Dining etiquette for kids

Teaching dining etiquette for kids gives them a gift that they will always use

Teaching dining etiquette for kids gives them a gift that they will always use

Parents are truly doing their children a disservice if they don?t teach dining etiquette for children. Of course, if the parent is unschooled he can?t very well pass along this information.

Everyone should know the proper way to handle dining flatware and how to behave in a formal setting. If they don?t, they are going to find themselves in an awkward and embarrassing situation at some point, which could have been avoided.

When a young child first starts handling dining utensils he is inept and uncoordinated and that?s to be expected. He has to develop his fine motor coordination before he fully gets the hang of this. It is a day for a big hurrah when little Joey finally can use a spoon and even a bigger cause for celebration when he starts using it correctly.

When dining with your child, this is the time, and you will know when the time is right (and not when he?s five months old), to start instructing him in the fine points of dining etiquette.

Ideally, the parent is setting a good example and isn?t eating like a behemoth. It is easier for a child to emulate something than be told how to do it. Monkey sees, monkey does.

Teaching your child to apply good manners at the table and elsewhere is a gift that you are giving him and which he will use and remember his entire life and pass on to his own offspring.

If you think no one pays attention to good table manners, you are wrong. A job opportunity or deal could be lost if the person is eating like a heathen. So, in this respect, you are giving your kid a leg up when you teach him business dining manners that he can employ later on in his professional and personal life.

You can leave the really fancy lessons until later on but your children should know the basics and they should learn them early on.

Tell your children that as soon as they are seated they should unfold their napkin and put it on their lap. If a child has to leave the table, tell him to put his napkin on his chair.

A fun way to teach your kids where certain items are placed on a table – and on which everyday or fine dishes – and which liquid (drink) is theirs and which bread is theirs (and not their dining companion?s) is to make an OK sign with both of your hands. This creates a “b” on the left hand and a “d” on the right hand. Try it. This is a way of remembering that liquids or drinks (d) are on the right and solids, such as bread (b), are on the left.


Do not eat the bread on the right because it?s not yours and do not drink the water on the left because it belongs to the person sitting to the left of you. Your drink is on the right and your bread is on the left.

Another rule of thumb is that once you pick up the silverware it is not supposed to touch the table again. Between bites, you can place the silverware on the outer rim of the plate but you are not supposed to resort to the ?gangplank? position, which means the silverware is half on the table and the plate.

Show and tell your kids that food is passed from left to right and the salt and pepper should be passed together. When you are being served by waiter, he will serve your food from the left and then remove your plate from the right when you have finished your meal.

When the child is finished with a course, tell him it is proper to place his knife, with the blade facing inward, and the fork beside each other and on the diagonal. The top of the knife and fork should point to the upper left corner of the plate and the bottom of the knife and fork should point to the lower right corner of the plate. A good way to remember this is to visualize the face of a clock. The upper left corner represents the 11 on the clock and the lower right corner represents the 5 on the clock. When a diner places his silverware in this position it lets the waiter know he is done and the plate can be removed.

You can show and instruct your children in both the Continental style of eating and the American style. The Continental approach is preferred by many because the knife is kept in the right hand and the fork is held in the left hand. You don?t have to switch hands as you do when using the American style which requires that the fork is switched from the left hand to the right hand after the food has been cut.

Show the kids how to eat using the Continental style during which the fork is held in the left hand. The tines of the fork are face down. The back of the fork is up. The child?s left index finger is put low on the back of the fork, which provides steadiness.

If eating something such as mashed potatoes and using this style the fork is held as previously instructed and the mashed potatoes are put on the back of the fork and put into the mouth. Some people cut meat and eat it in the Continental style but then revert to the American style when eating potatoes and other side dishes.

Of course, there are the basics: Keep your elbows off the table, do not chew with your mouth open, do not talk while your mouth is full of food; say ?please? when you want someone to pass you food and ?thank you? when you receive it.

Make a game out of this. Every night while dining, quiz your kids. Where do you place the knife when you are finished eating? Where is the beverage to be placed? Whose bread is that? Where is your napkin? Give a silly little prize (a kiss?) to the child who gets the most answers right.