Table Manners for Toddlers

Last updated May 2, 2023
By Renae D'Andrea

Table manners for toddlers inevitably are a topic that comes up between parents. When should you enforce table rules? Do kids need to be neat and polite at all times? How can you teach manners?

Adjust Your Expectations

Here’s the thing. Kids are supposed to be messy when they eat! It’s developmental. And not only that, letting them be messy can help to develop their tolerance of textures and flavors. If you’re expecting your toddler to be the model dinner guest at 2 years old, you’re bound for disappointment!

When your toddler is messy, or doesn’t use their utensils, dips things in their water, or all manner of things like that, be prepared. And be okay with it. It is often a phase, and they WILL grow out of it.

The best thing you can do is be neutral about it. If you make a big deal about it and draw a lot of attention to the behaviors, then it will become something they do just to get your attention. We don’t want that! So do your best to ignore it.

Have Boundaries With Table Manners for Toddlers

What we don’t want to see with table manners for toddlers is letting them get away with whatever they want. Throwing things at the table and other behaviors that generally make everyone else at the table miserable are not okay. This goes beyond manners though, and is disruptive behavior. So often we as parents let this stuff slide because we just want them to eat anything. But that is not the way to help them get past this.

When your toddler has disruptive behaviors at the table, I recommend giving a few redirects or warnings. Something like “Throwing food at the table shows me that you’re done eating. Are you done eating?” If your child isn’t done, even if they’re not able to verbally communicate with you, they will likely go back to eating. But if they keep doing it, it’s time to get them down from the table. 

Keeping them at the table so that you can ensure they eat a good meal is going to backfire. Most often when they’re doing these disruptive behaviors it is a way for them to tell you something, like they are not hungry anymore. Trying to keep them at the table to encourage them to eat is not going to help anyone. And it’s certainly not going to result in them eating anything else without a battle about it with you.

Family Table, Family Style

It’s important to have the right mindset when it comes to our family table. It’s not our job to get our children to eat at any cost. That includes letting them stay at the table when they’re throwing tantrums or just generally being disruptive. We want to consider it a privilege to be at the table, not a chore!

In the course Mastering Mealtimes, I take you through all of this step by step. What the difference is between manners that you can let slide and disruptive behaviors that you need to have boundaries with. How you can nip those behaviors in the bud, and how you can put in place a whole system that allows you to be confident that your child is getting all the nutrients they need without needing to result to battles with them.

It will help you create a joyful and stress-free mealtime environment for both you and your child, where you know exactly what to do when it comes to handling table manners for toddlers, Check it out today to start reducing stress with meal times!

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Table Manners for Toddlers || New Ways Nutrition
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