Manners and Responsibility: Teaching Your Kids to Set the Table

Setting the table is a daily chore, and often one that falls on busy mothers and fathers as they multitask to stir the stew, clean the dishes and inevitably set the table. Teaching your kids to set the table is not only good manners, but it'll also prove to be extremely helpful for you as a parent because when you're already doing so much, you just don't have the time to do it.

Teaching Your Kids to Set the Table

Start Young

From the time your child is out of a high chair and in a booster seat, teach him or her to carry their non-breakable empty plate to the table. When they're done eating, teach them to ask to be excused, and then have them carry their (hopefully empty) plate to the sink. Be sure that you as a parent say “Please and thank you” to them, and be prepared for some spills on their commute at some point in time. As the kids get older, implement new manners and insist that they stick to them. By the time your child is 5-6 years old, they should be able to set and clear a table under your supervision after years of consistent instruction.

Show Them How it's Done

At first, when they're really young, it'll be really cute to see them set everything up because they'll do it all wrong and exactly how it makes sense in their little brains. Praise that behavior because they are trying! Over time, teach them the correct way to do things and ask that they pay attention to you as you do it. They'll probably have to watch you do it several times before they pick up on the correct way to set and clear a table.

Make it Fun

Most kids will learn quickly that setting the table is not really fun, and it'll take them away from something that they're already doing that's more fun. For this reason, try your best to make it fun when you're really getting into teaching them these manners. Make it a song or a game somehow. Sometimes it takes manipulating the situation a little bit to lure kids in to teach them.

Put it on Rotation

If you have more than one child, they should all be taught. Start a rotational schedule for setting the table and post it somewhere in the kitchen. For example, Tim will set out plates, knives and forks, Sara will get ice in the glasses, and together they will clear the table and wash the dishes. Also, if possible, have your oldest child teach the younger ones how to do all of this at the appropriate time. This will further instill the values in him or her, and many times younger kids will be more receptive to an older sibling who they look up to.

It's extremely impressive to see children set the table and exhibit good table manners, especially when they're younger. Start teaching them young, make it fun, lead by example and put it on a written chore rotation, and this will come naturally for your children over time.