Teaching Table Manners to Children

Read our list of the most important table manners you should teach your little ones.

Your toddler has reached an age where they are beginning to learn how to eat with a spoon and fork. Some children learn very easily and some take a bit longer to refine their skills. In addition, it’s time to start introducing your toddler to table manners at a young age. They need to know these skills because they most likely will start attending daycare or school a few days a week. Kids need to know that it’s not polite to burp at the table, throw food, toss food on the floor they don’t like and make inappropriate comments.

It’s time they learn how to say please if they are interested in having a dish passed, and thank you to their hosts or hostesses for the meal and for passing the dish if they are still hungry. They also should understand that it is important for them to ask if they may be excused when they are done eating. If your little one has been assigned a small chore, they also should be able to remove their plate and set it on the counter for washing. These are some of the manners kids should start learning when they are young.

Good Table Manners to Teach Your Children

1. Wash Up Before Eating

It’s important to teach kids how to wash their hands and face before eating. This shows respect for the family and guests invited over to eat. This also shows respect for the person that made the meals they are eating. It’s important to teach your kids about good etiquette at the dinner table, because this helps them learn to be more fun to have meals with for many years to come.

2. Help Set the Dinner Table

It’s important to have your children ask if they can help if they are at home or at another person’s house.

3. Remember the Words Bread, Milk, Water (BMW)

When kids are old enough to understand how to set the table, there are easy rules to teach them. It’s called the BMW rule. BMW means bread goes on the left and milk and water go on the right side of the plate.

In addition, they can remember that silverware is easy to set because this goes by the numbers of letters in the words left and right. The fork goes on the left and has four letters for left. The spoon and knife go on the right and have five letters for right!

4. Unfold the Napkins when the Host Starts

When the host puts a napkin on their lap, it’s polite to start following what the host and hostess are doing. This is when everyone puts their napkins on their lap.

5. The Right Time to Start Eating

It’s very important to talk to your children about eating before everyone else has already been seated. Then it’s important that they start to eat as well.

6. Chew with the Mouth Closed

Make sure your kids don’t start talking with their mouths full and they chew with their mouths closed. These are the two most important rules of etiquette for mealtime.

7. Take Small Bites

Parents should teach their children to take small bites and chew slowly. It’s not polite to race and see who can finish first. In addition, it’s a good rule of thumb for everyone to chew their food slowly, because you become full quicker and keep the pounds off!

8. Never Interrupt at the Dinner Table

Make sure your kids wait their turn to speak at the dinner table. They should know what it’s like to wait their turn when playing games and going to school and this is no different at the dinner table.

9. Don’t Reach Across the Table for a Dish

Tell your child it’s very rude to reach across the dinner table and get something they want. Make sure they get into the habit of asking someone else to ask someone at the table to pass the food they are interested in.

10. Keep the Napkin on the Chair

It’s important to teach kids to leave their napkins on the chair if they have to go to the bathroom. It’s not proper etiquette to leave the napkin on the plate.

11. Push the Chairs Back Under the Table when Dinner Is Over

When your kids finish eating, have them arrange their chairs, the way they were before dinner.

12. Pick up the Plates and Say Thank You for the Lovely Dinner

This is a very important habit to make sure your child understands. If they get into this habit at home, it will become part of their routine and they will also remember to use these same rules and habits when they are invited to someone else’s home. Mom and dad should also remind them to use their table manners when eating at other people’s homes too.

If you all decide to go to a restaurant, teach your kids to make eye contact with the waiter or waitress and use their manners and say please and thank you. Encourage your children to start ordering for themselves and get in the habit of using the words please and thank you! If you feel they are not using proper etiquette, then tell them they can forget about having dessert. This will teach them to rethink these manners for dining out at a restaurant!

Good table manners are very important. They are just as important as all types of general manners that people use when they are on the phone or out in public. People will also learn how to appreciate having your kids over because all parents love well-mannered children. Teach your kids if they want to be treated with respect, then they have to learn how to treat others with respect and this includes using good table manners.


Good table manners are just as important as the meal your kids eat. Teaching good table manners allows you as parents to start introducing your children to the skills that are important for social manners that are critical for the rest of their lives.