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Teaching kids lunchtime table manners

For educators, lunchtime can be one of the trickiest hours of the day to manage. Between the feeding frenzy and joy of not being in the classroom for a few moments, students have a tendency to get over-excited. Help curb the chaos by being proactive and teaching your child lunchtime table manners at home.

Cafeteria etiquette |

Lunchtime is for eating lunch

While your child may not realize it or understand its implications, the window for lunch is small. If your children spend time cutting loose or doing anything and everything other than eating, they’ll be forced to rush through eating or, worse, end up simply picking at their food — not a good way to get the sustenance they need to get through the day. Talk your child through the typical lunchtime routine so they know what to expect and are aware of the time constraints involved.

The lunch table is not a jungle gym

Perhaps one of the biggest problems kindergarten and elementary school teachers face is getting children to stay seated. Just because you don’t allow your kids to climb all over the table at home doesn’t mean they won’t be tempted to stand on, crawl underneath and run around their benches. Stress the importance of the teacher credo “Sit on your bench, on your bottom.”

Use your inside voice

Sweet heavens, have you ever walked into a crowded cafeteria in the middle of the lunch hour? The sound can be deafening. Now imagine being a teacher and having to sit through that day in and day out, every single day. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a domino effect — each child feels the need to speak louder to rise above everyone else’s din. While teaching your child to only talk to the friends seating close to them and only using a quiet “inside voice” won’t cure the cafeteria noise epidemic, at least you’re contributing — not to mention teaching your child a valuable skill that will serve them well from here on out.

Don’t play with your food

You know it. I know it. Your kids’ teachers certainly know it. If children don’t eat, they get what we like to refer to in my household as “hangry.” You know, hungry-meets-angry. So, hangry. There is obviously a science to hangriness — when children don’t eat, their blood sugar can drop and cause fatigue and irritability. Not only does playing in his or her food waste your child’s lunch, it makes a huge mess.

Clean up after yourself

Along those lines, then, make sure your child knows to be neat. If they aren’t neat — and really, who hasn’t made a mess in a blur of excitement over a burrito? — ensure they understand they are responsible for their own mess. They need to learn to be a helper which, in this case, means wiping their portion of the table and cleaning up any food debris left behind.

Say “please,” “thank you” and the like

The younger children learn to be polite, the better. If your kindergarten-age child establishes a habit of saying “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me” and similar expressions, they’ll make a fantastic first impression on their teachers from here on out.

More on manners

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Teaching phone manners to kids
Teaching kids manners in public

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