Teaching your toddler table manners
Table manners is a very important concept that you must begin to give attention to by the time your child is at least 2 years old. By this time your toddler will probably begin to eat a little bit on his own and at regular timings like the rest of the family. So not only will he start eating the food everyone else eats, but he will also have to behave the way everyone else does while eating.
A good way to make him learn all the ‘do-s and don’ts’ is to teach him a rule and ensure that he follows that rule during all the meals for that day. According to his learning curve, introduce other rules that he has to follow one by one.
Here are some of the dos and don’ts:
- No playing with your food. A child should learn that he shouldn’t squish his rice or throw his vegetables on the floor if he doesn’t like them. Serve him in small quantities until he learns this properly. (How to handle picky eaters)
- No chewing with your mouth open (or making noises when you’re chewing). Demonstrate this rule to your child as these rules are still new to him.
- You should not force a child to eat beyond his/her capacity (“your plate should be clean!”). Instead teach him/her to serve himself just enough and finish only that. Encourage small servings and seconds if he/she wants them.
- When your toddler is eating with his/her hand, ensure that he/she uses only one hand to eat and the other to hold the glass, or the serving bowls/spoons etc. Explain to him/her that everyone has to use the spoon so you should not dirty it.
- ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ must be used at all times. If your child demands something to be passed, remind him. Also, don’t forget to lead by example!
- Don’t expect your toddler to sit for too long. Toddlers are full of energy and cannot sit still for longer than their meal.
- Ensure that he chews his food properly before swallowing. Shoveling of food should be discouraged.
- Hands must be washed before eating. Always remind your child to wash his/her hands before eating. Or turn the tables and appoint him/her as the person to check if everyone has washed their hands before sitting down at the dining table.
- Many kids are initially fed by walking them around the house. However you must break this habit. You can make it seem like an exciting opportunity, to eat at the table with the ‘grown-ups’ by getting him a special chair or place mat.
- Ensure that the whole family sits at the dining table to eat. If your child sees someone eat in front of the television, or in front of the computer then he/she will want to do it too. Continue to lead by example.