With small children who have a hard time sitting still or doing any activity for an extended period of time, meal times are constantly on my list of areas to work on. In our case the biggest struggle is staying in your seat for the entire meal (or even three minutes in a row). Whether it’s due to my flexibility allowing my children to eat their snacks most anywhere in the house, or their active natures in the first place, I will never know (and I will try not to fret over it)…
Regardless, I know as they grow in maturity we will hopefully begin to practice (and see) more table manners. And to get the ball rolling, the other day I decided to make a list of regularly discussed points into place-mats with the kids’ pictures. This way we have the “rules” in front of us in a fun, personalized way. I do not expect this little place-mat to work wonders and suddenly create a respectful, easy, quiet table… but at least it will be a reminder for all of us!
First we talked about manners and I took a photo of each child sitting nicely at the table.
Then we made a list together of the ways we try to show respect at the table (and typed them out):
- Washing up before meals.
- Sitting on my chair.
- Eating my food politely.
- Using “please” and “thank you.”
- Asking to be excused.
- Taking my plate to the kitchen.
Next we printed our “rules” which you can also download by clicking here (please note this is a Word Document so you can adjust the rules to your family’s needs).
Then I let the boys decorate the pages. My four year old has been really into wind and lighting so that is what he drew. I had intended us to draw maybe a table, some food items, a plate, some utensils but, because my goal is to follow the kids’ leads in crafts, we just went with it. 🙂
After decorating we glued on the photos, laminated, and had a snack using the new plate mats. I had a little giggle while snapping a photo of my son drinking the milk from his cereal bowl since it is so typical that after discussing a subject (such as table manners) we see an example of the *opposite.* The life of a parent is never-ending work, for sure!
Please note: If you do not have a laminator, feel free to use this activity simply as a poster to hang up near the family table. And you do not have to add your children’s photos either – you or they could draw a picture just as well!
How do you encourage respectful behavior during meal times? Do you have family *rules* for the table?
Find this activity on my list of 365 activities for your family to build character.
Feel free to share your experiences with this activity and/or any variations you came up with. Links to related activities or to your post that links here, are most welcome also.
Thanks for your feedback – I appreciate all your comments!