Adult Birthday Ideas / BLOGGING / Game Night Ideas / PARTY / Summer Ideas / Thanksgiving Ideas

how to teach dinner party manners to kids

With fall coming fast upon us, our schedules have become more and more filled with birthday parties, dinners, evening gatherings, and a myriad of other table activities all necessitating that my three year olds act like they know how to behave in public situations. Thankfully, we’ve actually worked quite a bit on honing the kids party manners behind the scenes. Here’s how we’ve done it.

We have what we’ve affectionately coined around here as “manners on” and “manners off” nights. The idea is simple – most nights we just have a normal dinner, like every other family has. About 90% of our meals are just served up as is, no fanfare whatsoever.

But, about once a week, we host a “manners on” meal. This meal is practice – and practice is what a toddler needs if you’d like them to behave a certain way. We practice sitting at the table with our backs straight. We lay out the utensils and choose the correct one for the dish in front of us. We eat slowly and politely, and even practice our dinner conversation with each other. We all sit at the table until everyone is done and practice what it means to be polite at a dinner party.

Another night during the week we tell the kid’s it is “manners off” and they can act like complete three year-olds! Apart from flying food, we try not to correct many issues on these nights. Sometimes it’s pizza in front of the TV, or pasta at the table that ends up everywhere (how do they do that!?!). We let them use the utensils they are comfortable with, and we all make a point to be quite laid back.

The whole process has become great fun and they love practicing their manners. When we go out to a party, or dinner at a friends house, we quietly whisper to them that this is a “manners on” meal and they instantly know how to act. They aren’t perfect (and that isn’t the point of it anyway), but they are learning the importance of manners in social situations in a fun way. They are also learning what it means to relax and have a blast when it is time for that. It is the perfect mesh of my husband’s background and mine.


  • trina
    September 18, 2012 at 7:52 am

    LOVE this! Such a great idea and such fun pictures! xo . trina

  • Tan
    September 18, 2012 at 8:00 am

    This is so perfect! You’ve made table manners into a game, and with the cute wording and the lower frequency of ‘manners on’, it makes that chance to practice their manners fun. Now what kid can say that!? Parenting A+

    • Victoria
      September 18, 2012 at 9:51 am

      Tan, thanks! That was our goal: to make it something they would see value in and enjoy.

  • corrie anne
    September 18, 2012 at 8:31 am

    That sounds fun! I wonder if my husband would let me have a manners off meal?!

  • Amanda Joy
    September 18, 2012 at 9:36 am

    You know, that is really great. I love a wonderful parenting tip that sounds doable.

  • meghan beck
    September 18, 2012 at 9:44 am

    What a great idea. My three year old twins usually use good manners RIGHT UP until mealtime. Then I’m cranky and they feed off of it. I like this idea a lot! Thanks for sharing. And adorable photos!

    • Victoria
      September 18, 2012 at 9:52 am

      Meghan, I can totally be cranky at meal time too:) Making a game out of anything I think helps this age get into it- and helps me too! Let me know if you try it and how it goes.

  • Ashley @ Any Lovely Thing
    September 18, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Oh, I love this practice and it’s probably just as beneficial to the parents for a weekly refresher.


  • melissa
    September 18, 2012 at 10:17 am

    this is brilliant! kudos on making manners fun.

  • Lena
    September 18, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Such a terrific idea! My parents traveled with us, and by extension we ate at some pretty nice restaurants, so we learned very quickly that if we wanted to hang with the grown ups and eat the good food, we’d better behave!

  • Alycia (Crowley Party)
    September 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    LOVE this!

  • Haylee
    September 18, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    This is such a good idea, I want to remember this when I have kids. Heck I want to have a “manners off” meal once a week now! ha that sounds fun.

  • sloane
    September 18, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Love this! The photos really put a smile on my face and the tips are awesome. :)

  • Jennifer
    September 18, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    What a great and fun idea! I don’t have kids myself, but a lot of my friends struggle with this same problem. It’s amazing that your 3 year olds already have an idea of dinner-party manners. It’s so adorable!

  • […] how to teach dinner party manners to kids – 1 freebie(s)? […]

  • Mar
    September 19, 2012 at 6:23 am

    I love the idea! And the photos!

  • Brett Bralley Jaillet
    September 19, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Love this! I remember my mom doing her own version of this when we were little. I especially remember how sad I was that spaghetti nights turned into learning nights: how to properly twirl your spaghetti in case we had to eat it in a restaurant or at other people’s homes. :)

  • Dena
    September 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    My sister did this when my niece was little, the nights when they did “manners off” were called ‘pirate manners.’ My niece once said the only good thing about when Mommy was sick were the nights of non-stop pirate manners.

    • Victoria
      September 20, 2012 at 6:15 am

      Dena, I love that! My son would totally get into calling it pirate manners. How fun:)

  • Lisa || Happy By
    September 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Somehow when we were little, my brother and I acted like a “lady and gentleman” when we were out or visiting someone or when staying around other people. Of course the total contrast of how we behaved at home. As the times are changing though the premisses are my children will me even more crazy and spoiled than we were, so a little positive discipline and smart teaching would be so helpful. Thank you for sharing this activity of your family :)

  • [email protected] Happened
    September 24, 2012 at 7:50 am

    haha, love the pics! and great tips, too, thanks!

  • A Dinner Party Drawer – A Subtle Revelry
    January 24, 2018 at 4:14 am

    […] PS. Dinner party manners for kids. […]

  • […] PS. My girlies bedroom, More thoughts on Motherhood and How we teach the kids dinner party manners. […]


Leave a Reply