While there shouldn’t be rules about how much food a child is to eat, there can be rules about how a child behaves at mealtime.
Different families have different views on proper table etiquette. Take some time right now to think about what you feel is appropriate mealtime behaviour. Below you’ll find a list of common etiquette considerations.
• Wash hands before coming to the table
• How and when to use cutlery
• Sitting still
• Saying please and thank you (and other polite phrases)
• Asking to be excused from the table
• Comments about the food (positive vs negative)
• Waiting to eat until everyone is seated
• Waiting to start dessert until the person who has prepared it has taken a bite
• Handling food: Talking with food in the mouth, taking small bites, etc
• Asking for food to be passed instead of reaching
• Sitting up straight, no elbows on the table, etc
• No rude noises: burping and slurping, etc
A few notes:
-Children’s motor skills for using cutlery are not fully developed until age 8-10. It can be frustrating for a child to spend an entire meal struggling to eat with utensils. Some ways to imagine how it feels for a child:
• Use your non-dominant hand to eat.
• Use chopsticks to eat your next meal (if you are not a chopsticks pro!)
• Place a pair of mitts on your hands
It’s best to encourage your young child to use utensils as much as he can, but be flexible. For example, getting peas onto a fork can be frustrating! You might decide to let your child pick peas up with her fingers for a while.
You may want to brainstorm with your children what your family’s table manners will be. You have the final say, but giving them input is a great way to get your children to buy-in. You can type the rules out and post it on the wall. Then, when you need to remind your children of one of the rules, point to the list and say “we need to follow the table etiquette we decided on as a family in order to keep mealtimes a pleasant experience for everyone”.
Take a look at the example I made for our family!