Mable, Mable: Rules for the Table

It can be difficult going out to eat with rowdy kids who can’t seem to remember basic etiquette, much less manners about keeping elbows off the table. There are so many things to remember beyond just “please” and “thank you.”

Ask to Help

Children should ask the host, or their parents, if there is anything they can help with. Tasks can range from setting the table to pouring drinks to putting out food. Asking to help shows respect for the host and their time.

“Please” and “Thank You”

Whether asking for something or receiving something, children (and adults!) should say please and thank you. This gesture is polite and reminds them to be grateful for their meal.

Wait to Start

Eating shouldn’t begin until everyone has taken a seat and has their plate of food. Play it safe and don’t start eating until everyone else has.

No Elbows

For some reason, it is considered rude to have elbows on the table while eating. Some say it originated from unsteady tables in early Europe, where leaning too much on table could cause it to tip. Another theory is that having elbows on the table and leaning forward gives the appearance of overindulging in the food. No matter the reason, it is a table manner no-no.

A way for little ones to remember: “Mable Mable, if you’re able – keep your elbows off the table!”

Wait to Talk

The best part of a dinner with family is often the conversation and catching up. This can be ruined if someone is constantly interrupting and talking over others. Teach your child to wait their turn to speak and not talk over anyone.

Napkin in Your Lap

If there is a napkin, it should be unfolded and placed in their lap to prevent food from getting on their clothes. If it is a cloth napkin, it should be placed on their chair when done instead of the table.

Mouth Closed

One of the most important table manners is to chew with mouth closed. Let others enjoy the meal in front of them without hearing chomping and smacking.

Ask, Don’t Reach

Reaching across other people’s plates to reach the salt or whatever else is a recipe for disaster. Instead of reaching, your child should ask someone to pass what they want. This helps avoid spills and other messes.

Push in Chair

After everyone’s done eating and starts getting up, make sure they push in their chair, so no one trips over it and everyone can move around without chairs in the way.

Help Clean Up

After the meal, they can take their plate to the sink and thank the host. If there are more dirty plates and silverware on the table, have them help clean up. 

Looking for a fun way to remember all of the manners? Try this!

Each family member (even the adults) will get three popsicle sticks to place near their plate. Before the meal begins, everybody is reminded of the expected table manners, like: “don’t start eating until everyone is sitting down”, “say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’”, “chew with your mouth closed”, and “help clean up afterwards”. When someone is caught breaking a rule, a stick is taken away. The one with the most sticks at the end of the meal wins! Treat the winner with picking the next meal, extra screen time, or simply getting dessert first.