Whether it’s an annual sit-down dinner party, a formal special celebration or a more intimate restaurant outing, regardless, it is essential that your children poise themselves in a well-mannered fashion, standing as sweet representatives that create an elegant and true portrait of your family. Which is why we’ve put together a list of manners and etiquettes that are the basics to ensure your children are on their best behaviour, what with the social season fast approaching.
Washed hands, cleaned face and a napkin on the lap.
Before the food is served at extended family dinners or at more formal affairs it is polite for guests to place a napkin on their laps. Children can fold their napkin in half to make it smaller and if needed the little ones should always use the napkin to clean hands or mouth as opposed to licking their fingers. A napkin on the lap will remind them of this etiquette. With that being said, it should be somewhat of an automatic routine that children should wash hands before seating and always come to the table with a clean face.
No early starters
While this can vary from host to host, the best rule of thumb when the food is initially served, is to teach your children to wait for every single guest to have their course and only eat once being invited to do so. Some hosts will insist for individuals to start eating as soon as they are served their plate, in order to avoid letting the food go cold. However, if unsure, always wait.
Sit up Straight
Another etiquette that should be taught to little children with dinner settings in mind is that food should be brought to the mouth, not the other way around. Keeping their posture tall and straight and not leaning over the plate to get the food into their mouths as quick as possible is always good practice. This will also help slow down their eating process, taking one bite at a time.
Similarly, to not leaning over their plate, it should be acknowledged that leaning over the table is also considered impolite. Whether it’s for the dish of peas on the other end of the table or to take the jug of water to refill, your children should never lean over the table, or stand on their chair to get a better reach of whatever they’re after. It’s especially not favourable to lean over neighbouring guests and therefore children should always politely ask whether they mind passing the item instead.
A very obvious but no less notable manner that children should always demonstrate when in company, is to never eat with their mouth open, nor to speak while eating. This will avoid any unpleasant spitting or unsightly views of chewed food which the accompanying guests will very much appreciate. No rude noises, like burping or slurping either!
Keep Negative Thoughts Quiet
While children are often naturally vocal about their preferences when it comes to food, it is incredibly important that they understand that regardless of whether they enjoy the food served to them, or wish it was something entirely different, to remain grateful and polite. Another courteous practice to uphold is to finish the food given to you, Children should always try and eat the entirety of the dish and should never play with their food. Of course, if the child is genuinely full then leaving food behind is okay, but the intention should always be to finish.
Be present around the table
One for the older children, however in the age of iPad this could still be relevant to the toddler guest among the dinner party. When dinning, full attention should be paid to the meal and more importantly to those who are sat round the table. Using phones and tablets during the meal is considered incredibly rude to a large proportion of people and therefore this should be avoided at every instance. Encourage your children to engage in conversations and hold themselves in a mature and pleasant light, and they’ll be sure to get an invite to the next soiree.
In terms of interaction around the table, it is also important that children know that they should ask to be excused if using the toilet is needed. The same applies for when their meal is finished, they must ask whether they are allowed to leave the table. In more formal settings, everyone should stay seated until the last person is finished eating, however this does differ from host to host. If the children are unsure, it is always best to stay put and ask their parent.
A Thank you
Finally, it is imperative that children always express their gratitude at the end of the meal, dinner, party. Thank for host for their efforts and ask whether there is anything for them to do to help clear away and clean up. More often than not, your child’s request to help will be refused but it is always good practice to offer regardless.
If you and your children follow these steps to the perfect table etiquette, you’ll be sure to mould your children into wonderfully gracious guests that are a joy to have at dinner parties and evenings. While many of these etiquettes are second nature to a lot of parents and children already, it is always a good idea to practice and reinforce these notions, especially with the biggest social season pending!