Table manners for kids doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are some simple things we can teach our kids so dinnertime becomes fun, friendly, and quality time spent together.
Clocking time with the kids at the table can put you in serious survival mode.
Depending on whether you have a Sweet vs. Spicy type of disposition with kids, they may all be interrupting. Trying to talk over each other. Getting up and down for a refill, another condiment, or to go to the bathroom.
Here’s a sampling of feelings I’ve been known to have at the dinner table:
And that’s just on nights when someone spills something. Ha.
It can be an uphill battle, particularly if you have a lot of kids you’re trying to teach at once. As we do with 5 kids.At any rate, manners not only are good life skills, they’re also necessary for pleasant time at the table.
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Table Manners for Kids
Dinnertime does not have to be a struggle. Table manners for dinnertime start at the home, and then blend over into any other dinnertime situation you may find your family in.
We have all either seen or been that family in the restaurant with the screaming kids… throwing tantrums and embarrassing their parents.
Table manners starts with connection and communication.
In fact, dinnertime is one of the best times to unpack the day, re-connect with your kids, and spend some quality time together.
So if you’re having struggles with manners at the table here are a few suggestions to start:
- Put the devices down and make genuine connections
- Ask questions and genuinely listen to what your kids have to say
- Prioritize family time
- Model the table manners you want to see
- Get some books that you can read or refer to after a bit of time has passed (this gives everyone something to focus on)
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Before Sitting Down
Establishing some good “before sitting down” rules is a great place to start when it comes to tap manners for kids.
It can be chaotic when everyone is running around and needing to do things like put away toys, wash hands, grab things… etc.
Before sitting down, make sure to have:
- Hands washed
- Toys/extra items off of the dinner table
- Set out drinks and extra dinner items (ketchup, salt & pepper, other sauces)
Asking for Things Vs. Getting Up
Asking for things (properly….) is a great communication skill to teach. I mean, everyone loves being around a polite and well-spoken child.
- When sitting at the table, ask “please pass the ketchup OR may I please have the ketchup.”
- Don’t reach over anyone’s plate.
- If something is on the counter or in the fridge, say: “excuse me OR may I please go get the ketchup?”
- Sometimes bathroom breaks are avoidable. Say: “may I please be excused OR excuse me.”
Of course, modeling good talking table manners is key here. Here are some great things to say at the table:
- A blessing
- Thanks for the meal
- Please & thank you
- Please pass the…
- Thank you (always say thank you)
- May I be excused
- How can I help
To make dinnertime less of a hassle and more of a quality time spent together, work on using this time to build connections with your kids.
I recommend modeling talking manners, but also allowing them to practice (use) these life skills in the home setting.
After all, practice does make perfect.
Finishing Up & Cleaning Up
Don’t forget to teach your kids to help clean up. Some parents prefer to leave the dinning room and kitchen a mess.. then clean it up after kids are in bed.
This just isn’t me…
I would rather teach them some life skills (by working together to clean up), then be able to rest when the kids are down for the night.
Honestly, it’s more quality time together that their future spouses will appreciate as well!
- Establish who does what in post dinner clean up
- Don’t let everyone rush off to play, leaving a few to tidy up
- Determine rules based on whether everyone loads their own dishes into the dishwasher or if one person clears the table
- Make sure there are clear places for everyone’s stuff
All in all, figure out what is the most grating thing happening at dinner, and start there first!