Good Table Manners for kids


It is desirable for kids to learn important skills like good table manners as part of proper grooming. Practicing good table manners by kids reflects good upbringing. Different families can have different models of fine dining, but it is important to largely adhere to the rules of polite society.


Teaching good table manners to kids may not be all about formalities. Displaying good table manners is a way of showing respect and consideration for others. Imbibing good table manners may not only aid the kids to understand the norms of socially acceptable behaviour but can also help them to make a fine impression on others.


How to Teach Your Child Table Manners?

It is sensible to follow the golden rule here – lead by example! Constantly demonstrate and explain to your child how and what needs to be done. Children are good imitators. They need to see you and other family members setting the standards for good table manners like talking nicely at the table, using “please” and “thank you” while interacting with each other.

Keep in mind to always appreciate child’s good behaviour at the table. It is always better to talk specifically when praising a child. Explain to the child what exactly impressed you like when he sat properly or when he asked for things nicely. Positive reinforcement by parents will motivate the child to repeat his good performance.

Being consistent is vital in teaching kids good table manners. When you introduce a polite behaviour to your child like saying “thank you”, firstly have reasonable expectations and then prompt or gently remind the child every time he forgets to say it. Gradually, he may get conditioned to say “thank you” whenever required.

Another way of teaching good table manners can be to organize dinner theme nights every week. You can choose a particular cuisine for example Chinese. Kids may not only find it a fun and interesting way to pick up good table manners like the use of chopsticks but may also learn about the culture and eating habits of different countries.


Toddlers may require persistent reminding to behave properly. It is important that parents start conditioning toddlers as early as they can start. Toddlers have a mind of their own, and for them, everything can be a game. So, you may have to keep repeating the rules again and again. It may be better to show them what they are expected to do. It may also help to demonstrate the consequences of not following the rules.

Most toddlers indulge in bad behaviour like flinging food, spitting food to seek attention. If the bad behaviour gets him the attention, he may repeat it. It may be best to try and ignore the bad behaviour.

What You Can Teach?

  1. From the time toddlers start eating solids, ensure that they sit and eat. Constantly reinforce the idea of sitting at the table each and every time they eat. You can let them leave the table once they are done eating.
  2. Try and involve your baby during mealtimes by eating together as a family. This can give them the feeling that they are also a part of the family and mealtimes are enjoyable times.
  3. You can help your baby wash his hands before the family sits down to eat. He may get habituated to do so as he grows up.
  4. You can also try teaching your baby that throwing food, banging utensils, spitting food, screaming during mealtimes is unacceptable behaviour.

What You Can’t Expect?

Certain things that you can’t expect a toddler to do can be:

  • Not talking with a mouthful
  • Not reaching over to grab food from other’s plates
  • Proper use of cutlery
  • Sitting properly and patiently for the entire extent of the meal


Pre-schoolers are usually fussy eaters, slow eaters and prone to throw tantrums. But a pre-schooler usually has more attention span than a toddler and can be better at following instructions. The best way to inculcate good table manners for kindergarten can be by practice. It is important to explain to pre-schoolers what is expected out of them at the table. Praise and encourage them when they behave well and cue them when they tend to slip. You may have to patiently remind them repeatedly.


Refrain from labelling a child when he tends to be sloppy or makes a mistake at the table. Instead, offer him a practical solution or advice. For example, if your child drops food on his clothes while eating, simply give him a napkin and explain its use to him.

What You Can Teach?

You can teach pre-schoolers to:

  1. Properly sit at the table without squirming, wriggling or wandering around.
  2. To patiently wait till everyone is seated at the table and have helped themselves before start eating.
  3. The right way to use a napkin, how to place it on the lap before starting a meal, how to use it to wipe the mouth and so on.
  4. To take small bites and eat with his mouth closed and not to talk while he has a mouthful.
  5. To use polite words, like “please” and “thank you” while interacting with people at the table.

What You Can’t Expect?

You can’t expect the following from pre-schoolers:

  • Not to create a mess while eating
  • To always remember to follow the good manners at the table


At this age, a kid is better equipped to understand the rules that he is expected to follow. He may realize how his actions can affect others and why manners are important. You can offer reasonable explanations for why he should adhere to the rules at the table and follow it up with rational consequences in case he refuses to observe them. For example, he doesn’t get a second helping of his favourite dessert unless he learns to ask politely or if his behaviour is inappropriate at the table, he may not return unless he realizes his mistake.

What You Can Teach?

A kid by this age may already know the basic table manners. So, he can be taught some finer points like:

  1. Proper use of the cutlery, how to use a fork and knife, the right choice of cutlery when faced with options like a smaller spoon for dessert, a soupspoon for soup and so on.
  2. The art of making pleasant conversation at the table. Encourage him to compliment the food and teach him not to say something hurtful if he didn’t like the food.
  3. Laying the table with proper placing of cutlery and clearing the table after the meals.
  4. How to properly serve and pass the food around the table without reaching over or being in someone’s face.
  5. Not to carry their tabs, cell phones or other gadgets to the table.

What You Can’t Expect?

  • Though kids at this stage are pretty clued in the lessons of good table manners, you still can’t expect them to be perfect at it.
  • They can be times when he may forget his manners or simply refuse to comply with the rules.
  • Your kid may encounter situations he may not be yet ready to tackle like a formal party or a fancy wedding reception with complicated tableware.
  • You can’t expect the lessons in table etiquette for children to be over at this step. You may have to keep motivating them to imbibe the good table manners.

A family dinner must not be converted into some sort of a lecture or lesson on good table manners. Refrain from making meal times stressful for kids. Rather meal times should be family’s quality time together where family members can relax and share their day’s happenings and discuss other topics. Keep a balance between teaching kids good table manners and also making meal times fun and pleasurable for them.