At our house, the kids chip in at dinner time. From a young age, they took charge of setting the dinner table. We rely on their help to get dinner on the table in style. Well, at least with matching plates and napkins.
Related: Holiday kid table tips
Why We Should Dine Together
Studies show that when families eat dinner together there are big benefits. Here's some of the things we can give our kids by dining together (from the Family Dinner Project:
- Better academic performance.
- Higher self-esteem.
- Greater sense of resilience.
- Lower risk of substance abuse.
- Lower risk of teen pregnancy.
- Lower risk of depression.
- Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders.
- Lower rates of obesity.
Get Your Kids to Set the Table
Kids can start with this task as young as age six (though maybe use non-breakable items).
- Make it Easy. The key is to have everything at kid-level so you don't have to reach things down for them. We keep the dishes on a low shelf, as well as the placemats, napkins, utensils and cups.
- Make it Colorful. My girls like colorful placemats and napkins. Whatever it takes to get them involved.
- Make it Consistent. Have the kids work on the table the same time every night.
The Simple Rules of a Place Setting
The fork is placed to the left of the plate. Place the knife to the right of the dinner plate and then set the spoon to the right of the knife. Set the water glass in the top right corner, above the knife. The napkin can be placed on top of the dinner plate or beneath the fork.
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- Start with the placemat on the table. Put one on each place, and consider one in the middle foe any serving pieces that might get messy (anything with sauce)
- Add a napkin to the left of the plate.
- Place the fork on the napkin (also on the left).
- Put the dinner plate in the middle of the placemat.
- Place the salad plate (if you use one) on the left up above the fork.
- The knife and the spoon go to the right. The knife closest to the plate and then the spoon goes next.
- Directly above the knife, place the water glass.
Trick for Remembering the Order
I'm all for mnemonic, ways to remember the rules of the road with little tricks. This one is a classic. If you put your index finger to your thumb on both hands, the left hand creates a lowercase b (for bread), while the right hand creates a lowercase d (for drinks). This will help when dining and when setting.
Make a Napkin Fan
For special occasions, your kids can step up the setting and try something fancy. This design works with paper napkins and also with stiff cloth. These directions are from the Home Depot site.
- Lay the napkin on your table with the seams up.
- Fold in half vertically, pressing down the seam.
- Make a series of accordion-type folds roughly 2-inches wide, using an over-under pattern.
- Press down on each fold as work your way toward the top.
- When you reach about 4-inches from the top, carefully flip the napkin over so the folds are underneath.
- Fold the napkin and the horizontal folds in half, right to left, keeping the folds together.
- Take the corner of the napkin toward the accordion folds to make a triangle, and then tuck that corner into the center of the folds.
- The triangle will prop up the fan when you turn the design upright and gently spread the folds into a fan shape.
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