Teaching kids table manners

Holiday Table Etiquette

All children can behave like little turkeys once in a while, but when the family is sitting around the Thanksgiving table, the only turkey should be the main course! Find out which table manners you should expect of your child this Thanksgiving meal.

Young boys with table manners

According to child development expert Elizabeth Donovan, MA, "Teaching your children table manners begins from the time they can take their first bits of solid food. As children get older, it's imperative that parents continue to teach table manners and etiquette, because it helps [the kids] develop important social skills and self-confidence."

Here are the points of etiquette experts say your young Thanksgiving attendees should be able to handle:

Toddlers

If they are self-feeding, these wee family members should:

  • Always wash their hands before and after a meal
  • Say "please" and "thank you"
  • Not throw food

Preschoolers

As children grow, their ability to comprehend rules and expectations increases. Preschoolers should:

  • Properly use utensils, not hands, to eat at the table
  • Wait until everyone is served before eating
  • Keep their opinions about bad-tasting food to themselves, especially when they are guests at a Thanksgiving table
  • Ask to be excused from their seats when finished eating

Grade-schoolers and older

In addition to the manners above, your holiday feast will be more enjoyable when kindergarten, grade school, and high school children practice good table manners such as:

  • Not bringing toys or books to the table
  • Sitting up nicely in their seats
  • Taking small bites and chewing with their mouths closed
  • Not slurping food or drink
  • Laying their napkins in their laps and using them to wipe their mouths
  • Properly using knives (butter knives for the younger kids) and fork to cut their own food
  • Joining in the holiday conversation and speaking pleasantly
  • Taking dishes to the kitchen or sink after being excused from the table

Next page: Reinforcing table manners

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