Basic table manners every kid should know

Raise your hand if your parents ever asked you this question growing up, “Were you raised in a barn?” I think that’s the sarcastically loving way of saying, “Didn’t anyone ever teach you any manners?” Our kids are definitely not going to learn manners from TV or from their friends. If we want them to be polite, they’re going to have to learn it from us. Just in time for holiday entertaining, I’ve compiled a simple list of manners for kids.

Have manners gone out the window in our modern world? Just in time for the holidays, here are the top 15 manners every kid should know! {}

Occasionally, I watch my children eat, and I think, “Why are they eating like that? Haven’t I taught them better manners then that?” Well, have I? Have I actually sat down and taught my kids basic table manners? Probably not. Have you? The holidays are fast approaching. Before they embarrass themselves (and their parents) in front of company, maybe it’s time for a review!

Have manners gone out the window in our modern world? Just in time for the holidays, here are the top 15 manners every kid should know! {}

Basic Table Manners for Kids

  1. Say, “Please,” and “Thank you!” They really are the magic words!
  2. Don’t talk with your mouth full. If you have food in your mouth, finish chewing and swallow before you talk.
  3. Close your mouth when you chew.
  4. Put your napkin in your lap. Use it to wipe your mouth, and then put it back in your lap. It’s rude to leave your dirty napkin on the table. If your napkin is too dirty to put back in your lap, you may throw it away.
  5. Pull your chair up to the table so that you can reach your plate.
  6. No elbows on the table.
  7. It is polite to wait to serve your food until the host or hostess (or your mom or dad) has invited you to begin serving.

Have manners gone out the window in our modern world? Just in time for the holidays, here are the top 15 manners every kid should know! {}

  1. When serving yourself, wait your turn for the next dish of food. It’s not a free-for-all. Wait for the food to be passed to you.
  2. Don’t reach across the table or across other people’s plates for things. Ask for things to be passed to you.
  3. If someone asks you to pass them something, resist the urge to take some for yourself before passing it on.
  4. Don’t eat with your fingers unless the meal is finger food. (Just a hint. Salad is not finger food.)
  5. It is not polite to cut up all of your meat at once, but it’s probably okay for little kids. :-)
  6. This one always made me smile when I was a kid: If someone asks you to pass the salt, pass the pepper, too. They’re married. (That’s always how my mom explained it.)
  7. Depending on how formal your meal, it may be appropriate to wait until everyone has been served to begin eating. (This is always appropriate in a restaurant.)
  8. Contrary to what you may see on your favorite TV show, it is not appropriate or polite to burp or belch at the table. Loud belching is always considered rude. If you must burp, keep your mouth closed, and say, “Excuse me.” In some countries, burping after a meal is appropriate, but the U.S.A. is not one of those countries. Sorry, kids!
  9. Once the meal has started, you should stay at the table until you have finished eating, and then remain at the table until you have been excused. (You may politely excuse yourself to use the restroom, of course.)

Have manners gone out the window in our modern world? Just in time for the holidays, here are the top 15 manners every kid should know! {}

This one’s not a real rule of manners, but I just have to throw it out there: Cheese and other garnishes (sliced olives, chopped tomatoes, nuts, etc) are garnishes, not side dishes. It’s not polite to take a full serving of a garnish. Do anyone else’s children think shredded cheese is a side dish?

Don’t forget to say, “Thank you!”

Don’t forget to pay your compliments to the chef! Always thank the person who prepared the meal. This is especially important when you are eating in someone else’s home, but you should make it just as important in your own home. Your mom (or dad — if he does the cooking) works really hard to take care of you. Be sure to say thank you, and if you liked it, say so! If you didn’t . . . keep it to yourself!

Plan a fancy dinner to practice!

Need a little practice? Prepare a fancy dinner (or just a regular dinner), and set the table extra nice with a table cloth and everything. Have everyone dress up like they’re headed to a nice restaurant. Get in the car and drive around the block a few times (that part’s just for fun). Sit down and eat with your very best manners. Don’t forget #6 and #13! Have fun!

So, did any of these ideas surprise you? I definitely wrote this post as a review for the things that I need to go over with my kids! What did I forget? Which rule of manners do you think is the most important?

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  1. Love it! Sharing!

  2. Hi Heidi. You’re right, I never sat down and went over basic table manners but I think they figured it out in the end. My girls were always a treat to take out to a restaurant.

    I do appreciate the list and am pinning. And yes my daughters and granddaughters think shredded cheese is a side dish :)!

    • I’m glad your daughters picked up on manners on their own. My kids have some down, but they are definitely missing a few. Glad to know mine aren’t the only ones who think cheese is a side dish!

  3. Perfect timing with Thanksgiving coming up! Thanks!

  4. Still working with my 5 year old on some of these! He usually tends to do better at a restaurant then at home.

  5. These are all great! I really need to work on #4 and #16 with my boys. I like your idea of planning a fancy dinner to practice!

  6. I love all of these and am totally going to use this to teach my kiddos!!

  7. I really appreciate this post, Heidi. Nowadays, manners seem to be something no one pays attention to…and you’re right, they aren’t going to be modeled on TV or elsewhere, they have to be taught at home. I want to print this post because these are all the things we talk to the kids about at the table :) Thanks!

  8. I’ve never understood #12. To me as a kind I’d like to get all the cutting done with so I could just enjoy the meal. These are great rules and reminders though. And FYI we highly regulate the shredded cheese too!

  9. I have two little boys, and can use all the tips I can get. Thanks!

  10. Oh boy!!! With three boys manners are definitely something we constantly have to be reminding our boys about!!

  11. These are some great reminders. My mom required us to use table manners at every meal (including waiting until everyone was seated to begin eating) and I am extremely grateful! For my 3 year old – we ask that he say please and thank you, ask to be excused, and put his plate in the sink when he has finished the meal. We require our kids to stay at the table until everyone is finished, too.

  12. I agree with these, it is hard to have the kids keep these in mind. But so important.

  13. These are amazing!! My son missed the most important class of his Cotillion… the table manners class! We will be utilizing these for an at home lesson! Thank you so much!!!

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