Kids’ Table Manners: 12 Do’s and Don’ts

Kids' Table Manners
Start early to teach your kid proper table manners, which include saying please and thank you, helping to set and clear the table, and chewing with a closed mouth. You should also teach them proper etiquette on using utensils and napkins to avoid embarrassing moments.

1. Start Early

A toddler eating by himself
A toddler eating by himself

It’s never too early to begin teaching your child the basics of dining etiquette. The goal is not to create a mini-representative of Emily Post but to help your child develop critical social skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

One of the first things you can do is discuss table manners with your child. Explain that good table manners show respect and kindness for others and help make mealtime enjoyable. Use simple, age-appropriate language, and model good behavior yourself.

Teach your child to say “please” when asking for something and “thank you” when they receive it. Show them how to hold a fork and knife and use them to cut and eat food. Start with simple foods like soft fruits or scrambled eggs, then move to complex dishes as they become more skilled. 

2. Setting The Table

Children love to help, and setting the table is a great way to get them involved in meal preparation. You can have younger children place the cutlery on the dinner table or help with the napkins. Older kids can assist with setting the table’s more complicated aspects, such as arranging the silverware. 

Setting the table also allows you to talk to your child about the importance of respecting and respecting others. Explain that setting the table is a way of creating a welcoming atmosphere and making guests feel comfortable. 

3. Practice Patience

Teach your child to wait until everyone has been served before taking the first bite. To reinforce this good habit, ensure that everyone waits until everyone is served and seated before beginning in your own home.

You can also engage your child in conversation while waiting for everyone to be seated. This will help distract them from their hunger.

4. Navigating The World Of Knives And Forks

girl learning how to use spoon and utensils
Girl learning how to use spoon and utensils

Teaching kids how to use utensils properly will ensure they are comfortable in any dining situation. The first thing to teach is proper table etiquette on holding utensils. Whether American or British, teach them to hold the fork with the left hand and the knife with the right hand.

Next, teach your child how to cut food properly. Show them how to hold the knife with their index finger on the top of the blade and their thumb on the side. Then, instruct them to cut through the food with a sawing motion. 

Finally, explain how to use utensils for different types of food. For example, show your child how to use a spoon to scoop the food towards them when eating soup or cereal rather than leaning into the bowl. When eating meat, demonstrate how to use the knife and fork together to cut and eat bite-sized pieces. 

5. Keep It Closed

One of table manners’ simplest yet most crucial aspects is chewing with your mouth closed. It’s a simple concept that the young ones easily overlook. We chew with our mouths closed because it prevents food from flying out of our mouths and landing on our dining companions.

When teaching your child to chew with their mouth closed, encourage them to take small bites. This makes it easier to chew with their mouth closed and helps to prevent choking.

Explain why talking with food in your mouth is impolite. Not only is it difficult to understand what someone is saying when their mouth is full, but it’s also rude and unappetizing.

6. Using Napkins

Using a napkin is a sign of respect and good manners. It shows that we care about our surroundings’ cleanliness and don’t want to leave any mess behind. The first step to teaching children how to use a napkin is showing them how to unfold it and place it on their lap.

Teach children to use their napkins correctly. This means using it to dab their mouth but not using it to blow their nose or wipe any other part of their body. Remind them to place their napkin on their chair if they leave the table briefly.

7. Ask For Food To Be Passed

Teaching our children to ask for food to be passed using “please” and “thank you” is an effective way to instill good manners. Aside from being polite, asking for food to be passed also helps prevent any accidental spills caused by reaching across the table. 

Practice and reinforce good table manners consistently. Children learn by example, so we should be their role models. When you teach your child proper dining etiquette, you set them up for success in social situations. 

8. Say “Excuse Me”

One essential habit to instill in your child is saying, “Excuse me.” Teaching your child good manners helps build their social skills and can make them more confident in social situations.

If your child needs to leave the table during a meal, they should always say “excuse me” before getting up. This lets others at the table know that they are not simply wandering off without permission. 

9. Gratefulness Counts

Cooking a meal takes time, effort, and a lot of love. By thanking the person who made the meal, you acknowledge their hard work and show that you value their efforts. Teaching your child to compliment the chef is a great way to instill good manners from a young age. 

You can start by modeling the behavior yourself. When you sit down to eat a meal, take a moment to express your gratitude to the person who prepared it. Your children will take notice and learn from your example.

You can also prompt your child to express their appreciation by asking them questions like, “What did you think of the meal?” or “Did you notice any special ingredients?” Encourage them to be specific in their compliments, whether praising the flavor or the presentation.

10. Clean Up

Clearing the table is an important task that teaches children the value of responsibility, teamwork, organization, and kindness. By working together to clear the table, children learn that they are an integral part of the family and that their contributions matter.

Encouraging your child to help clear the table shows them you appreciate their efforts and value their contributions. This positive reinforcement can boost their self-esteem and make them feel proud of their accomplishments.

11. Stay Put

Waiting until everyone has finished eating before leaving the table demonstrates that you value their company and appreciate the meal. Leaving the table before is rude, disrespectful, and selfish. 

Let your child know that finishing their meal quickly doesn’t mean they can leave the table while others are still eating. Encourage them to converse or observe others while they finish their meals. Staying at the table until everyone is finished helps develop self-discipline and patience.

12. Food Is Not A Toy

We’ve all seen a child using their food as a toy, making a mess, and disrupting the family meal. Playing with food at the table is impolite and disrespectful. Teach your child that mealtimes are not just about eating but also about enjoying the company of others. Playing with food takes away this experience and can make others uncomfortable.

Explain to your child that wasting food is not acceptable. If they don’t want to eat something, they should politely decline instead of playing with it.

Do’s and Don’ts – Summary

✅ Do’s❌ Don’ts
Chew with a closed mouthLeave the table until everyone has finished eating
Help with setting and clearing the tableTalk with a full mouth
Be polite and patientPlay with food


Tabitha is a curious and enthusiastic writer who believes in the power of words and the importance of good manners. Etiquette is her passion, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.

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