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Activities for Teaching Table Manners

Updated April 17, 2017

Mealtime, whether in the school cafeteria or at your dining room table can be interrupted by poor table manners. Issues with etiquette can be solved by teaching your children or students proper behaviour while eating. Use effective activities to show a child how to demonstrate proper table manners when in public or at home.

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Use positive reinforcement by rewarding your child or student when he demonstrates appropriate table manners. When he uses phrases like, "Please" and "Thank you," he should be rewarded. Other noteworthy behaviour includes passing food to others, placing a napkin on his lap and chewing with his mouth closed. Rewards can be in the form of toys, dessert or as simple as a sticker, pencil or colouring book. If you also wish to discourage poor manners, take away previous rewards when inappropriate behaviour is exhibited. Your child or student can then gain the rewards back when he displays positive table behaviour again.


Teach your child the importance of good table manners by keeping track of good table behaviour on a chart. List the table manners that you wish your child to master on the chart. Include manners such as sitting up straight, passing food during family-style dining or chewing with her mouth closed. When your child properly exhibits one of the manners from the chart, give your child a sticker to place next to the manner achieved. This activity will motivate your child, encouraging her to continue the positive behaviour to gain as many stickers as possible. You can even tell your child that once she obtains a certain number of stickers on her chart, she can gain a special reward, such as a dinner out to her favourite restaurant.


Have your children or students create handmade books about proper table manners. Give students ideas about what good table manners entail. This can include thanking the person who made the meal and asking others to pass food instead of reaching across the table. Each child should make one page for each table manner learnt. Children can make one page each day, representing one appropriate behaviour she displayed while eating. That way children do not have to create the entire book in one day and can have more time to focus on each manner. Encourage your children to include illustrations and read the book to others.

Tea Party

Set up a formal tea party for your children or students to role play and practice proper table manners. The children can pretend to be guests at a fancy tea party, competing to display the best table manners. Children should participate in appropriate conversation and use kind words such as, "Please" and "Thank you." You can even video the tea party to play back to the children to view how everyone behaved. While viewing the tape you can compliment each child on his behaviour by saying something like, "I really like the way Tommy offered more tea to Lisa."

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About the Author

Sarah Mollman began writing for "The Northern Iowan" newspaper in 2005. She was awarded scholarships from the Department of English at the University of Northern Iowa for Outstanding Short Story and Outstanding Personal Essay in 2008. Mollman holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Teaching from the University of Northern Iowa.

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