end of the meal. Ask your kids to watch out for the host to end the meal by placing the napkin on the table, and they should do so when they are done with their meal too. 

Whether in a restaurant or at a dinner party, teach your kids to always place the napkin on the chair if they want to leave the table briefly to do anything. They should never put it on the table or plate!

  • Encourage them not to bring devices to the table

Mealtime should be a time for meals and not a time to play video games or use mobile phones. Besides, it isn’t polite for kids to be doing other things on the dining table while the whole family is eating. As a rule, ask your kids not to bring any device to the dining table – or better still, collect them before the meal starts.

The only thing everybody should be doing during mealtime is eating and bonding together.

  • Teach acceptable eating principles

When it comes to table manners for kids, there are two paramount rules: food must be chewed with the mouth closed and no talking when the mouth is full. Another rule regarding eating that you should ask your children to follow is that they shouldn’t bite more than they can chew. 

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Asking your children to follow these rules would ensure they don’t make a mess of their food. Also, teach your children to never reach across the table to get something. This would help prevent spilling someone‘s food or drink mistakenly. Tell them that if any of them wants to get something on the table and the item isn’t close, the person sitting closest to it should be politely asked to pass it across. 

  • Ask them to pick up their plates and say thank you

After meals at home, always ask your kids to pick up their plates and return them to the kitchen for washing. In many cultures in Nigeria, younger kids are also expected to pack the plate of the elders, so you may want to imbibe that into your children. Aside from being culturally accepted in some parts of Nigeria, offering to clear a friend or colleague’s plate is considered as an art of courtesy or kindness.

In the same vein, teach your kids to always push back the chair against the table when they are done eating and ask them to say thank you to the host when they go for dinner at someone’s house. If they eat at a restaurant, encourage them to make eye contact with the waiter and also thank him or her for the good service. This is one of the ways of teaching kids respect

Nobody wants to raise kids that will disgrace them when eating public, and with the above tips, we believe you will be able to teach your children the best way to behave at the dining table.