Elusive restaurant manners. Teaching kids to mind their P’s & Q’s.

Teaching your kids restaurant manners can be a frustrating and seemingly futile task. It wasn’t until my kids were about 4 and 5 year olds that I felt comfortable taking them out to eat—and even then, all the stars had to be in alignment to have a breakdown-free experience. But I think I may have found away to instill good restaurant behavior in my kids, while simultaneously tricking them into having fun.

I know, I know, you’ve heard this tip a million times before. But honestly, I’ve been trying it lately, and it really works!

Next dinnertime, announce to the family that you’ll be “eating out” tonight. But you won’t really be going anywhere….


Have the kids ready themselves for a night out on the town! Faces clean, hands washed, properly attired? Everyone’s ready to go!

Set up your dinner table like a restaurant and then role play the entire eating-out experience from beginning to end. For some reason, when kids are requested to use their manners in public, they’ll often clam up and curl themselves around your leg. But it’s a lot less intimidating at home—and when you make a silly game out of exaggerating uber-gracious manners and refined behavior, it’s actually fun for them!

Very quickly, they’ll be oozing etiquette and you’ll wonder where all these social graces have been hiding.


Greet them at the door (say hello to them and remind them to respond with a friendly greeting). Show them to their table. Offer up menus (put your artistic skills to work by creating simple menus using printer paper and some magic markers—of course, however, there will only be one thing on the menu and it’s whatever you got cookin’!).

Then, get the kids involved by having them take turns pretending to be the server, the food runner (that’s the food delivery person for those of you not in the restaurant biz), the bus person and the check deliverer. What should the staff say? What should the diners say? Play out different scenarios and discuss which ones are appropriate and which ones are not.


The key to this trick is that the kids think it’s a game. Pretend play is super fun for kids, but it teaches them by doing! Get crazy with the pleases, thank yous and you’re welcomes. If it’s overkill at home, you’ll at least get the minimum while out in public.

Bon appétit!

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