A Fun Way to Teach Table Manners to Kids

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 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 fun game.

Please note: The old version (pictured above) of this game has changed and the newly updated version is not free. We decided to go with a more positive twist to it so I redid the whole thing. But I bet you’ll still enjoy doing this fun activity of Look Who is Not Pigging out! to encourage table manners at the dinner table in a fun way.

Explain The Manners You Expect to See

In order for me not to sound like a tape-recorder, I decided to post on our dining room wall our Table Manners poster.

When they were little I had them each takes turns reminding us what our table manners are before we eat.  Sometimes I still need to do that and they are older. 🙂 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 of 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 at the table.

It gets frustrating being the manners police and I definitely don’t want that title. With this game, it helps keep it fun so I don’t have to be the “manners police”.  Because they are reminding each other.

It’s important that you explain to your children what manners you expect at the table. Here are the ones we encourage at our table Table Manners Poster.

How the Game “Look Who is Not Pigging Out!” Works

Your kids will love calling you out on your bad manners and if your manners are impeccable you might want to encourage them at the beginning by “slipping up” and letting them catch you not having good manners. Then you can say, “Mommy needs to work on her manners so she can get a “Manner Monkey!”

After you share with your kids what manners you expect at the table you can explain the term”pigging out”. Let them know it’s when you’re making a mess with food or stuffing your face which is not good table manners.  You can also play it without the piggies or monkeys and just use marbles, cotton balls, or popsicle sticks.

I know my boys 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.

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…

So the goal of the game is for everyone to remember to use their manners at least one and hopefully by the end of the month it’s 3! When your child is handed a “Proper Pig” or “Manners Monkey” stick, you can say, “Great job being a Manners Monkey! or “Look who is not pigging out!”

Explain to your kids that it is not okay to say — He is pigging out! Though it’s not name-calling it will encourage negativity if they start saying this.

Making Dinner Time Fun

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 like to pull out  Family Time Dinner Games.

We also have a time of just chatting and getting to know each other. Our simple prompt is–Share your happy and hard for the day. We use to say, “Share your best and worst.” But then those words became too extreme.

I also 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

Supplies:

  • Look Who is Not Pigging Out! Game printable HERE
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Jar

1. Explain that we are looking for the good! We want to celebrate those who are using their manners. Those who are being Proper Pigs or Manner Monkeys.

2. Then remind them of the manners you expect to see at the table. Stick to 2 or 3 if they are young.

3. Print and cut out your piggies and monkeys for your “Looks Who is NOT Pigging Out? game.

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

5. At dinner time place your jar in the middle of the table and when you see someone using their manners give them a Proper Piggie or a Manners Monkey and say, “Great job for using your manners!” They are responsible for pointing out the great manners being used at the table. But if they are struggling you can chime in with your affirmation.
You can start off by encouraging a small number of sticks. For example, at a meal, you can tell them they need to get 1 stick or however many you think they are capable of getting.

6. At the end of dinner whoever has the most popsicle sticks wins!  In our house, we don’t give out prizes or consequences just lots of positive affirmations.  This helps alleviate the competitive streak in our boys. But if incentives help your kids, you can give them a prize. Something simple like pick the dessert for the night.  Remind them that the goal is for them to remember to use their manners.

You can start off with no prizes or consequences and just say whoever has 1 popsicle sticks at the end of dinner wins or don’t say anything at all and just congratulate those who got popsicle sticks and encourage those who didn’t!

Remember anything new that you introduce to your children needs to be done for at least 2 weeks in order for it to start becoming a routine.

Remind them it’s okay if they don’t get any “Proper Piggies or Manners Monkeys” they can always try again at the next meal. The more they practice the more they will remember their good manners 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.

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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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  9. Instead of a pig or pigs, we use a “Proper Penguin” If they are caught using good manners they get the “Proper Penguin” and then they have the responsibility to point out when someone else is being “Proper” and give them the penguin. It helps to keep things positive as well as allowing them to look for the good in others.

    • love this. I would use both ideas but unfortunately I cannot figure out how to print the piggies page or a penguin page on Pinterest. 🙁