Written by Olivia Arrow

Teaching toddlers table manners can be a challenging but essential part of parenting. Table manners are not just about etiquette and politeness, but they also help children develop important social skills and self-control. With a little patience and consistency, you can teach your toddler table manners that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Start Early

It’s never too early to start teaching your toddler table manners. Even before they can sit at the table, you can begin to instil good habits by modelling proper behaviour. When you eat with your toddler, make sure to use good table manners yourself. Children learn by observing their parents, so it’s important to set a good example.

Set Clear Expectations

Before sitting down for a meal, it’s important to set clear expectations for your toddler. Explain to them that they are expected to sit at the table and use their utensils and napkins. Use simple and age-appropriate language to explain why these expectations are important. For example, you can say something like, “When we sit at the table, we use our fork and spoon to eat. This helps us stay clean and healthy.”

Consistency is Key

Consistency is crucial when teaching toddlers table manners. Toddlers thrive on routine and repetition, so it’s important to consistently reinforce the expectations you have set. This means constantly reminding them to sit at the table, use utensils, and say “please” and “thank you.” It may take some time for these behaviours to become second nature for your toddler, but with patience and repetition, they will eventually catch on.

Make Mealtime Fun

Mealtimes can quickly become a battle of wills with a toddler, but it’s important to keep things light and fun. Use mealtime as an opportunity to bond with your child and make it an enjoyable experience for them. You can play games like “I Spy” or sing songs while eating. This will help keep your toddler engaged and focused on their meal, making it easier for them to practise good table manners.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool when teaching toddlers table manners. Instead of scolding or punishing your child for not using good manners, praise and reward them when they do. This will motivate them to continue using good manners and make them feel proud of themselves. You can use stickers, high-fives, or verbal praise to reward your child for their good behaviour.

Be Patient

It’s important to remember that toddlers are still learning and developing, and it may take some time for them to fully grasp the concept of table manners. Be patient with your toddler and avoid getting frustrated or angry when they don’t use good manners. Instead, calmly remind them of the expectations and praise them when they do use good manners.

Involve Your Toddler in Meal Preparation

One way to get your toddler excited about mealtime and encourage them to use good manners is to involve them in meal preparation. Let them help set the table, choose their utensils, and even assist in preparing simple meals. This will not only make them feel important and included, but it will also give them a sense of ownership over their meal, making them more likely to use good manners while eating.

Teach Basic Table Manners

There are a few basic table manners that every toddler should learn. These include using utensils, chewing with their mouth closed, and saying “please” and “thank you.” It’s important to explain why these manners are important and consistently remind your toddler to use them. As they get older, you can introduce more advanced manners such as using a napkin, waiting for everyone to be seated before eating, and not interrupting others while they are speaking.

Be a Role Model

As mentioned earlier, children learn by observing their parents, so it’s important to be a good role model when it comes to table manners. Make sure to use good manners yourself and avoid any behaviours that you don’t want your toddler to mimic. For example, if you want your child to use utensils, make sure you are using them as well. This will reinforce the importance of good manners and make it easier for your child to learn.

Don’t Give Up

Teaching toddlers table manners is an ongoing process, and there will be days when your child may not use the best manners. Don’t give up or get discouraged. Instead, keep reinforcing the expectations and reminding your child of the importance of good manners. With time and consistency, your child will develop good table manners that will stick with them for life.

Teaching toddlers table manners is an important aspect of parenting. It not only teaches children proper etiquette but also helps them develop important social skills and self-control. Remember to start early, set clear expectations, be consistent, make mealtime fun, use positive reinforcement, be patient, involve your toddler in meal preparation, teach basic manners, be a role model, and don’t give up. With these tips and a little patience, you can teach.