Teaching your toddler table manners

If your dinner times resemble a shark frenzy at a circus of wonders it’s time to introduce simple table manners to your toddlers.

The good news is that teaching your toddler table manners is not difficult.

Toddlers are always ready to learn and eager to please and so will be receptive to introducing table manners to their meal time routines.

Keys to success

The keys to successfully teaching table manners is to focus on one point at a time as not to overwhelm or confuse your toddler, and to remember that you are your toddler’s best role model. Thus they will copy what you do. By setting a positive example your toddler will emulate your behaviour.

What are manners?

Telling your toddler that you want them to show good manners will confuse them as they have no idea what manners are.

Start by explaining that good manners are a way of being kind to other people. We sit and eat nicely as people don’t want to see the food in our mouths or wipe our food off the table by their plates.

Next explain that table manners are the rules we use when eating a meal to show everyone what a big boy/girl they are.


Hand washing

Good manners start before reaching the table by washing your hands. It’s important that your child knows why they washing their hands ( to get rid of the germs) and that they know to wash their hands before and after every meal.

To reinforce this behaviour join your toddler at the basin before and after each meal so they can see you wash your hands.


Giving thanks

Not all families give thanks before a meal, but if you do, explain to your toddler why you give thanks and that it is a time to be quiet. When the blessing is done they may eat.


At the table.

By the age of 5 years, your toddler should be using real utensils and know how to correctly use them. For example you can use the knife and fork on your chicken but you can’t use them in your soup. They should also mostly know which foods they can eat with their fingers and which need a spoon or fork.

They should know the correct way to hold each utensil and how to hold and cut with a knife.

They should also know the purpose of a napkin and be able to wipe their own mouth, hands and face.


Other important things to teach at the table are:

Do not reach across the table, ask someone to pass you something.

Do not play with your food

Do not talk with food in your mouth

Say excuse me if you burp

Close your mouth when you chew

Do not spit

Always try what’s on your plate

Don’t call food yuck, if you don’t like it just say I don’t like the taste.


Stay seated

It’s important that your child learns that they can’t just leave the table as soon as they have eaten, but it is equally important to remember toddlers can’t sit too long so you may want to teach your child to excuse themselves and move to an activity near you after they have eaten.

I always had a small box of lego in the dining room and the smaller kids were allowed to build on the floor while we finished our meal.


Thank you

Teach your child to be greatful by always thanking the person who cooked for them.


When everything goes wrong

If by some chance your child is struggling with something or making mistakes its best to patiently redirect the behaviour for example by saying ..

“Look how mommy closes her mouth while she chews can you do that aswell?” or “Daddy holds his fork nicely , let me see how you hold your fork.”

Your child will eagerly want to copy you and make you proud.


Life skills

The dinner table is the perfect place to start teaching these life skills . It’s important to remember that your little one will make mistakes. By teaching basic table manners you are setting your child up to be confident in social settings as an adult. These skills take time to develop and grow with practice. So be patient with your Toddler.








2 Replies to “Teaching your toddler table manners”

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