Many families rush through the day from breakfast until bedtime. Taking time out of your busy day for a family meal gives you a chance to reconnect with the kids. It may seem easier to tackle the dinner chores yourself, but setting the table helps your child learn responsibility and contribute to the family. Your child, whether a teen, a middle child or a young child, can learn how to set a table. A little guidance from you helps your little one learn where to place all of the dinnerware for your next meal.
Plan the desired arrangement of the plates, cups and flatware based on what you normally use. Most families don't use the full set of flatware and plates so adapt your arrangement as needed. The generally accepted layout placed the plate in the middle, the fork and napkin to the left of the plate, the knife to the right of the plate, spoon to the right of the knife, and the cup to the upper right of the plate.
Trace onto colored construction paper or decorative scrapbook paper, the components of the dinner table setup -- including the plate, cup, napkin and your flatware. You don't need all the detail on your flatware -- just get a basic outline. Cut out the outlines of the place setting items. You'll need a set of cutouts for each person.
Glue the place setting cutouts onto a large piece of paper to create a place mat that doubles as a table-setting guide. Position the plate, glasses, flatware and napkins where you want your child to place the actual objects on the table. For example, glue the plate shape in the middle with the fork to the left, and the spoon and knife to the right. Laminate the place mat so that it doesn't get ruined.
Explain the layout of the table settings to your child. Point out each item on the place mat so your child knows what each one is.
Practice setting the table using the place mat, so that your child gets the hang of arranging the pieces. For young children, use plastic plates and cups to avoid any broken dishes. Playtime is an easy time to let her practice table setting. For older children, experiment with more advanced place settings such as you would find in formal dinner settings.
Teach your child to count the correct number of plates, cups or drinking glasses and flatware for each meal. Let her set the place mats on the table and place the tableware on top of the place mats.