Photo by Yui
Yes, the holiday season is upon us! It has arrived at break-neck speed and with it comes dinners with friends and family, new foods, and off-routine experiences. When you are dealing with a toddler, life is unpredictable enough. Mix in all the Holiday Entertaining and events, and you really have a recipe for the unexpected.
Use the days before Thanksgiving and the weeks before the December holidays to practice their table manners and to explain your expectations for your toddler when they're at shared table with guests or as a guest.
Here are a few tips for preparing for the holiday meals.
- My child won't sit still at the table: Introduce the No Wiggle Zone. This is something you will want to talk about beforehand and practice at home. Pick a couple nights a week and remind your child that when they are in the No Wiggle Zone, they are sitting properly, not moving, not kicking or wiggling. They have their napkin in their laps and if they need to "do" something, then have them hold onto that napkin on their lap to remind them they are in the Zone.
- My kid is a picky eater: Explain in advance to your toddler what your expectations are about trying new foods. I personally believe that you should try at least one bite of everything on the table. If you believe this as well but know that your child will spit it out if they don't like it, well then set up a plan of attack on how to handle that. Maybe have them take a very small bite and gracefully put their napkin to their lips and spit the tiny bit of food into the napkin and fold it in half. Practicing this could actually be quite funny.
- My toddler still eats with his/her fingers! If you have a child who likes to eat with their fingers, you can work through some of these obstacles by trying out different brands and types of silverware. Once you have found the kind that works best for your little one, make sure you travel with it to prevent any finger food mistakes while out and about.
- Some of our holiday events are very formal: If you are invited to a super formal dinner, know that your toddler will only be able to hold still for so long. Make sure that they are one of the last ones seated at the table. Make sure you use the Wiggle and Giggle Game. It goes like this — take them into another room and have them let loose, wiggle, and giggle until you say "may I have your attention, please?" Do it a few times to exhaust them a bit but also to reinforce a way to grab their attention. If the event you are invited to is so formal that one toddler faux pas is going to put a ding in the evening, reconsider attending or consider finding a sitter.
- My toddler will never make it through a sit-down meal: Don't forget to have realistic expectations of your little one. The holidays should be fun, and toddlers will be toddlers.
The best thing you can do is make sure your child understands your expectations to the best of their ability. Practice the manners that you are expecting of them beforehand and make it as fun as possible. You might also bring their favorite drinks, snacks, or some things that will keep your toddler quiet and content at the table if traditional tactics aren't working.
Good luck, ladies, and we love to hear of any tricks that have worked for you in years past! We also love a good story, even those that didn't go just right. Sometimes, those make for the very best memories.
What dining tricks have worked for your toddler in the past?
Submit your manners/behavior questions in the comments below or via PM to Cafe Sheri! CafeMom MrsManners aka: Angela Pitre, owner of the CM group Manners for the Modern Family and MannersMadeFun.com, is here to help!