Table Etiquette for Kids: Make Eating Enjoyable 

Avatar of Marwa Alaa
Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

Table etiquette for kids is an essential part of every meal. It guides you to say “thank you” and “please”, use cutlery properly and know how to set and clear the table. It also teaches you to avoid speaking while chewing and playing with food. Whether you are dining out with your friends or having dinner with your family at home, you should practice proper table etiquette for kids. In the following lines, we will learn together the most significant rules of dining etiquette for kids.

Table Etiquette for Kids

Table manners always stay in style. Generally, it shows you what is right and wrong at the dining table. It teaches you to respect the food served and appreciate the efforts of the one who has prepared it. It also shows you how certain things are done in a specific way while eating. Moreover, it allows you to improve your social interaction skills. To impress everyone in any social setting, practice the following rules of table etiquette for kids. 

1. Wash Your Hands and Face Before Eating

The most significant rule of table etiquette for kids is washing your hands and face with soap before meals. Cleaning hands before eating is a vital hygiene habit because it keeps germs away. 

Looking messy is not pleasant at the table. You may help others by serving cutlery. So, washing your face is essential before you come to the table. It shows that you respect the people at the table and the person who prepared the food. 

2. Offer to Help

Offering help is also one of the significant rules of table-setting etiquette for kids. Always ask the adults at home if you can help. Cooperating makes the dinner table ready faster. 

3. Ask Where to Sit

If you visit someone, do not sit down for a meal at any place. Asking your host/ess where to sit is one of the significant rules of table etiquette for kids. 

4. Take Cues From Your Host/Parent

Another important rule of table etiquette for kids is to take cues from your parent or host/ess. When your parent or host/ess puts their napkin on their lap, do the same. Serve your food when they invite you to start serving. You must wait for the food to be passed to you.

5. Never Bring Electronics or Toys to the Table

Mealtime is a social occasion. Avoid bringing toys, smartphones or any electronic devices to the table. Also, do not answer phone calls or emails when you are eating. Besides being disrespectful, you miss enjoying the food, interacting with the people you are dining with and sharing experiences. 

6. Avoid Eating Until Everyone is Seated and Served

Only start eating after everyone is seated and served. This applies when you are at home, someone else’s home, or a restaurant. 

Some adults ask children to start eating immediately once served and do not wait for the others. Unless told otherwise, wait until everyone takes a seat around the table.

7. Keep Your Elbows Off the Table

Keeping your elbows and other body parts off the table is among the universal rules of table etiquette for kids. Make sure your chair is positioned close to the table so you can reach your plate easily. Additionally, sit up straight and do not slouch when eating. Moreover, do not wander or wiggle around the table.

8. Use Cutlery Properly

Using cutlery or eating utensils is among the crucial rules of table etiquette for kids. You can eat with your hands only if the meal is finger food, like chips, crisps, nuggets, pizza and sandwiches

Watch how your parents properly use a fork, a spoon and a knife or ask them to teach you. 

  • Use a knife and a fork to cut your food. Never cut up all your meat/chicken at once. Gently slice it back and forth until it is cut. 
  • Bring the food up to your mouth with a spoon or a fork. 
  • Never lean over your plate to eat.

9. Keep A Napkin on Your Lap

Place a napkin on your lap as soon as you sit down to eat. A napkin keeps your clothes clean if you drop food. For additional use, you can wipe your hands and mouth with it and put it back on your lap afterwards. It is improper to lick food off your fingers or use your sleeves to wipe your mouth.

10. Never Stuff Your Mouth

When you are eating, do not shovel food into your mouth. Taking small bites is among the essential rules of table etiquette for kids. Between bites, you can put your fork/spoon down and your hands on your lap.  

11. Chew With Your Mouth Closed

When you chew, close your mouth. Suppose you see the smashed-up food in someone’s mouth; you will undoubtedly be disgusted. So, do not disgust others and keep your mouth closed when chewing. 

12. Chew Silently

Never slurp, chomp, burp or make other rude noises at the table. Chewing silently is among the top rules of table etiquette for kids. If you must burp and cannot hold it in, close your mouth and then say, “Excuse me.”

13. Watch the Table Talk

Chewing silently with your mouth closed does not mean you cannot get into dinner conversations. Make a conversation with everyone at the table, not just mum and dad. Engaging with only one person and neglecting the other is rude and disrespectful. When you talk, consider the following:

  • Share your daily experiences at school or with your friends. You can even talk about the food and the weather.
  • Avoid inappropriate talks at the table, like trivial stories and potty jokes. 
  • Never interrupt the one who is speaking. Wait for your turn to speak.

14. Do Not Speak With Food in Your Mouth

Make sure you have finished chewing your food and swallowed it before talking. It is disgusting to spray food across the table. Additionally, no one wants to see the food in your mouth. 

15. Avoid Reaching

Do not stand up and lean over the table to get an out-of-reach item. Stay on your chair and ask the person closest to the thing you need to pass it to you. You can politely say, “Please pass (the salt)!” 

16. Pass Food

On the other hand, if someone at the table asks you to pass food or cutlery, send it their way with pleasure. However, do not take some from this dish first before passing it. 

  • If someone asks you to pass the bread, do not give them a single slice. Pass the whole bread basket. Additionally, if someone asks for the salt, pass the pepper, too.
  • When you dish food from a common bowl, use the serving spoon, not your own.
  • As a host, do not eat or drink something without serving it to the other people around the table.

17. Do Not Pick Food

Another significant rule of table etiquette for kids is to not pick food. 

  • If you have finished your chips or crisps and want to take one or two from someone else’s plate, ask for it politely first. Avoid picking it suddenly from their plates or without their permission. 
  • Additionally, never pick food or finger food from the main dish or bowl unless everyone is seated at the table.

18. Avoid Dipping In the Common Bowl

You most probably fancy dipping dry and finger food into a sauce. It is not a problem; however, practice common courtesy. Never dip any food in the shared bowl. Dipping bitten food into the common bowl is disgusting and may also spread germs. To do it right, put a suitable amount of your favourite sauce onto your plate using a serving spoon, not your own. Then, dip all the food you want into your portion. 

19. Never Play With Food

Avoid playing with food as a toy. For example, never write your name with alphabet pasta. Moreover, do not make macaroni double as specs and look through them.

20. Do not Leave Food On Your Plate

Furthermore, do not waste your food or leave any item on your plate. If you are not sure how much you can eat, serve yourself small quantities at a time. If you are still hungry, ask for more food.

21. Refrain from Saying Negative Comments About the Food

Additionally, do not criticise any food. Negative comments can cause hard feelings for the one who cooked it. 

  • Never speak badly about the food if you have found something that should not exist. 
  • If you do not like something, others may like it. Spit it discreetly into your napkin, and do not say negative comments. Simply refrain from eating what you do not want and say, “No, thank you.” 
  • Note: If you have a food allergy to a specific dish, tell your host/ess politely that you cannot eat that food to avoid severe reactions.

22. Ask to be Excused When You Finish

Diners enjoy each other’s company during the meal. So, when you finish eating, you should remain at the table until everyone finishes their meal or someone excuses you. If you need to leave the table before then, ask for permission to be excused. You can also excuse yourself politely if you need to use the bathroom. Remember to place your loosely-folded napkin on your chair if you leave the table temporarily.

23. Always Use the Golden Phrase “Thank You!”

At the end of the meal, express gratitude to the person who prepared the food and the one who served it, even if you do not like the food. Also, when someone passes something to you at the table, say, “Thank you!”

24. Tidy Up

Help out after the meal to show appreciation and kindness. You can lay out the food and clean up. 

  • Push your chair back against the table.
  • Place your used napkin on your plate.
  • Carry your plate and utensils to the kitchen. 
  • Clear your leftovers into the trash. 
  • Put your plate and utensils in the sink.

Let’s watch this interesting video now about table etiquette for kids.

Table Etiquette for Kids

Restaurant Etiquette for Kids

Going out to a restaurant is really fun! To enjoy this experience, you should adapt to the following rules of restaurant etiquette for kids and the abovementioned table etiquette rules.

1. Stay Seated

Staying seated and never leaving the chair is the most important rule of restaurant etiquette for kids. Running or moving in a restaurant is dangerous and may cause a safety hazard to you and the waiter. Additionally, it can distract other diners in the restaurant. 

2. Use Your Inside Voice

Noise also distracts the diners in the restaurant. So, avoid shouting or speaking with a loud voice. Lower your voice volume.

3. Order Clearly and Accurately

When the waiter takes your order, speak clearly and accurately so they know exactly what you want, and avoid serving you the wrong dish. 

4. Be Polite and Respect the Waiter

After you place your order, say, “Please.” Moreover, make eye contact with the waiter and control your tone and attitude. When they deliver your dish, say, “Thank you!” After you finish your meal, you can write them a thank-you note and leave it on the bill.

5. Do not Play with the Everyday Items on the Table

Also, among the top rules of restaurant etiquette for kids is to always keep your hands off the table. Do not play with the cutlery and the condiment holder. Instead of waiting for food delivery for a long time, you can take a toy or a colouring sheet and some crayons with you.

6. Use The Napkin and Utensils Correctly

When your plate is delivered, place a napkin on your lap. It will keep your clothes clean if you drop food. Also, avoid wiping your mouth on your sleeve or hand. You can wipe it with a napkin. 

In addition, use utensils properly, as we mentioned before. Cut the food with a knife and use a spoon or a fork to bring it up to your mouth. You can watch how your mum and dad eat with the cutlery and copy them.

7. Do Not Rush

Now, you are ready to start eating your meal. Never stuff your mouth with food. Instead, take small bites and eat at a relaxed pace because eating slowly is one of the significant rules of restaurant etiquette for kids. Additionally, do not speak or drink with your mouth full of food.

Now, watch this video about the rules of restaurant etiquette for kids.

Restaurant Etiquette for Kids


Learning table etiquette for kids is essential in your formative years. It is something that you will use throughout your life. Besides teaching you how to behave at the table, it teaches you how to carry out a conversation and conduct yourself in any social gathering. You might also be interested in reading our articles about Good Manners, Classroom Etiquette and Social Media Etiquette.

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