I remember parts of what it was like to be a child… I remember time moving slowly, summers seemed to go on and on. I remember getting out of bed to show my mom a booboo I had, and hoping she would let me stay and watch TV with her instead of sending me back to bed. And I remember… learning my table manners!
Table manners were a big thing in my home growing up. My dad would say, “you never know when you might be invited to have dinner with the Queen!” He made sure our dinner table etiquette was ready, just in case.
I spoke with my dad more recently and asked him why he made table manners such a big deal growing up. He told me that how we behave at the table is a reflection of who we are, as all things are. The way we speak, the way we dress, and the way we come to the table and eat. Throughout history, sharing a meal at the table has been the way most people gather together and learn about each other, through conversation, and behaviour. Sounds pretty important! So here are a few of the table manners I learned growing up, and that have served me well.
Side note: when teaching little ones these table manners, try explaining to them why we do these things, and model the behaviour yourself. As a child, it always helped me to learn a behaviour if I understood why it was important to do it.
Napkins on the lap – Napkins are there on our laps to catch any falling food, to wipe up spills, and protect our clothing. The napkin on my lap still saves my clothes from food stains. Even though I try my best… sometimes I’m still messy!
Ask for things to be passed to you – It’s better to ask someone to pass something across the table than to reach for it. Reaching for something might cause things on the table to be knocked over, or you might accidentally get your sleeve in your own dinner! It’s also a great time to practice please and thank you!
Chew with your mouth closed – No one wants to see chewed up food. When we speak or chew with our mouth open, often our food gets spit out onto the plate or table. Keep the food inside your mouth, chew, swallow, and then speak.
Wait until everyone is at the table to begin eating – this one is a big one in our family. By waiting until everyone is together, we show respect for everyone else, especially the person who made the meal. We all want to start at the same time, and be able to enjoy the meal together.
Help out before or after a meal – Not all good manners have to happen at the table! Making a meal for a family is no easy task, and helping out shows how much we appreciate the hard work that goes into making the food we enjoy. Growing up, we had specific rules for helping out. If someone helped out before the meal by cooking and setting the table, they were off-duty after the meal. Everyone else was on-duty, doing whatever they could. They were on Kitchen Patrol, or KP for short. Kitchen Patrol cleared the table, loaded the dishwasher, put everything away, and made sure the kitchen was clean. Kitchen Patrol was a good time! We would put on some music and make it a party!
If we ever went out for dinner, or to another person’s house for a gathering, once the car was parked, my dad would remind us of our manners, and the behaviour that was expected. It was often helpful to be reminded, and we were reminded many times, but it stuck! As you likely know, with little ones, repetition is often necessary!
Try out some of these manners at your table with your little one! It may take some time, but keep at it! When your little one displays any great table manners, make sure to show them how much you like their behaviour. Let them know that they are doing a great job, and that sharing a meal with them is always a wonderful time. And soon they’ll be ready for the Queen!
This post was written by Caitie for the Canadian Thanksgiving episode of Caitie’s Classroom!
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