Table manners are very important in our home. They are important at school too. Grace and Courtesy are a big part of the Montessori curriculum. It is one of many areas that make Montessori classrooms special. Often in Montessori classrooms, from toddlerhood, children will sit at a table to eat (not in the playground as many schools do) with tablecloths or placemats, cloth napkins, utensils and table manners are expected.
So what table manners are we teaching our children?
- Set the table. This is a big one in our home. If I have prepared the meal and the children are not busy I have the expectation that they will set the table or contribute to setting the table. Setting the table involves a tablecloth or placemats, utensils, drinking glasses, water, napkins and placing them in the correct locations, carrying and putting them down nicely. If guests are coming the children will almost always go foraging for flowers.
- Offer help. I'm still working on this one with the children however I want them to be able to identify if I need help in the kitchen or if they can provide assistance, for example taking a salad to the table, finding tongs.
- Wash hands before eating. This may extend to washing their faces and changing into clean clothes depending if we are having guests or if they are terribly messy or muddy.
- Pull out and push in chair smoothly when sitting at the table. Chairs are to be moved quietly (as possible) without bumping or fuss.
- Sit up straight at the table. No slumping or elbows on the table.
- Turn away and cover mouth or noses when coughing, sneezing, burping. Leaving to get a tissue when appropriate. Leaving the table (and leaving the room) to pass wind.
- Use appropriate words - 'yes', 'please', 'thank-you', 'may I please have the…', 'could you please pass the…' .
- Using the correct utensils. Knowing when it's ok to use hands (bread for example), knowing how to hold and use utensils this including cutting and scooping.
- Waiting for their turn until serving themselves - in the case of salad/s and shared plates.
- Using tongs and offering them to others. No taking food from a shared bowl/plate with fingers.
- No double dipping with shared dip or sauce (this has been so difficult to teach my children).
- Pouring and offering drinks to others.
- Asking others before taking the last piece of food. Especially with cake!
- Eat politely. Not putting too much food in their mouth, chewing with their mouth closed, not talking with food in their mouth, spitting out unwanted food discretely into a napkin. No slurping.
- Eating over the plate or bowl. Minimising and cleaning up spills, crumbs and mess.
- Using a napkin. Napkin in lap and used at the end of the meal or in-between courses to clean face and hands if necessary. Place napkin on plate with utensils when finished the meal.
- Politely refuse food especially if they don't like the food with a simple 'no thank-you'.
- Clearing the dishes when finished. This is a must in our home on a everyday/every meal basis. When having guests, waiting at the table until everyone has finished and help to clear all dishes.
- Acting appropriately when eating out. This includes how to order, requesting a drink, ask questions from staff, thank the waiter for assistance.
It doesn't really need to be said but - no raised voices, no toys at the table, no fighting.
My last post about Grace and Courtesy is here. Are table manners important in your home? Have I missed some table manners?