Teaching Kids Table Manners: Real-Life Tips

Our readers share how they encourage good table manners

Table manners Illustration by Andrea D'Aquino
Sleuth With Your Kids

For our three kids, ages 8 to 12, we incorporate learning table manners into games of I Spy. I might say, "I spy someone eating with his mouth open" or "I spy a napkin missing from a lap." The kids have fun joining in, especially when they catch Mom and Dad not using their manners.

Sara McKee
Katy, TX

    Invent a Code Word

    If my 10-year-old, Ben, forgets his manners, I quietly mutter "schnozzberries." The word makes him smile -- and remember to behave politely.

    Pamela Eustis Miller
    New York, NY

      Give Out Checks

      When my kids were small, I kept a manners checklist on the kitchen wall. Each manner remembered at mealtime earned a check. Checks added up to chances to pick dinner and desserts throughout the week. My children really enjoyed the process, and above all else, it worked.

      Rebecca Parks
      Wickliffe, OH

        Bookmark Bad Manners

        My children loved the book Dude, That's Rude! when they were younger. It's funny, yet at the same time, it teaches good behavior.

        Nicole Shaffer
        Reynoldsville, PA

          Let the Winners Pick Dessert

          We play this game: See a family member not using table manners? Point it out and get a point. Whoever has the most points by the end of the meal gets to choose dessert.

          Laura Michelle Delgado
          Edcouch, TX

            Mention You-Know-Who

            I just tell my kids, "Nana is coming to visit!"

            Vickie Smith
            Peachtree City, GA

              Make Your Point With Games

              I run a day care and have two small children of my own. Depending on what we need to work on, I use different games at the table. For example, when a child uses her hands instead of silverware, we'll put on gloves. Clean gloves at the end of the meal earns a treat. If a child is bouncing or being silly as he eats, we'll make crowns to wear. Those who sit still enough to keep theirs from falling off get a reward.

              Amber Steinkamp Dedert
              Liberty, IL

                Put Reminders on the Table

                For our kids, ages 3 to 8, we use double-sided place mats featuring a list of tips for good manners on one side and helpful outlines of table settings on the other. I bought the place mats at a school fundraiser last year, but you could easily make your own and laminate them between sheets of Con-Tact paper.

                Kristen Winegar
                Lakeland, MN

                  Role-play as Royalty

                  My husband and I play the "castle game" with our 4-year-old, Pablo, and 6-year-old, Paola. We talk in fancy voices and pretend to live in a royal castle, where we all must mind our manners while we eat.

                  Diana Jimenez-Gonzalez
                  Kingsburg, CA

                    Grant Their Wishes

                    When our children, ages 3 to 10, do an amazing job acting politely at dinnertime, the Mommy or Daddy Fairy leaves a fun treat, such as candy or a balloon, on their chairs.

                    Camille Gillham
                    Colorado Springs, CO