7 Simple Ways to Teach Manners and Etiquette to Children

“Let’s play Fancy Restaurant, Mommy!” 3 ½ year old Eva suggested before dinner.

“How do you play Fancy Restaurant?” her mother asked her.

Eva went on to describe all the things her teacher taught her with the roll out of the Proud to be Polite curriculum, a new curriculum component at Stepping Stone School in Austin, Texas.

Saying please and thank you, using napkins instead of sleeves, and how to set a table properly are just a few ways Eva is learning etiquette and manners at age 3!

Fancy Restaurant” is one of the many ways to teach and practice polite behaviors at home.  Consider the following:

  1. Model etiquette. You are your child’s first teacher. When you model daily conversations conducted in a polite manner, you demonstrate how to treat others and your child will imitate that behavior.  When playing together, practice taking turns and saying “please” and “thank you” during your play.   Saying, “May I please have a block? Thank you.” teaches your child polite behaviors in an age-appropriate setting.
  2. Teach manners directly. Teach children how to ask for something using phrases like, “May I please….” And to say “Thank you” after receiving an item. Infants and young toddlers can practice these phrases by using American Sign Language.  Teach beyond the behavior by explaining to children the “why” behind manners. We are polite as a form of respect and kindness to those around us. We say “thank you” to show our gratitude.
  3. Keep expected behaviors age appropriate. Sitting politely should be expected for children, but the amount of time sitting will change depending on the child’s age.  Additionally, sometimes it is helpful to focus on one etiquette area at a time based on the age of your child.
  4. Establish expectations. After teaching a set of manners, expect children to follow these behaviors. Give specific praise when your child uses manners and etiquette without reminders.  “You said ‘please’ without me having to remind you. Thank you!”
  5. Provide appropriate consequences when proper etiquette is not followed. If a child is acting rudely on a playdate, suggest the playdate end and explain the reason for ending it early to your child. If your child forgets to use his manners, prompt your child, or pause before giving them the item they asked for to remind your child to utilize polite behaviors.
  6. Role play polite behaviors. Games like “Fancy Restaurant” involve imagining yourselves eating in an upscale dining establishment. Take it to the extreme by dressing up for the occasion, setting a full place setting at each spot on the table, and of course practice courteous mannerisms, polite dinner conversation, and perfect table etiquette.   Introduce polite greetings, by pretending to go to the doctor’s office.  Model through your play, what to do when you greet someone.  Then switch roles, so your child can practice the same skills.
  7. Read books about manners. Many children’s books feature social skills and manners.  Karen Katz’s, Excuse Me! A Little Book of Manners is directed towards older infants and toddlers. Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller and Madeline says Merci by John Bemelmans Marciano are wonderful books for preschoolers and early elementary age.  My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook and Dude, That’s Rude by Pamela Espeland are great for elementary aged children.  Reading these together and talking about the behaviors demonstrated by the characters provides opportunities for children to learn from the mistakes and accomplishments of others.

Manners and etiquette are not only valuable to learn at a young age, they are essential to living, working, and succeeding in everyday life.  Children learning these skills will set themselves apart from their peers.  Stepping Stone School is committed to teaching manners and etiquette to support the social and emotional well-being of every child.



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Age Groups:

Advanced Pre-K

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