Kids eat right.

Teaching Good Table Manners to Kids

Reviewed by Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, LDN
Teaching Good Table Manners to Kids

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From high chair to school lunch room to business lunches, your children will have many opportunities to implement good table manners throughout their lives.

Developing table manners is one of the earliest steps parents can take in teaching and modeling good behavior to their children. And, families that eat together most days of the week tend to be healthier.

Teaching table manners can start when the child is eating independently out of the high chair or old enough to sit at the table. Table manners taught in the early phases include teaching kids to not reach across the table, eat from their own plate, put a napkin in their lap and say please and thank you.

Parents are the most important role models for children and can provide ongoing positive reinforcement of good table manners at family dinners.

Having family meals is the best way to model and teach good manners, especially when introducing kids to new foods. They can be taught to politely say when they don’t like something. Also, young kids often can’t sit the whole meal, but can learn to properly dismiss themselves, rather than interrupt the meal.

In addition, never correct manners in an insulting way and explain to kids why you practice manners, such as why we chew with our mouth closed and put a napkin on our lap.

Everyone at the table should get a chance to be part of a positive conversation. Keep it lighthearted and fun and talk about positive things at the table.

Kids as young as 3 to 5 years old can get involved by learning to set the dinner table. Other important rules, of course, are no elbows on the table and in today's electronic culture — no tech devices, phones or texting at the table!

Good table manners are about respect for the household and can highlight the pleasure of eating. It is something that everyone can do well.