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Eat Your Ps (And Qs).

Table manners. What do you expect from your child when it comes to table etiquette? Table etiquette for children really shouldn’t differ that much from adults.

Kids can be expected to understand and use good manners by the time they are a year to 18-months-old. They can sit nicely at the table, they can use their utensils, they can eat nicely, and even clear their plate. Remember: the younger the better! Instill manners in them so they grow up knowing how to behave properly. You will be so proud when they start saying “please” and “thank you” without being reminded!

Keywords: Please, Thank you, You’re Welcome, Excuse Me, May I Be Excused!


Remember, children like to mimic you! The more you use your manners the more your child will, so be a great role model!

Top Ten Table Manners:

  1. Sit nicely, with legs under the table.
  2. Napkin on lap
  3. All electronics OFF!! Yes, this includes the TV and cellphones!
  4. No interrupting without saying ‘excuse me’
  5. Don’t play with utensils and food
  6. Chew with your mouth closed (For older children encourage them not to talk with a mouth full too!)
  7. Help clear the table
  8. No burping or slurping!
  9. Stay seated until everyone is done and ask to be excused
  10. Give THANKS!


It’s important to remember that getting a toddler to sit pleasantly and politely at the dinner table every night is an attainable goal. Although, they cannot fully grasp the idea of manners all at once. Toddlers have a hard time sitting still for long periods of time, they will make a mess (usually not on purpose!) and may have trouble using utensils properly, so set realistic expectations.

Don’t be too hard on yourself! Family mealtime is important but it is not always going to be perfect. The aim here is to get everyone sitting nicely at the table, eating a delicious dinner and connecting, all while being well-mannered. You should feel comfortable knowing your children can go to a dinner party or a restaurant and behave appropriately and not act like wild animals.


Get your children involved! Engage them in conversation and ask them about their day. Give them a ‘job’ like putting out napkins.

If you’re taking younger children to a restaurant make sure you come prepared with a book or a coloring book. This will help them while they’re waiting for their dinner or when they’re done eating (which will probably be quickly). This way they can still be present at mealtime but have an easier time sitting at the table. You can judge when your child is getting to that tipping point.

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Speaking of Marriage

Winifred M. Reilly, M.A., MFT

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