Research indicates that kids can grasp good manners by the time they turn 5.2 Learning good meal-time behaviours and eating healthy are important for children due to the rapid growth and the major developmental changes that they undergo.

You can start teaching table manners to your child when they start eating independently out of the high chair or are old enough to sit with you at table.

It is a good idea to start with the basics like 

  • Washing hands before and after eating

  • They should not reach across the table

  • They should eat from their own plate

  • They should not throw food

  • They should use phrases like please and thank you

  • They should chew the food with their mouth closed

Making Mealtimes Good Times

Mealtime should be a pleasant experience for both you and your child. Although hectic work schedules can make it difficult, try to plan in such a way so that your child does not eat alone.4

Mealtimes give you an opportunity to teach your kids about table manners. You and the other family members can act as role models for teaching good table manners.1,3

Following ideas will help make your mealtimes enjoyable and will help your child learn how to behave while eating:1,2,4

  • When you are introducing your child to new foods, take the opportunity to teach them to politely refuse when they don’t like something.

  • Young children cannot be expected to sit perfectly still through the whole meal, but they can be taught to excuse themselves, rather than interrupt the meal.

  • Never correct manners in an insulting way and always explain to your child why you practice manners.

  • Point out the advantages of good table manners. For instance, it would be difficult for someone to make themselves understood if they are talking with their mouth full.

  • Encourage the use of a spoon, fork, and knife as your child grows and develops.

  • Watch for good manners and praise them.

  • Keep mealtime pleasant. Keep the conversation light-hearted and positive.

  • Remind your child gently when they make a mistake, but don’t make an issue out of it.

  • You can make a rule about not using tech devices and phones at the table. Lead by example.

Letting your child help

Age-appropriate motor skills can be nurtured by encouraging your child to clear their dishes and utensils from the table.


  1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Teaching Good Table Manners to Kids [Internet]. Available at: Accessed on Feb 27, 2020.
  2. Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia. Toddlers and mealtime manners. [Internet]. Available at: Accessed on Feb 27, 2020.
  3. U.S. Public Health Service. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ABCs of safe and healthy child care a handbook for child care providers [Internet]. Available at: file:///C:/Users/dhwan/Downloads/cdc_23148_DS1.pdf. Accessed on Feb 27, 2020.
  4. University of Illinois Extension. Dealing with Toddlers- What Will We Eat Today [Internet]. Available at: Accessed on Feb 27, 2020.