Teaching Your Child to Set the Table

Teaching Kids to Set the Table (image)

Beth Brainard (image)Beth Brainard
Award-Winning Author | Manners Expert | Mom

Do you know why forks go on the left?

ForksTo make eating simpler and more organized. Centuries ago a French courtier discovered that it is easier to concentrate on eating if one doesn’t have to look around for one’s fork or knife at each meal. Viola! systematized table setting was born.

To this day the rules of dining etiquette – which include placing the forks, knives, and spoons in the same place – are designed to eliminate confusion and make meals as easy and enjoyable as possible for everyone at the table.

Why am I telling you this?  Because, Mom, you’re going to need this info when you begin to teach your kids to set the table and they ask WHY things have to be done a certain way. Make your case by telling your child that:

  • putting dishes, glasses, napkins, and flatware in the same place each time keeps down the confusion at mealtime. (No surprises.)
  • putting forks, spoons, and knives in the same place each time makes it easy to see if someone, say you, is missing your fork before the meal begins. (No last minute hassle.)
  • the table looks nicer, which makes the meal more pleasant since people enjoy food with their eyes as well as their tummies. (Everyone’s happy.)

Table-SettingTeach your child to set a casual place setting like the one in the picture.  Forks on the left on top of the napkin, plate in the middle, then the knife (blade in) and spoon. Make it a puzzle game or a race against a timer – the more fun the better.

Once your child has the idea, let him set the dinner table.  Be sure to check his work and help him make any corrections before others come to the table.

Remember that kids take to praise like chips take to guacamole, so acknowledge his efforts once your family is gathered around the table.

Bon appetit!

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below! Do your children set the table before dinner time?

Drawings are from Soup Should Be Seen, Not Heard! and cannot be reproduced without written permission from the author.

This post was originally posted on the now-defunct Mom’s Choice Matters blog on 7/10/2013. Etiquette doesn’t go out of style, so we re-posted it here on our new blog!

About Beth Brainard

Beth Brainard (image)Beth Brainard writes manners and life skills books for kids, teaches etiquette classes for children and young adults, and speaks to parenting groups and organizations. Etiquette IQ is her specialty! Learn more about her award-winning book Soup Should Be Seen, Not Heard here.

Over the course of her career Beth ran a consulting firm specializing in social and corporate protocol, created and taught a K-5 etiquette curriculum, hosted a radio talk show for parents called “Kids Don’t Come With an Owner’s Manual,” and participated in the formation of the Josephson Institute’s K-12 Character Counts! program.

To put her sons through college she served as a Director of Communications for divisions of Disney World and Harvard University. Beth is a graduate of Harvard University and lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Paul. They have LOTS of kids.

View all posts by Beth Brainard here.



0 Comments on “Teaching Your Child to Set the Table”

  1. The grandkids always set the table when they are over for dinner, since there are 6 of them they take turns setting different things upon the table

  2. That’s a great idea. I definitely need to start teaching my kids this. I really enjoyed this article. I think they would actually like setting the table since they already try helping me with things around the house

    1. Glad you liked this Regina! And we’re so glad to hear that it’s inspired you to go over some of this with the kids! It’s really nice that they like helping you around the house. Hope that lasts when they are teens! LOL

  3. This is a really nice post. The info about the French courtier bit was certainly interesting and really made sense! I believe that getting the kids to set up the table is a simple way to ease them into having responsibilities. It’s also important that they understand the reason behind these tasks. And, I agree with you, adding in some fun makes a huge difference, especially with the little ones! I’m definitely sharing these small facts you wrote about. I’m sure they’ll be interested and would want to know more.

    1. Yes, Janice! We definitely agree with you about it being one of the simplest ways to teach kids some household responsibilities. Setting the table is very easy to learn, and it can make kids feel like they have a role around the house, even at a very young age. Thanks for the comment!

  4. My granddaughter loves setting the table when she visited and now after a couple of years at just 10 she can set up a table beautifully.

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