With the Kids

The ‘Teaching Children Table Manners’ Game

Table manners?? What are those?

The man-of-the-house is all for America adopting the burping is a “compliment to the chef” cultural tradition. The kids would like to add wrestling, fork stabbing, and feet-in-the-face to that.

Now, there’s something to be said for having fun and goofing around as a family, I’m all about a good laugh. But, everyone should know when and where to implement their manners. For example, when I’m at The Olive Garden, it’s not the right time for little Shane to start burping his ABC’s for everyone to hear (although, he IS crazy-good at it!) Christmas dinner, Easter dinner, Sunday dinner, Mom’s-in-a-bad-mood dinner…not the right time.

So, in an effort to refine my children (and maybe yours), I’ve got a fun and easy little game that encourages table manners.

First, you will need to have a little lesson on proper table manners. Talk about all of the ones that are important to you. Here’s a few of my favorites…

1. Chew with your mouth closed

2. Put the napkin on your lap

3. Say “please” and “thank-you”

4. No reaching

5. No bodily noises (including slurping)

6. Don’t start eating until the cook (mom) is seated, and if she’s not…help her!

7. Don’t leave the table until everyone is done eating

8. No elbows on the table

9. Thank the cook for dinner

10. Stay to help clean up the dishes and mess

11. No rude comments about the food

12. Sit on your bum / Don’t tip your chair

After all the kids understand the manners, it’s time to implement them and see how well they remember.

Next to everyone’s dinner plate, place a little stack of candies (maybe Starbursts, mini-candy bars, whatever you like).  Nobody can touch their candies, yet. They are going to be their dessert, IF they earn it. Throughout dinner, they need to watch each other. If anyone can catch someone breaking a table manner’s rule, they can have one of the offender’s candies to add to their stack. Any arguing will lead to two candies being taken. Everyone really has to be on guard to catch offenders, but to also govern themselves. When dinner is over and clean-up is complete, everyone can gobble the treats they earned from having good manners. Play the game several times and watch good manners really take hold!

* To take it up a notch, make it a fancy dinner, complete with candlelight, soft music, and cloth napkins. Need some dinner ideas?  How about Stuffed Shells, Saturday Chicken, or Enchiladas Verde de Pollo.


  1. Hello, My name is Amy Greenberg and I am the co-founder of a website called The Grandparents Guide ( http://www.thegrandparentsguide.com). I would like to feature Teaching Children Table Manners Game on my website. We are doing a week on manners and etiquette. We would provide a direct link to your site. Please contact me at [email protected] if you are interested in partnering in this way.
    Amy Greenberg
    The Grandparents Guide

  2. My three year old is having trouble with the sitting on his bottom rule. He prefers his knees.

  3. Ikeda – Japanese, right? Make Japanese food OK to slurp, burp, etc( or whatever culture he is from), but normal fare is eaten by house rules. We slurp our ramen, but not our pasta. It might work.

  4. Were you watching us at dinner tonight? Oh wait, must have been breakfast, no lunch? Ohhhh it was every day, all day :(My just 3 and almost 5 year old drive me nuts with this. They totally feed off each other and make it worse. My sweet 3 girly has no impulse control–she’d only act worse in an attempt to make me cave and give her the candy, unlucky for her I have an iron will to match hers :) But I love this concept and your list of manners I’m off to brainstorm a method that will work for us. Thanks for the idea!

  5. We are really struggling with the 6 and 4 year old and some table manners. My 4 year old likes to lean back in her seat, bring her knees up to the table and bring the food from her plate to her, spilling it all down her front in the process. Drives me nuts. Love the candy idea and it will work really well with the candy from easter!

  6. i.ikeda,

    You dont’ have to use candy at all. You could just use any little trinket, like buttons. They obviously wouldn’t be too exciting to win, but there would still be the competition element and maybe whoever has the most buttons at the end, gets a treat.

    I’m not sure about your little cultural conflict. If it was me, I would just encourage my husband to adopt to culture that he lives amongst now (where noises are inappropriate), for the benefit of the children. He can teach the kids about his culture and how it’s different where he is from, but he should be a model to them of what is polite in America, at your home. If he considers it part of “who he is,” then he can bring back those mannerisms when he is with his family, and explain to the kids why he is changing his manners. Best of luck! Thanks for the comment :)

  7. That is such a fun idea! You amaze me with all of your fun things you do with your cute kids. I especially like the waiting until the cook has been seated to eat:)

  8. I love this idea! My little girl has a tough time still (she’s a toddler), and I don’t think I could put candy next to her and expect her to wait… But I could modify it a bit to make it age appropriate. The only rule I’m not sure it’ll stick is the noises one. My husband comes from a culture where making noises (like slurping) means the food is good. It’s important to compliment the cook by eating noisily! I have such a hard time with this, but I’m not sure how to deal with it since it’s how he grew up. I just don’t want our daughter learning it and thinking this is ok here too. Any ideas on how to deal with that?

  9. I’ve always heard boys are crazier than girls … ha, ha. Not really, my girls pull some doozeys too. I love this idea! THanks!

  10. As a mom to 3 boys & wife to one man child, I know all about manners at the table. Sigh. I love the idea of this game tho. I’m definitely giving it a try!

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