Ever have a child spit out their food or shout, “Yuck!” in front of company? I have. It’s a bit unpleasant. As we approach the holiday season, table manners for kids becomes more relevant. In this post, I will be sharing one of my favorite ways to teach table manners in a fun and meaningful way.
Teaching Children Table Manners and Etiquette
Kids who are taught table manners feel valued and included.
Kids who feel valued and included are less likely to ask for attention in less desirable ways. See where this is heading?
A child doesn’t come with table manners built in. This type of etiquette must be taught through examples of modeling and role playing.
‘Please Pass the Turkey’ is a game to play with young children that allows them to have fun while learning about the importance of table manners. I have included a table manners for kids printable to make set-up a breeze!
The Importance of Table Manners for Kids
Should kids be expected to use manners at the table?
Aren’t we supposed to “Let Them Be Little”?
According to scholastic.com, ” “Good manners are social skills that help your kid succeed in class, with friends, with future employers. They give him the confidence to navigate his world,” says Post Senning.”
Helping young kids understand what it means to be a pleasant table guest will help them feel more comfortable as they partake in family traditions.
Have Realistic Expectations for Kids and their Table Manners
Kids will be kids. Have realistic expectations when starting to teach a child about table manners.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM YOUR PRESCHOOLER:
- Sitting nicely in their own chair with their arms and legs in their own space.
- Placing a napkin on their lap.
- Using table etiquette with their fork and knife.
- Talking at a pleasant volume.
- Saying “please” and “thank you” throughout the meal.
- Telling you “no thank you” if there is a dish they would rather not sample.
- Sitting at the table and asking to be excused when finished.
- Ask the host if they can be helpful in some way when the meal is over.
WHAT NOT TO EXPECT FROM YOUR PRESCHOOLER:
- Staying at the table until all of the adults are done chatting (depending on your family, this could take awhile).
- Eating everything on their plate.
- A clean face. Kids this age might still be messy eaters. This will come with time. Developmentally, this is right on par for their age.
- Being involved in the conversations. If your child is feeling shy at the table, it’s okay. They aren’t being rude by not partaking in the conversation. Let them eat in peace.
USE ROLE PLAY TO MINIMIZE UNPLEASANT HOLIDAY MELTDOWNS
Often times, holidays mean a major break in routine. This can include altered meal times, increased travel, omission of nap time, and even late bed times.
For some kids, this break in normalcy leads to a break down and if you’ve spent a great deal of time with young kids you know that they will work to gain control in often times unpleasant ways.
Help kids prepare for Thanksgiving by having a discussion about what they can expect at the dinner table.
Teaching Table Manners Activities
This activity can take you as little as 10 minutes to prepare but can have a big impact teaching table manners to preschoolers.
PREPARING FOR PLEASE PASS THE TURKEY
- Grab a stack of paper plates (dessert plates are great!)
- If you want to have kids practice putting a napkin in their lap, grab a stack of paper napkins too!
- Cut out pictures of traditional Thanksgiving foods (GRAB THIS FREEBIE!) or if you are feeling creative, go ahead and draw the food on each plate. Think: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner roll, butter, milk, stuffing, cranberries, pie…etc
Now that you have the game materials prepared, you’re ready to begin!
HOW TO PLAY THE TABLE MANNERS GAME
This activity can be played at the table or while sitting in a circle at your group time (aka ‘morning meeting’ or ‘circle time’).
- Start with a discussion about where the kids are going for Thanksgiving. Ask them who is making the meal? Who will they sit by?
- Pass a paper napkin to each child and show them how to lay it in their lap. Talk about why the kids think this might be helpful when eating a meal?
- Show the kids each plate and see if they can name the food. Which food is their favorite? Which food is their least favorite?
- Set each plate in the center of the group to create a mock feast.
- Role play! Go ahead and demonstrate the WRONG way to act at the table. Most kids will laugh and howl at your silly antics. Come on…give them your best material. Slap stick comedy is a legitimate way to teach a concept.
- Next, switch gears and talk about what IS appropriate. Why do we need table manners?
- Each child can take a turn asking another friend to ‘Please pass the __________’. Whoever is closest to the food item requested will pass the plate to the hungry friend who is asking for the food.
ADDITIONAL ADD-ONS TO THE GAME
- How should you sit in your chair?
- Where should you place your napkin?
- If someone offers you a food that you don’t want, how do you politely decline?
- If you try a new food and don’t like the taste of it, what should you do?
- What should you do with your silverware?
- What if someone asks you a question and you are still chewing your food?
- How do you know when you can get up from the table?
HELP KIDS FEEL BIG BY TEACHING TABLE MANNERS
Kids are smart and oh so capable.
They want to be successful. Help kids feel big by teaching table manners and giving them the secrets to be successful.
Most kids love to role play and will end up feeling confident after they have had some time to practice. They will march into Aunt Margie’s Thanksgiving Feast with their head held high; excited to show their family what they have learned.
For more festive Thanksgiving ideas, click HERE for a cute keepsake idea!