Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Meal-Time Activities: Manners Marbles

by Tiffany Rudd
Eating together as a family is definitely a priority in our house. I try to make sure we all sit down to eat together every evening. Because my husband has a long commute to work, that means it is practically bedtime by the time he gets home. About half of our dinner meals end up a little bit rushed. “Let’s all hurry and eat and get to bed!” Eating out is very rare in our house, so I honestly hadn’t realized we had created a problem with manners until one day when my in-laws took us all to a restaurant. What a wake-up call! I was frustrated with my children’s behavior until I realized I had no right to expect something I obviously hadn’t taught them well. That is when Mrs. Manners and her Manners Marbles came for a visit. 
I donned a goofy wig and a pair of glasses, did my best cheesy voice and told the kids it was time to learn how to act at the table. First we had a quick lesson on appropriate behavior. Tip: try to avoid negatives or “do not...” rules. Here is the list I printed out to use during our lesson.
During Meals We Always...
Say “please” and “thank you.”
Remain seated with our bottoms on our chairs. 
Chew with our mouths closed.
Take appropriately sized bites.
Use our napkins.
Keep negative comments about the food to ourselves.
Use silverware unless food is meant to be eaten with our fingers.
Only talk about subjects/make noises that are table appropriate.  
Clear our places when we are finished.
Show appreciation to the cook.
After we reviewed the rules, I put a jar of marbles on the table and a small bowl in front of each child’s plate. We also decided together on a reward system. The first night it took 8 marbles to buy dessert. The next night it took 10, the next 12, and so on. As we ate dinner I complimented any good manners I saw and put a marble in that child’s jar. My high-pitched “What MARVELOUS Manners” became a hilarious reward all by itself. 
At the end of dinner the kids were able to trade the correct amount of marbles for dessert. After 5 days Mrs. Manners and her marbles left, but thankfully the good manners stuck around. And, every once in a while the kids will still point out each others “Marvelous Manners!”  
Click HERE to print out a copy of our manners rules.
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