As we are seated in a restaurant this evening, the host hands my daughter her kids menu and crayons. A little voice chirps up, “Thank you.” With a beatific smile and obvious joy at what has been given to her, my daughter just made the host’s day. He turns to me and says, “What nice manners your daughter has and she is so cute.” As parent I am already aware of how wonderfully special she is, but to see her in “action” gives me a whole other view of her personality, her courteousness can not be attributed to only my parenting skills.
She is actually always very thankful. She may demand in a typical two year old way, “Movie mommy movieeee!” but as soon as it turns on she graciously says, “Thank you mommy.” Cups of juice, her plate at meals, handing her toys and setting up her activities all are met with, “Thank you.” Where she learned this, I am not sure, but here are some things that I have done and things you can do during family and lesson times to teach your child to be thankful and courteous.
For Circle Time
When teaching your children thankfulness, appreciation and courtesy you may wish to start your circle time with some pre cut happy and sad faces. You can show them the happy faces and talk about what they do that makes you and others happy. Then hold up the sad face and talk about what makes them sad. This is more effective on older toddlers/threes, with the little ones I bring out pictures of babies posted on poster board with happy faces or sad faces, crying faces and messy faces. Then I pantomime those faces and pretend to cry with sad ones and exaggerate the laughter and smiles on the happy ones. Nice and kind things they do like saying please and thank you makes everyone smile – showing the happy faces; and screaming and kicking for what they want makes everyone sad – showing the sad face. My daughters loved it when I make the faces in pantomime and then pretend to cry or laugh.
During toy time this week sit on the floor and play with your children. Make sure to exhibit to them “sharing.” Developmentally young toddlers can not really understand the concept, but you can reinforce that their friend or sibling is happy when they get a “turn” with a specific toy. This week any toys will do. But also remember that many children have special toys and those are toys that is perfectly alright not to take turns with because every child needs to feel that their special relationship with whatever lovey they have is for them alone. It may also provide them with an additional sense of security while traveling and visiting an unfamiliar place.
My children just love the song by our favorite purple dinosaur Barney, and it reminds us that we love each other and should be kind,
“I love you,
You love me
We’re a happy family
With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you
Won’t you say you love me too?”
For gross motor and music together sing and act out “If you’re happy and you know it.”
Have a tea party. Create snack sandwiches and special cookies as well as warm apple cider or other treat. Sit at the children’s table with them and act out together how you are having a special treat or meal and how during extra special meals we should try to have extra special manners. Use your napkin, plate and cup and watch your toddler try their best to imitate you. Developmentally this is a large part of their learning during the toddler years, so what you do, they will do also.
Take a field trip
No field trips this week-except for many over the holidays going to visit friends or family for dinner. But you will be especially pleased with your child when they say please and thank you while at a special person’s house.
My three favorite books to reinforce teaching manners are: Dora’s Book of Manners, My Very First Book of Manners, by Michael Sparks uses rhymes to teach children about courtesy, and Excuse Me! : A Little Book of Manners by Karen Katz uses real life situations and how to respond to them, like breaking a toy and saying I am sorry, in a repetitious manner to reinforce to children the actions which make others sad or happy and how they can say and do thing to be courteous and kind.
Fine Motor Skills
At snack time and meals provide your child (or class) with their food and then show them the correct way to eat them. We eat sandwiches with our hands, but soup with spoons. Help your child use their small spoons, you may want to invest in the ones at the dollar store, you get a pack of them for $1.00 and then you have enough for every meal.
Reward Good Behavior
Place special words on the refrigerator, for example please, thank you, excuse me as well as sharing, taking turns, saying, “I am sorry,” and being kind. When you child exhibits any of these attributes reward them with a sticker, which you can even print out from the internet (my personal favorites come from Familyfun.com or Bluemountain.com). At the end of the week, make sure to have a special treat with your child to celebrate their good manners and courteous nature.
Costs of these plans:
Dora’s Book retails for $3.50, the tea party depends on how much you want to spend, I spent $4.00 and invited a friend to join us, My Very First Book of Manners retails at $5.99 but I got it at the library as well as the Excuse Me! Book which also retails for $5.99. The good manners board is .79 for poster board and you should have a marker around to write out the words. Happy face stickers were $1.00 at the dollar store.
For older children try these tips:
If they eat too fast try giving them half their portions so that there is a break between servings. Cut their food into smaller portions so that it takes longer to eat them.
If your child burps, remind them to say excuse me. While it is a compliment in some cultures in ours an excuse me can cover a multitude of sins.
Introduce new foods to your child on a regular basis. While they may not always like them they will be less likely to view the unfamiliar with disdain or make comments which may hurt feelings.
Wiping their hands and mouths with clothing – yours or theirs. Make sure your child has plenty of napkins, lay one across their lap for them and don’t use bibs as a substitute. With bibs children learn that they can “rub” their hands onto the bib and the food comes off. So, when the bibs come off they do the same thing. Even with babies feeding themselves try to take a minute to clean their hands and face occasionally.
With so many holiday’s approaching we realize even more deeply those things we are thankful for, and with visits with friends and family looming on the immediate horizon as well as children out of school, worry about your child’s manners is of importance. All parents worry how their children will be seen by others and with these tips and a little preparation at home your child can come across as courteous and well mannered – even while they are running through the house with a napkin on their head screaming for the one toy you may not have brought with you – but tantrums are another topic entirely.