Award-Winning Author | Manners Expert | Mom
Do you know why forks go on the left?
To 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.)
Teach 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.
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 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.