Hints on How to Teach Your Tot Table Manners

Tips on improving a child's dinnertime behavior.

My daughter is at an age where we believe having dinner as a family is a priority.

We have planned our meals for the week so we can sit down at 6:30 p.m. sharp and enjoy each other’s company. After a long day at work for us and a long day at play for our tot it is nice to have the family time.

When we first sit down we are all cheers and our tot tells us about her day as the jazz music softly plays in the background. She tells us who she played with, what she did and what she saw. (Side note: It’s not even worth trying to get away with anything because at her age she tells all. And I mean all! This is a little hint for the grandparents who swear they only gave her a couple pieces of chocolates).

As we begin to eat, my vision of my little girl in a white pressed dress and pigtails starts to fade. I actually have never seen anything like it. Food everywhere! In her hair, on the table, in her milk cup. Mounds of food being shoveled into her beautiful mouth, not by the utensils laying next to her, but by her hands that she has deemed spoon and fork. She seems to always think of something interesting to say while her mouth is full, spraying food across the table. To be honest, I love my daughter to pieces, but her manners at the dinner table gross me out.

The final straw happened the other day. I accidently ate a piece of chewed chicken she spit onto my plate while singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I knew it was time for me to figure out how to teach my tot some table manners.

The Reasoning for the Mess:
Believe it or not, it is normal for your children to play with their food and is quite healthy for development. Think about it, by picking up their food with their hands it shows their ability to pick up items with their thumb and forefinger. They enjoy dropping and flinging food for a couple of reasons. They like to watch the food fly in the air and they like the reaction from the people who are with them. To them it is a game. They treat their food as though it is there favorite toy.

Hints to Avoid the Mess:
• Sitting a toddler in front of an overflowing plate full of food is just begging for a mess. Try offering a bite at a time. Or try using the rapid-fire feeding trick. Keep putting small bits of food in their mouths and they will eventually be too busy to make a mess.
Toddlers can be comedians and laughter only prompts them to grab the mic (aka the mashed potatoes) and continue on with their act. Try to ignore their behavior. Eventually, with no audience they will get bored not being the center of attention.
• If the tot is out of control and will not stop creating a mess, end the chaos by ending dinner. The tot will eventually understand the effects of their actions.
• Preach what you teach. When passing or asking for items at dinnertime make sure to remember your please and thank yous. Eventually your tot will mimic you.
• Every time the hands become the cutlery pass them a fork or spoon and remind them the proper way of putting food in their mouths.
• Most importantly make the dinner experience an upbeat and positive one.

Check out the following site for the top table manners every kid should know - www.emilypost.com/home-and-family-life/children-and-teens/408-top-table-....

Also, check out this manners mat at www.michellehenry.fr/polite.htm.

“Manners make the person.” ~ Motto

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