Parenting

Got kids with bad manners? These items can help

14 toys and books to teach kids table manners and proper etiquette

Cute little 2.5 year old boy licking some spilled milk of dining table Credit: Getty / zoranm

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Being locked down with our kids may have exposed some serious gaps in their manners. I can't be the only one who realized a few months into quarantine that my kid was seriously behind on proper table etiquette, among other manners deficits. You don’t realize how bad their table manners are when you are tossing them a toasted waffle in the morning and grabbing a Happy Meal on their way to after-school soccer practice. When you’re locked up with them 24/7, you start to realize that maybe there was a reason kids used to be sent to charm school.

A well-mannered child stands out, and for all the right reasons. Since we can’t ship them off to finishing school, here are some of our favorite books and toys to help influence kids to mind their p's and q's—and to help teach them basic manners without them even knowing they’re learning.

1. A tiny tea set

tea
Credit: Tender Leaf Toys

Tea sets are perfect for teaching turn-taking and table manners.

Best for ages: 3 and up
Tea sets are a perfect way to teach kids table manners and turn-taking. This adorable set has hand-sewn teabags and is so sweet it'll make your kids sit up straight and will encourage the kind of behavior that would even make a British grandmother proud. The pretty bird motif will inspire your little one to take their time to sip (as opposed to slug) their tea, and they maybe even take a moment to stop and listen to others during teatime conversations.

Get the birdie tea set at Maisonette for $34.99

2. A set of Elmo books

elmo
Credit: Sesame Street

Elmo is on your side when it's time to teach your little tyke some manners.

Best for ages: 18 months to 4 years
The earlier you start, the easier it will be to instill positive and polite behavior. These cheerful little books make manners fun and we like that each book hits on one specific decorum topic, such as working together, being polite, or taking turns. Whatever self-regulation struggle they may have at the moment, just pull out that book and Elmo will help you navigate through learning, modeling, and discussion.

Get the Sesame Street Manners Books at Amazon for $12.95

3. A game to reinforce good choices

lakeshore
Credit: Lakeshore Learning

A game to reinforce good choices—including good manners.

Best for ages: 6 to 11
Books are great for talking about modeling good behavior, but when kids get a little bit older reading them a book about minding their manners can come off a bit ham-fisted. This game challenges kids to make good choices on their own. It even helps instill safety lessons, like looking both ways before crossing the street, while it also helps them remember how to be polite—even in tricky situations.

Get What Should You Do? A Game of Consequences at Lakeshore Learning for $19.99

4. Got good manners? Bingo!

bingo
Credit: Etsy / Listeningsheep

Good table manners gets you bingo in this printable game!

Best for ages: 4 to 9
Your kid’s table manners got you down? This fun game is geared towards turning ghastly mealtime habits around. This printable bingo game reminds kids of the correct table time behaviors, such as taking small bites, using their utensils properly, and using a napkin. If your kid gets their manners on the right track, they can claim bingo!

Get the printable Table Manners Bingo game at Etsy for $3.00

5. A matching game for good manners

box
Credit: Etsy / iShukrIslamicStoreUK

A matching and memory game that reminds kids how to be polite.

Best for ages: 2 to 8
This game is one part manners tool and one part memory game. You can use it as flashcard reminders for how to behave, or you can use it as turnover matching game where kids pair like cards as a gentle, under-the-radar reminder of proper behavior.

Get the Box of Manners card set at Etsy for $11.74

6. A book to teach royally good social skills

marie
Credit: Vendome Press

These manners are fit for royalty!

Best for ages: 3 and up
While many of us will be happy just to have our kids use a fork properly, it’s still kinda cool to know what sort of manners they should hone should they ever be offered an invitation on a royal yacht. (You never know!) This book by Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece is a fascinating primer on the most upper-class social expectations. If you have a manners-savvy kid (or just one that cares about manners at all) this book is a compendium of how to behave everywhere, from a playground playdate to high society social engagements.

Get Manners Begin at Breakfast: Modern Etiquette for Families at Amazon for $17.95

7. A little flip book of polite behavior

excuseme
Credit: Grosset & Dunlap

This flip book shows the right way to ask for something and to wait your turn for the littlest learners.

Best for ages: 2 to 5
Toddlers will love this colorful picture book that makes learning proper etiquette fun and age-appropriate. Each page takes them through scenarios of sharing and asking for things appropriately, and liftable flaps reveal the right way to act, including waiting their turn and saying “please” and “thank you.”

Get Excuse Me: A Little Book of Manners at Amazon for $11.11

8. A silly book of lessons by an interrupting chicken

chicken
Credit: Penguin Putnam

When a little chicken just can't wait their turn to talk (or cluck).

Best for ages: 4 to 8
Is a constantly-interrupting child getting your nerves frazzled? This silly book puts interrupting in perspective for even the most talkative kid. A humorous book about teaching children the importance of waiting their turn to speak, this book turns classic fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel on their head as Little Red Chicken interrupts their dad at every page. Kids will laugh their way through learning important lessons about keeping silent until it's their turn to talk.

Get Interrupting Chicken at Amazon for $7.99

9. Goldilocks for Dinner

gold
Credit: Random House

A hilarious telling of what happens when trolls try to teach Goldilocks how to have a sit-down dinner.

Best for ages: 4 to 8
Goldilocks is truly the grand dame of bad behavior! In this book Goblin and Troll decide that children are just downright rude and they are out to find the rudest one of all and have her for dinner—only because she’s so darn incorrigible she doesn’t understand the invite! This irreverent spin on teaching good behavior borrows classic characters and familiar fairy tale faces that kids will love seeing in a new setting.

Get Goldilocks for Dinner at Bookshop for $16.55

10. A book on how kids "otter" behave

otter
Credit: Square Fish Press

A whole book on how you "otter" behave around people.

Best for ages: 4 to 8
When a family of otters move next door to Mr. Rabbit, he gets nervous and—honestly—pretty rude about having people next door he doesn't know anything about. The wise Mr. Owl advises that he, “Treat otters the same way you’d like them to treat you.” This is a fun book about how to live in harmony with others with kindness and consideration, and about making new friends even when they appear to be different from you.

Get Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners at Amazon for $8.99

11. A book about how your behavior impacts other

What
Credit: Two Lions Press

Little actions make a big impact in this book.

Best for ages: 4 to 8
Sometimes it's hard to see why manners matter. This book teaches how our actions relate to one another and not only how to be more polite and considerate, but why it's important. This book shows how little actions can build up to big consequences, so it not only teaches kids proper etiquette and social skills, it shows how their choices can make for a bigger positive—or negative—impact.

Get What if Everybody Did That? at Amazon for $7.88

12. A book that tells tweens "that's rude! (dude)"

Dude
Credit: Free Spirit Publishing

Hey, dude! Don't be rude.

Best for ages: 8 to 13
If you’ve got a tween that can use a manners overhaul, these funny cartoons may actually get them interested in learning how to make some behavioral changes. This book takes on the considerable challenge of teaching a tough age how to better engage and be considerate. It covers the basics of polite behavior in a range of situations—including the bathroom, answering the phone, going to the mall, and more.

Get Dude, That's Rude at Amazon $9.99

13. A year's worth of tips for better social skills

365
Credit: Ten Speed Press

365 days of positive lessons to make for a better mannered kid!

Best for ages: 3 and up
Perfect for the parent who likes to incorporate a little play into life lessons, this book breaks down essential social guidance into small daily tips to remind kids to mind their manners every day.

We like that this helpful guidebook recommends what ages to introduce each topic and follows up with activities and games that families can do together to make good social skills a family affair. This book has been around for a while, but it’s been updated with 21st-century considerations like “netiquette” for social media.

Get 365 Manners Kids Should Know at Bookshop for $15

14. A tray for teaching table manners

break
Credit: Tender Leaf Toys

Thanks to this adorable breakfast tray, kiddos can learn how to set a table and hold a knife and fork perfectly.

Best for ages: 3 to 7
Thanks to this adorable breakfast tray, kiddos can learn how to set a table and hold a knife and fork perfectly. This toy will teach them how to line up a knife and fork, where to place the napkin, and is perfect for role-playing through table manners. The tray size is designed to be just right for little hands to master eating utensils, while having fun through imaginative play.

Get the Tender Leaf breakfast tray toy set at Maisonette for $31.99

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