What is the benefit to my child from
sitting at the table for meals?
The answer is simple. A lot! I shall divide mealtimes into three areas as
each one of them is important.
Here you child can learn to set the table. If they do this incorrectly, help them by giving them some tips to remember. Set the table as formally as possible. Lay either a table cloth on the table or use table mats. If you are having dessert, show them the spoon’s position and which way the handle points. Place serving utensils, serving mats, serviettes, jug with juice or water, salt and pepper on the table. After a while they will be able to remember where to place all the items without any assistance. Praise them. For slightly older children, they can make paper tablemats, menus and small flower decorations. Again, praise them.
Your child can also help with the preparation of the meal. Look for the tasks that can involve them so that they are successful and praise them. Some ideas: place the cut potatoes in the pot; measure items; get items needed during the cooking process onto the kitchen table and put them away afterwards. Keep them away from the hot stove and knives. They can help with the cooking as they get older.
The meal itself
your child needs to learn how to sit at a table correctly, feet on the ground (or dangling), on their bottoms with just their wrists on the table – no elbows. Teach them to use all the utensils correctly especially the knife. Whilst eating, one can have family discussions. Ask your child about their lessons, their friends, their sport and any activities that are happening at school. Chat about things happening around the world. Ask your children’s opinions and let them listen to the adults’ opinions too.
Only accept good language and no below-the-belt jokes. Your children learn how to conduct themselves in this way and this is crucial should they be invited to a friend’s house or when they go to a restaurant. Our children are watching the example we set. Children acquire incidental knowledge from their parents as well as the values of the family. Through the conversations around the table, your children learn communication and everyone shares everything that is happening in the family’s life. Your children will learn to create lovely evenings for when they are grown-ups.
One adult serves the food and the children join in with the prayer or wait till the ‘head’ of the table gives permission for everybody to start. Should the children be finished eating first, they remain seated at the table and wait for all to finish. Only when the meal is over are the children allowed to leave and only after permission. The correct etiquette is that the table is only cleared when everyone has completed their meal.
Too often children do not partake in the running of the household. They need to learn that it takes team-work to run a house. They can collect the cutlery, mats or age appropriate items and if each person clears away one or two items, the task is completed quickly. If you are washing the crockery by hand, let them wash certain items or let them dry the items that won’t break should they get dropped. It will take longer but your child will enjoy the activity and once again the family is doing something together. Whilst this activity takes place, you will find that the conversation with your children will continue.
Do not watch TV whilst you are eating.
Children tend to be more interested in the programme than their food and meal times take longer. Also, parents are watching the show and not helping their children should their children err in their table manners. One could have a ‘TV meal ‘over the week-end as a treat. For the rest of the week, tape the programmes and watch them together at a certain time either before or after meals.
The question is simply answered...
Where does one’s child learn how to eat correctly, sit correctly and learn proper table etiquette? From practising at home.
Too often we sit around the television, no conversation takes place and as we eat on our laps, our children have little practice in learning to use the table utensils correctly and eat properly. When our children visit friends who do sit at the table, they are at a disadvantage.
Enjoy your family meal together!