Table etiquette for kids made simple
By Pauli Antoine
Your family has been invited to a fine dining restaurant. Your children are invited too, but will they be well mannered? Will they be comfortable with the elegant setting? And, will they remember all the table etiquette rules you’ve taught them? Reminding children to always be on their best behavior isn’t easy. How do you do it? The answer is to practice good table manners at home with your children and to remind them gently that we have to be considerate and sensitive to the feelings of others.
Here are some of the questions that my students have raised during our
etiquette coaching sessions, and a few practice tips:
Q. What should I wear to dinner?
A. Know what the restaurant’s dress code is. Will you dine indoors or alfresco? Will it be cold or warm? Bring extra layers of clothing if you get chilly easily. Why follow the dress code? Because it shows respect for the person who invited you and the people around you. ➤ To practice, play dress up and dine at home?
Q. How do I approach the table?
A. Mind your posture and practice walking without dragging your feet. Try not to hold on to the table linen when sitting. ➤ Once seated, don’t forget to sit up straight.
Q. How do I excuse myself from the table?
A. Say “excuse me” and don’t announce to everyone that you’re going to the restroom. Try not to grab the edge of the table when you stand up.
Q. How do I place my hands on the table?
A. Just keep your wrists on the table but never your elbows. When you put your elbows on the table, the tendency is to rest your chin on your hand. It means that you’re bored. Again, you don’t want to offend others. ➤ Remember: wrists always, forearms sometimes, elbows never.
Q. What do I do with my napkin?
A. When unfolding napkins, take your cue from the host. For boys, if the napkin has a buttonhole, you can attach it to a button shirt. If it doesn’t, place the napkin on the right side of your lap and slightly tuck the end underneath your thigh so it doesn’t fall. For girls, place the napkin at the center of your lap. Fold the napkin in half if the napkin is too big.
For good visual poise, the fold should be closer to the table, seams near the waist. Why? So when you pick it up to wipe your mouth, the seams do not show. When you’re done, form your napkin into a drape and tuck it on the left side of the plate. If you have to get up from the table before the end of the meal, fold the napkin and place it on the arm of your chair. ➤ To practice, use table napkins at home rather than paper napkins.
Q.What if the spoon is too big for me?
A. When a spoon is just too big for your tiny mouth, politely ask the waitstaff, “May I have a teaspoon please?”
Q. Which fork and knife do I use?
A. Always start from the outer fork and knife moving towards your plate. Once the silverware is lifted from the table, it should never be placed directly on the table again.
Q. How should I hold my glass?
A. Stick to one glass and hold it firmly at the stem or the base.
Q. Why do I have to eat slowly?
A. It’s healthy to chew food well. Don’t eat too slow or too fast, so your stomach doesn’t get too confused. And don’t forget to close your mouth when chewing.
Q. Why do I have to behave?
A. Our friends and guests are given a place of honor. Being on your best behavior makes them feel happy and welcome. Remember, if you have to scratch or if you have to blow your nose, excuse yourself and leave the table. You can practice by always saying “please” and “thank you” to your helpers at home.
When children are equipped with table etiquette skills, they become confident and learn how to cope well with different situations. Children who learn these skills at a young age tend to practice good manners throughout their lives. ➤ Praise your children, use positive motivation and show them that you are proud of their new learnings.
Do I use my FINGERS or a FORK?
Bread. Break bread with your fingers.
Corn on the cob. Use both hands to eat an ear of corn. Butter and eat only a few rows at a time.
Bacon. If the bacon is crisp, you can use your fingers. Otherwise, use a knife and fork.
Caviar. Spread it on a bite-sized piece of toast and then add condiments such as chopped onions or capers.
Celery, pickles and radishes. Remove them from the serving plate with your fingers and place them on the side of your dinner plate. Take small bites, using your fingers to bring the vegetables to your mouth.
Crabs and lobsters. Start by cracking the shell with a nutcracker and then extract the meat with a seafood fork (that’s the tiny fork with three tines). If you pull out a large piece, cut it with a fork.
Olives. If the olive is pitted, eat it whole. If the olive is large and unpitted, hold it with your fingers and eat it in small bites instead of popping it in your mouth and munching. As for the pit, kiss it into the palm of your hand then deposit it on the edge of your plate.
Potatoes. Eat the inside of a baked potato with a fork. Never mash the potato with your fork.
Spaghetti. The trick is to swirl a little on your fork into a bite-sized portion. Dangling ends will flick the sauce.
Fruits. Use a fork when the fruit is served in slices, or a spoon when they’re in very small pieces. A cherry, a grape or a berry with a stem may be held with your fingers.
A MENU JUST FOR KIDS
Bring your children to the Tivoli and try their new three-course gourmet menu for kids. Mandarin Oriental Manila, Makati Avenue cor. Paseo de Roxas, Makati City, For reservations, call (02) 750-8888 ext. 2431, 2432 or 2433.
Vichyssoise soup or
Multicolor fusilli with truffle sauce
or Salmon parmentier
with creamy spinach
Liquid nitrogen ice cream
Vanilla, chocolate, mango
Special thanks to our models Andie, Bianca, Conrad and Maryah, and the chefs and servers at The Tivoli, Mandarin Oriental Manila. For classes on etiquette, protocol and social graces, contact Etiquette de Manille at (0917) 800-0572 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was published in the April 2012 issue of FOOD Magazine.
Styling and Visual Poise Direction by Pauli Antoine. Photography by Shaira Luna.