I thought it would be fun to introduce you to the idea of having a manners dinner with your children or if you are a grandparent, having a dinner with your grandchildren.  

We started when our grandchildren were small.   Our  grandchildren are now mostly taller than us and drive themselves to our house,  but they come with the same excited anticipation that they did when their parents would drop them off all dressed up in their fancy dresses and ties. They used to dance after dinner but now we sit and chat.  They have become, for us, a favorite company to entertain and be entertained by in return. 

It is on purpose a rather formal dinner with crystal and silver but it is not yet about the food.  The food I fix is children friendly and simply done because I want my concentration and energy to be spent at the table and not in the kitchen.   The dishes and silverware, water glasses and sparkling wine glasses are top drawer and have been fun to collect with manners dinner in view because it’s fun and sparkling in candlelight.  

Our main goal and focus is not teaching them table etiquette, although we do, our focus is on table conversation, polite and kind manners.  Yes, we talk about elbows on the table, not talking with their mouth full of food and slurping water.  We talk about what fork is used for which course and how to butter your bread, but these delightful manners can be easily memorized and even legalized, we don’t want them to become table manner snobs.  We want them to be good company that happens to know which fork is for the salad and what to do with their napkins.  We expect them to know how to listen well, ask stimulating questions, give sincere compliments, be aware of everyone at the table, greet their host and hostess and be verbally grateful on the way out the door.  Setting a lovely table and fixing their favorite food is always fun, I love doing that part, it comes more easily  than thinking of ways to teach them how to be good, participating guests and later competent hosts and hostesses.    Learning how to esteem others better than yourself has almost become a lost art.

This fun tradition can be once a month or even once a year, we like to do it around Valentine’s Day, but one year we decided to do it outside in the summer because cousins were visiting from out of town.  We tried eating spaghetti with neat and tidy table etiquette but the outdoor setting and hilarity of spaghetti noodles did us in and we simply enjoyed each other’s laughter and rowdy conversation with plenty of elbows on the table, but we knew what their good manners looked like so we just treated ourselves to the pleasure of their happy company!


Jan Sawyer  is a grandmother to 11 (one of whom happens to be Ava), a retired (and renowned!) kindergarten  teacher for many years, and outdoor enthusiast.  She and her husband live in Viola, Idaho. Jan has instilled a love  of birds and creation in many kids, leading hikes and adventures up Kamiak Butte and encouraging a sense of wonder for the world. 

Valentines is the perfect time to introduce a manners dinner with the kids!