Introduce your kids to restaurant etiquette during off-peak hours when you won't disrupt other customers.

Restaurant Etiquette for Kids

by Christina Schnell

You hope to make it through a meal without anyone crying or bleeding into the bread basket. Whether you're dining at the fast-food drive-in joint or an upscale bistro, taking little ones to a restaurant can cause sweat to bead on even the most patient parent's forehead. Teaching your children proper restaurant etiquette isn't impossible, but with instruction and persistence, you can avoid being that table that all the other restaurant patrons glare at.

1. Vocal Etiquette

Kids need to learn that the screeching, booming sounds and noises they make on the playground aren't appropriate when eating at a restaurant. Soft voices are best, but be prepared to practice beforehand, since most toddlers and preschoolers don't automatically understand what it means to speak quietly. Aside from adjusting the volume of their speech, your kids should also refrain from burping, growling, blowing raspberries, or otherwise using their mouth to make unpleasant noises at the table.

2. Hand Etiquette

You don't want your kids pawing through spilled sugar or tearing up napkins into confetti. Fingers should also stay out of condiment jars, and out of noses. Playing with food, especially toward the tail end of a meal, usually indicates a full tummy. Of course, realistically, no toddler or preschooler can sit perfectly still with hands folded for an entire meal, which is why your should always have a small toy car or doll on hand for keeping little hands occupied and out of forbidden places.

3. Movement Etiquette

Children shouldn't treat a restaurant like a playground. Ideally, your kids would remain in their high chairs or booster seats during the meal and ask for items to be passed instead of leaning across the table. Under no circumstances should they be climbing across the table or under the table, and racing around the restaurant is also impolite. Not only is using the restaurant aisles as a racetrack disruptive to the other patrons, but knocking into piping hot soup or a heavy serving tray can seriously injure a small child.

4. Eating Etiquette

Your little ones will often need reminders about proper eating manners, and reinforcing these etiquette rules at home can help. Show your child how to place the napkin in her lap and signal her as needed throughout the meal to wipe her face. Children should chew with their mouths closed and use utensils unless they're eating finger food. Don't let children play with their food or make crazy concoctions out of the condiments, even if it does keep them busy and quiet while you're finishing up.

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