Your preschooler is never too young to learn table manners. Teaching your child manners now will help her to perfect these skills for the years to come. They will grow into a habit that will never be forgotten and show that your child is respectful. Table manners are important not only at your home, but at the restaurant, in the cafeteria, and at holiday parties.
Teach these table manners to your preschool child early to ensure good behavior at the dinner table:
Do not play with food: If your child is old enough to use a fork or spoon, then she should be able to keep his hands out of the spaghetti. Encourage your child not to intentionally mix food on his plate. This is a manner that gets better with age, but it’s important to teach early.
Napkin in your lap: Not only does placing a napkin in your child’s lap keep food off of your child’s pants, it also hides her napkin that may be covered in food stains. This is a manner that will be important as your child gets older, especially when at a restaurant.
No smacking: Smacking is a habit that will continue if the child does not learn early to chew with his mouth closed. It can be an annoying distraction to others at the table. This manner may take some reminding at first, but when she begins to chew, give her a friendly reminder to close their mouth. Eventually, she will remember on her own.
Do not talk with your mouth full: Children tend to get excited when they think of something funny to tell you even if they just put a spoon of mashed potatoes in their mouth. When an incident like this happens, remind her to finish eating and to then tell the story.
Set the table: When learned, this manner will impress all of the elders at Thanksgiving! Show your child how to set the table with plates, utensils, napkins and cups. This manner will take some practice, but your child will feel like such a big help when you asked to set the table. Tip: use plastic cups and plates for the first few tries to avoid any accidents.
No tech at the table: In a world filled with technology, where your preschool child probably knows how to work the iPad better than you do, it is important to “unplug” during mealtime with the family. Set a rule for your child (and yourself) that no phones, video games, iPads, or any other electronics are allowed at the table. These are great for the places where your child needs entertainment, but the dinner table is not one of those places.
Remember, in order for your child to turn these table manners into good habits, they must see you using these manners as well. Children love to imitate, so make sure your manners are worthy of imitation.
Teaching your preschooler these table manners early will instill the necessary eating and social skills she will need for the years to come. Twenty years from now when she is on that special date, your child will thank you for constantly reminding her to not chew with her mouth open!