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Mealtime manners for kids you should teach – the most important basics

Table manners are a mealtime must for kids

Emily Post has been the go-to person for manners for ages. The woman whose name has been synonymous with manners and etiquette since the 1920s passed away in 1960, but her words live on. Post’s great-granddaughter, Peggy, continues the family tradition of writing on manners and even has a book specifically for kids.

Busy parents don’t always have time to consult an etiquette book on proper table manners, but mealtime manners for kids is serious business. Table manners are a life skill and essential if you plan on eating out with your kids. Teaching manners to kids at the table starts at infancy with parent modeling. By the time kids reach kindergarten, they should have a firm grasp of eight basic table manners. Here are the top mealtime manners your kiddos need to know.

Young girl politely using a napkin at the table
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Mealtime manners for kids

Of course, there are a lot of things to remember when it comes to table manners, but these are basic ones your kids should master by the time they’re heading to school.

Sit in a chair

It may seem like a small thing, but sitting in a chair at the table isn’t easy for some kids. Sitting nicely in a chair during a meal is a skill that may take time.

Know what foods need a utensil

By kindergarten, kids should understand what foods are OK to eat with their hands, such as grapes, and when food requires a fork or spoon.

Use a napkin

What parent doesn’t have an adorable photo of their toddler covered in tomato sauce or ice cream? Teach kids where to put a napkin and how to use it.

Don’t talk with food in your mouth

This is a table manner you may battle with through the years. Many adults talk with food in their mouths. Set the foundation early and keep reminding.

Don’t eat until everyone is served

Family dinners have a lot of perks for kids. Meals are meant to be savored and not rushed through. Good table manners include waiting to eat until everyone is served. Then, the family can enjoy the meal together.

Eat slowly

Eating quickly isn’t good for the digestive system. So, teach your kids to take small bites, chew, and taste (and enjoy) their food.

Be polite

Being polite is a broad table manner that encompasses saying please and thank you during the course of the meal. Kids should learn to say thank you to the person serving them as well as the person who prepared the meal.

Don’t interrupt

Mealtime is ideal for sharing what happens during everyone’s day. Learning to wait for their turn to talk is another essential life skill and helps kids to learn table manners as well as listening skills.

Happy boy eating a plate of pasta with salmon

May I be excused?

Being polite and having good table manners has never gone out of style. Mealtimes aren’t as formal as in the days of Emily Post, but table manners are just as important. Set a strong foundation by teaching these basic mealtime manners for kids before kindergarten.

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Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
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