Table manners should be a part of every child’s development. Teaching your child to be kind and considerate towards others during mealtime, whether it’s at home, restaurants or at friend’s houses is so important.
There are so many little nuances at the table which often go unnoticed, for example, the utensil etiquette; I have often seen my American friends using a fork in a different manner to the Europeans at the dinner table which fascinates me! One time Pavlos made the mistake of questioning his American friend about it at a dinner and it did not go down too well…
Most children should have a basic comprehension of table etiquette; all it takes is a little repetition and practice. Let’s go through all the basics that can be applied at every meal and in their everyday life.
Clean Hands – Get your child in the habit of washing up before dinner and always coming to the table with clean hands.
Napkins – Once seated to enjoy a meal, the first thing your child should be taught is to always put their napkin in their lap. Teach them napkins are used to wipe their mouths and they should never use the sleeve of their shirt. Explain that napkins protect their clothes from messy spills and dropped food.
Elbows Off The Table – Those pesky little elbows and any other body parts should stay off the dinning room table.
Please and Thank You – Teach your child the importance of using please and thank you when at the table. Using please when politely asking for food to be passed. “Please pass the pasta,” instead of reaching over their neighbors plate. To show appreciation, children should always thank the host or whomever cooked the meal.
Wait – Children should be taught to wait until everyone is seated at the table and has been served their food before they start eating.
Utensils – Children should always use the appropriate utensils for their food, never using their hands. Unless, of course it’s bread, pizza or any other finger friendly foods.
Eating Utensil Etiquette: There are two style methods for which you can teach your child to use their knife and fork. The “American” style, where the knife is initially held in the right hand and the fork in the left while cutting food, then putting the knife down and switching your fork to your right hand to eat. The fork is cradled like a spoon and used to scoop food from the plate with the tines up. Even though this is called “American” style, it did however, originate in Europe.
The “European” style, where the fork stays in the left hand with the tines down and the knife in the right. Also referred to as the “hidden handle” because the utensils handles are hidden by the palm of the hand, while help by the thumb and forefinger.
Chewing – Children should always chew with their mouth closed and never speak with food in their mouth. Sometimes give a friendly reminder to your child to hold on to their thought until their food has been swallowed.
Talking Points – Encourage your children to participate in conversation at the table, but teach your child it’s rude to interrupt. They should know sometimes they need to wait their turn to speak or say, “Excuse me.”
Inside voices – It’s normal for kids to get excited, but kindly remind them not to shout or scream while at the table. Especially when at restaurants not to disrupt others around them.
Yuck! – If you have a picky eater, no doubt you’ve heard the phrase “Yuck! I hate brussel sprouts!” or “Ewww!” Teach your child to use “No Thank You” and how it’s not appropriate to make negative comments about food, as it can hurt someone’s feelings. Also the importance of discreetly disregarding any unwanted bites of food into your napkin, instead of feeding it to the family dog.
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Don’t Play with Your Food – As fun as it may be, blowing bubbles in their drinks, slurping their soup and shoveling large amounts of food into their mouth is unacceptable. Small bites are always better then big ones and rude noises at the table like burping are a big no no.
No Electronics – Children should know there is a time and a place for electronics and the table is not one of them. No cell phones, iPads and or video games during mealtime. They should know it is never polite to text, answer calls or ignore dinner guests by being preoccupied by their electronics.
Excuse Yourself – Children should always ask to be excused from the table once they have finished eating or need to use the restroom. Older boys should practice standing when a lady joins or exits the table.
Clearing Your Plate – As part of their routine at home, kids should clear their own plate. Children should have the responsibility of taking their plate to the kitchen sink and offer to help clear the rest of dishes.