One of the easiest places to begin teaching your toddler manners is at the table. Begin by giving your 8 month old a (cloth, or they will eat it!) napkin and imitating how they should dab at their mouth, save the thorough wiping till the end. Let your little one attempt to drink from a real cup between 9 months and a year. Have your 2 year old pick up what they accidentally spilled on the floor. Remind them (and yourself if necessary) that elbows don’t go on the table. Table manners show respect and caring for those with whom we are sharing a meal. It is a community place and respect for others is appreciated and only fitting for young gentleman and young ladies.
Helping our little ones learn how to behave properly can be started with something as simple as setting the table. For extra reinforcement and to make it fun, here is a way to make your own table setting placemat.
You can see the supplies I used here: inexpensive colored felt from Hobby Lobby, a toddler silverware set we already had, a plate and glass from thrifting (toddler-ware often gets broken when you use real pieces, as Montessori methods encourage) some scissors and fabric glue (not pictured).
With some tracing and cutting and a little glue, the mat was ready for labeling. After it was labeled I found a roll of contact paper on Amazon that was 24″ wide and a lot long, I’ve still got some almost 3 years later, and I “laminated” it.
I began using it in a tray on Mr. T’s activity table and when he grew tall enough, I began putting it on our dining table. Now he simply set the table. Some days are neater than others, sometimes he insists on knives, sometimes he just says no, but that’s part of being 3! Usually he’s very helpful, which is something I think children learn, and it should be a result of instructing them on manners, but we have to be willing to deal graciously with messes, spills and breaks for that to happen. Patience is part of parental manners.
Here is the setting Mr. T did tonight. We are still fine tuning the direction things are turned, but I think he does splendidly for a three year old!
And here is Mr. T setting his placemat. It’s more of a game for him now, he really likes setting the table without it, but he loves puzzles. And in a few more months, he can begin teaching Mr. F. I’m so excited that the contact paper has kept this placemat together and in such good shape for almost 3 years now!
View our other Toddler Manners Posts here.