5 Must-Know Table Manners for Kids: A Crash Course for the Holiday Table


how to teach kids proper table manners

For a normal weeknight dinner, we’re pretty chill about table manners. We try to encourage basic courtesies—saying please and thank you, not criticizing the food, etc. But it’s not uncommon to see us with our elbows on the table. On a normal night, I’m mostly just trying to keep my kids from using bathroom humor. 

But family dinners—as in table cloths and aunts and uncles and perfect sister-in-laws with perfect kids—those can be…shall we say, a little less chill?

Here’s a list of must-know table manners for kids that I like to go over with my brood whenever we head over to Grandma’s. Some of them, though simple, will go a long way, and may just have that sister-in-law thinking you’re the one with the perfect kids. 

1. As soon as you sit down, place the napkin on your lap. This will help any food that spills land on something other than your nice pants. 

2. “Excuse me, please pass the rolls.” If you have to stand up to reach something, or you have to reach across your neighbor’s plate to get something, it’s too far. Ask the person nearest the thing you want to please pass it to you. 

3. Break your bread. Speaking of rolls, instead of cutting the roll open and slathering it with butter, the polite thing to do is cut a pat of butter, put it on your plate, and then, as you want a bite of the roll, you tear off a bite size piece, butter it, and place the whole piece in your mouth. Easy peasy. 

4. No brainers. Your kids may already have these down, but mine tend to need reminders.

  • Please and thank you. 
  • Keep elbows off the table.
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Bring the food to your mouth, not your face to the plate. 
  • Real interfacing. In other words, no electronic devices. 

5. Compliment the cook. Pick your favorite food on the plate, and tell the hostess, or whoever made it, how wonderful it is. Then tell the hostess how lovely the meal is. 

What manners do you like to teach your kids?