Making Your Family More Friendly for Dining Out

Following is an article submitted by Sarah Morris on behalf of Primrose Schools, the leader in educational child care. Today Dr. Mary Zurn shares with us tips for teaching children better table manners.

It’s probably safe to say that there’s no better feeling than that of enjoying a special meal with your family- but none worse than being out to dinner with fussy children misbehaving. If you have little ones, and sometimes think that your only options are eating at home or hiring a babysitter- don’t fret. A few simple tips can help your kids with their table manners, and ensure more family friendly nights out to eat in Cincinnati.

Dr. Mary Zurn, vice president of education for Primrose Schools, offers five table manners tips to get parents started:

  1. Start early: Don’t wait until you think your child is “old enough” to learn polite behavior. Just as children learn to crawl before they learn to walk, they also learn manners in stages. Even infants watch parents for rules of expected behavior.  Very young children can learn to sign key phrases such as “please” or “thank you” and then transition to the spoken words around age two.  By age three, children should be able to stay seated at mealtime if you sit down with them. They love showing off new skills at this age, so it is a perfect time for them to show you how they use forks and spoons correctly.  Imitating adults is another favorite activity, and they will want to try cutting.  This is best practiced using plastic knives and soft foods like bananas. They can also help set the table and make sure everyone has a place to sit.
  2. Give specific feedback: Children learn best when they receive specific feedback about their behavior which is far more effective than generic praise.  For example, instead of saying, “Good job,” you can say, “I’m so glad you set the table.  I was hungry and you helped us all to eat sooner.”  
  3. Encourage polite conversation: Children as young as two can learn to engage in polite conversation at the dinner table with the right kind of guidance.  As you are at the table eating together, show them how to take turns listening, talking, and asking questions.  Mealtime will be a special time if you set the expectation that it is a time for everyone nourish their bodies and enjoy each other’s company.
  4. Set a good example: Make sure your words and actions match. Children watch parents all the time for behavior clues. For example, if you want your child to eat broccoli because it’s a healthy food choice, you will need to let them see you enjoy eating it as well.
  5. Create a routine: Children learn best from consistency because it helps them know what to expect. They thrive and learn best when they know their world is an orderly place. Start with the repetition of a few simple steps such as putting a napkin in your lap when you sit down and waiting until everyone is served before starting to eat. Create a routine that is easy for them to repeat and remember. While they might need gentle reminders, it is something your child can do at home and away that others will respond to positively.


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  1. says

    Hello there! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate!
    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him.
    Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!