A Fun Way to Teach Table Manners to Kids & Free Printable

Here’s a Fun Way to Teach Table Manners to Kids & Free Printable for the whole family!

Table Manners Game

“Stop chewing with your mouth open. Can you please stop smacking? You need to stay seated. Can you stop complaining about what’s being served. Your food goes to your mouth, not your face to your plate…”  Sound familiar?

Dinner is supposed to be the place where we connect as a family but when I find myself saying these things over and over again for 45 minutes it’s all BUT connecting and peaceful.

I have one child in particular who just can’t remember any of his table manners.

Every meal.

EVERYDAY–it’s the same thing over and over again.

I feel bad that I’m always directing all of our table etiquette reminders to him.  So, I decided to come up with a Table Manners poster to put up on our wall in the dining room and I’d just have them each take turns reminding us what our table manners are before we eat. When someone is not following them, I’d just ask him to read it again.  My hope is that they will eventually self-correct since they are the ones reminding themselves and not me. Which actually it’s already happening in baby steps.

We had our table manners poster up for months but for some reason I took it down and then I lost it so after several frustrating meals, I decided to make another one in hopes for a peaceful meal.   At my  house, I’m the one who makes a big deal about having table manners. Seriously when I’m in the kitchen and my hubby and the boys are at the table  by themselves–I hear all sorts of atrocities.

So it’s become my “job” to remind them of what’s appropriate to do at the table.  It gets frustrating being the manners police and I definitely don’t want that title. With this game it helps so I don’t have to be the “manners police”what happens instead is they remind each other. I also created a Table Manners Poster that you can print off, but for now enjoy playing this fun game of–Who’s Pigging Out? To make encouraging table manners at the dinner table more fun.

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You’re kids will love calling you out on your bad manners and if you’re manners are impeccable you might want to encourage them at the beginning by “slipping up” and letting them catch you not having good manners.  They’ll love catching mommy & daddy slipping up.  Also, make sure your kids know that this is not a name calling game–we are not calling people pigs but the term “pigging out” means that we are making a mess or stuffing our face which is not good table manners.  You can also play it without the piggies and just use marbles, cotton balls or popsicle sticks.

I know for my boys they don’t even realize they are chewing with their mouth open or that they are hovering over their food. So this game helps point out what they need to work on but in a fun way. I know in theory it would be nice if we didn’t have to correct our children and once we told them something they would remember it and then apply it. But unfortunately, that’s not the case for most kids. It takes years of training, encouraging and reminding them simple things like flushing the toilet after using it or not to interrupt others…

When your child is handed a “piggie stick” they may realize what they did that needed correction but if they don’t, you can gently say, “It’s okay bud remember practicing our manners will help you remember to not talk with your mouth open.”  If your kids are older and the piggy popsicle sticks embarrass them then leave out the piggy faces and find a way to inform them they are not using their manners without bringing a lot of attention to them.  You can place the pepper on the side of their plate and then just point to what they are doing.

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Make dinner time more than a manners lesson

One of the things we do to make our time more fun at the dinner table and not just focus on manners is we play games, this is one of our favorites my boys likes to pull out is Family Time Dinner Games I bought when they were little. We also have a time of just chatting and getting to know each other and more about our day. I usually just come up with my own questions but if you’re looking for a set of cards here’s a few good ones Chat Pack for Kids and I have used this one on road trips and while waiting in traffic–Would Your Rather cards.

A Fun Way to Teach Table Manners to Kids & Free Printable

Table Manners game for kids

Supplies:

  • piggy printable (see below to download for free)
  • popsicle sticks
  • jar

1. Print and cut out your piggies for your Who’s Pigging Out? game Download here: table manners game

2. Glue them to a popsicle stick and place them in a jar.

3. At dinner time place your jar in the middle of the table and when you see someone “pigging out”  not having good manners then give them a piggy popsicle stick. Update: 6/28 I love when our readers share their ideas of how they make our activities or ideas work for their family. One reader shared that instead of focusing on what needs improvement they focused on the good manners they are in fact practicing. You can write on each stick something they are doing well like, “using their napkin” or chewing with their mouth clothes”. Then hand those out throughout the meal. So, now they’ll want to collect more sticks.

4. Back to our normal way of using the piggies. At the end of dinner whoever doesn’t have any popsicle sticks wins!  In our house, we don’t give out prizes or consequences.  It helps alleviate the competitive streak in our boys. But if incentives help, you can give them a prize like they get to pick the dessert for the night or eat dessert first.  If your kids are at the age where they can wash dishes on their own, you can have them do the dishes if they end up with the most pigs. In our family, we are staying away from prizes and consequences since our goal is to just help them notice the bad manners they are using.

You can start off with no prizes or consequences and just say whoever doesn’t have any popsicle sticks at the end of dinner wins or don’t say anything at all and just congratulate those who didn’t get any popsicle sticks and encourage those who did!

(Update 4/15–I had a reader share the following: “On a positive note, I did see them trying to have better manners. On the negative side, they are always so competitive, and this got intense with one getting really mad that he got a pig, and then trying to put the pig back in the jar, or denying that he wasn’t using good manners. Each brother was trying to call out the others as to what they were doing wrong, and they kept arguing…  :( Any advice?)


I’m so glad she shared this because at the beginning it was intense at our house when we started this fun game.  But stick to it for more than a week and they will get use to it. Just as a reader mentioned, the kids were trying to put the pig back in the jar.  What we did was let them put the piggies they were receiving in the middle of the table instead of putting it near their plate because for whatever reason having it that far from them, helped. Now, my older boys are used to it but my preschooler still has to do that. Also, we reminded them that what they were doing by arguing at the table was not good manners. So, I encourage you from the get go, set some rules in place like no putting piggies back in the jar, no name calling, no throwing piggies across the room…  Remind them it’s okay that they got a piggy because the more we practice the more we will remember what the good manners are at the table.  Also, what will help tons is don’t give out prizes or consequences as this will only create more competition. In our home, we don’t give prizes or consequences for getting or not getting any piggies. Remind them that it’s important to be good sports and feel free to use incentives at the beginning to help them be good sports about the whole thing.

Other ideas to help with table manners and etiquette!

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    • Hi Emma,

      I’ve officially been doing this for two weeks now and it’s worked amazingly well. Yes, I had not even thought about it in a school setting but it would work wonderfully there too. Plus, I’ve always liked when my kids preschool teachers reminded them of their manners, for some reason it carries more weight. LOL Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. Hi! I did this game slightly differently. Rather than focus on what a child is doing wrong, I wanted to focus on “catching” them do something RIGHT! So, instead of writing out the “wrong” thing they did, instead on each piggy I wrote something that showed GOOD table manners. Ideas are: Used the fork in the left hand, Said “excuse me”, “said please”, etc.

    • Paula, That’s awesome that you made it work for your family! Thanks so much for sharing as I’m sure our readers can always use other ideas on how to tweak it.
      By the way I noticed you said, “write out the wrong” I’m not sure what you mean since we don’t do any writing wrongs in the activity above but I do love your idea of writing something that showed good table manners on the piggy!

      Thanks! ~mari

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