Teaching Children Table Manners

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Overview and Preparation

This lesson plan will familiarize elementary school children with the fundamentals of good table manners using discussion, a poem, and a hands-on activity.

Make one copy of “The Goops” for each child. Have paper and crayons or markers on hand. Prepare food, dishes, and napkins for a meal or snack (optional).


Explain to students that good table manners are a way of showing respect and consideration for themselves and others. Good manners make sharing a meal a pleasant and neat experience for everyone. Ask students for their ideas on what constitutes good and bad manners. Be sure the following points are covered:

• Do not begin eating until everyone is served.

• Do not talk with your mouth full.

• Chew with your mouth closed.

• Keep your napkin in your lap.

• Don’t rest your elbows on the table.

• Ask politely for things to be passed if you cannot reach them.

• Do not complain about the food.

• Do not lick your fingers or your knife.

• Don’t pick your teeth or smack your lips.

• Ask to be excused when you have finished eating and want to leave the table.

Emphasize that good manners should be used at every meal, even when dining alone, so that they become natural and habitual.


Give each child a copy of the following poem and read it aloud while students follow along. As a follow-up, students can draw pictures of the Goops or of people eating with proper table manners. This poem could also be used for copy work or memorization.

The Goops

By Gelett Burgess

The Goops they lick their fingers,

And the Goops they lick their knives;

They spill their broth on the tablecloth –

Oh, they lead disgusting lives!

The Goops they talk while eating,

And loud and fast they chew;

And that is why I’m glad that I

Am not a Goop – Are you?

The Goops are gluttonous and rude,

They gug and gumble with their food;

They throw their crumbs upon the floor,

And at dessert they tease for more.

They will not eat their soup and bread

but like to gobble sweets, instead,

And this is why I oft decline,

When I am asked to stay and dine!"


Serve the students a snack or a meal. Divide the students into small groups and have them politely encourage each other to eat with good manners throughout the meal, giving gentle reminders when needed.

Suggested Books:

Manners at the Table (Way to Be!) by Carrie Finn, illustrated by Chris Lensch

Emily Post’s Table Manners for Kids by Cindy Post Senning and Peggy Post

Dude That’s Rude! (Get some Manners) by Pamela Espeland and Elizabeth Verdick

This post is part of the series: Elementary Etiquette Lesson Plans

To teach children good manners is to teach them skills that will further their success in any endeavor. Use these lesson plans to teach your students the good manners that will give them the knowledge and confidence to handle any social situation.

  1. Teaching Elementary Etiquette with this Table Manners Lesson Plan
  2. Elementary Etiquette: A Lesson Plan on Gratitude
  3. Teaching Elementary Etiquette with this Lesson Plan on Using Polite Words