As we head into the holiday season you might find yourself at a larger than usual number of dinners, which with young children can sometimes be more stressful than anything else. Montessori teaches grace and courtesy as part of the Practical Life curriculum, and there are many lessons that children can learn and practice at home, too! So how can you practice table manners in preparation of those holiday get togethers?
Consider how they can practice grace and courtesy before the meal even starts, by helping to set the table! You can show them how you’d like each place setting to look, and even print off a guide for them to follow. They can practice carrying dishes, pouring water, and folding napkins. Make sure to give them plenty of time before the dinner, and even practice a few nights before.
For other skills like sitting patiently, conversing politely, and eating without too big of a mess it is important to practice a lot and practice early. Start with your family dinners, and make sure you are modeling the behavior you want to see (so no phones at the table!)
In Montessori we like to isolate skills; don’t try to teach everything at once and just focus on one thing at a time. You can have a whole lesson on napkins– how do we fold them, how do we use them, where do we place them and when!
Finally, be understanding of their limitations. Dinner parties are often chaotic, with variables we can’t control for. If things start to go awry avoid yelling or describing what your child shouldn’t do, and instead let them know how you’d like them to behave in positive terms. If they’re starting to run from the table tell them they can be excused once they’ve thanked the host, or if they’re grabbing for more bread remind them that if they say “please” someone will help to pass the bread to them.