You would prefer that your preschooler behave in a way that makes your cheeks glow with pride rather than burn with embarrassment, but raising a well-mannered child takes time and effort. You can help your child develop good manners such as politeness, respectfulness and taking turns by consistently role-modeling well-mannered behavior. You can also help your child learn specific skills such as how to use polite phrases and pleasant greetings through fun activities such as board games and role play.
Teddy Table Manners Role Play
Once your child has mastered polite table manners at home, you can enjoy dining in restaurants or in the homes of family and friends. Set realistic expectations for a preschooler's table manners. A little mess is inevitable, but basic table rules such as hand-washing, eating with her mouth closed and saying "Please" and "Thank you" are essential. To practice table etiquette, role-play a teddy's tea party in a cafe where only teddies with good manners are allowed to order food and eat in. Encourage your child to act the part of a waiter who shows and tells the teddies how to behave.
Chutes and Ladders Manners Game
This is a variation of the Manners Board Game that is described by family therapist Ron Huxley at the Parenting Toolbox website. Divide a large square of card stock into 25 equal squares by drawing lines with a pen and ruler. Write the numbers from one to 10 from left to right across the bottom of the board. Write the numbers from 11 to 20 from right to left on the next row up and then continue to alternate the direction of each row of numbers until you reach number 25. Draw some chutes and ladders onto the board. Write an example of polite manners onto each square at the bottom of each ladder and an example of poor manners onto each square at the top of each chute. Use a dice and counters to move along the board until someone reaches the finish.
After uttering an immediate "thank you" for a present, your child can show appreciative manners by making a thank-you card for the gift-giver. Encourage creative skills and help your child recognize the gift-giver's interests, too. For example, if grandma gave your child a paint set, you could let your child use the paints to make a card. If grandma likes flowers, your child could paint large colorful flowers on the front. Write a couple of sentences for your child that say why she appreciates the gift. For example, "I love this present, Grandma, because I love painting!"
Polite Puppet Questioner Game
Huxley suggests the Greeting People Game that encourages children to look out for cues to a person's interests and ask relevant questions about them. A fun variation of this game is to use a puppet as the questioner who asks your child polite and relevant questions. For example, the puppet notices that your child is looking at a book about dinosaurs and asks her whether she has a favorite dinosaur. Make the game even more appealing by using a funny voice for the puppet and swap roles to let your child become the puppet questioner.
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