When you eat dinner at home with your friends and family members, do you all gather around the kitchen table? Do you use fine china or paper plates? Did you know that there are rules about how you’re supposed to set the table? It’s true!

What are we talking about? Etiquette! Etiquette refers to a set of basic rules for proper behavior in various situations. Today, we’ll be concentrating on showing good manners at the table.

For example, to set the table properly, you need to know where to put the utensils in relation to the plate. And, no, it’s not proper etiquette to put them all in a pile in the middle of the plate!

Basically, forks go on the left and knives and spoons go on the right. Of course, it will depend upon how many utensils you’re using, which in turn will depend upon how fancy your meal is. If you have a lot of utensils, such as salad forks and soup spoons, the utensils you’ll use first go on the outside.

A couple of other rules to remember: (1) knife blades should always face the plate; and (2) the napkin goes to the left of the forks or on the plate. If you remember those basics, you’ll be setting the table properly in no time!

Of course, there are many other rules of etiquette one must know in order to behave properly at the dinner table. Learning good manners is important, because it’s an important way of showing respect for others in a social setting.

Here are some of the more important table manners everyone should know and practice at the table:

  • Wash up first! Before you come to the table to eat, clean up. Wash your hands and face. If your hair is messy, brush it. Take pride in your appearance!
  • Put your napkin in your lap and keep it there until you need to use it.
  • Don’t start eating until everyone is seated and ready to eat. Once you start eating, take it slow and easy. Make conversation and maintain eye contact with others.
  • Use your nice words, like “please” and “thank you” when asking others to pass food. Be gracious to the cook and compliment the meal…even if it wasn’t your favorite! Offer to help clean up when the meal is finished.
  • Use your utensils and not your hands! Also you should chew with your mouth closed and refrain from making rude noises.

These are just a few guidelines, but they’re good ones to remember. Use your common sense. Most people know the basic rules of good behavior, so be sure to show what you know when you eat with others!

13 Join the Discussion

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    • Thank you for sharing your prediction, Stephanie! We think you’re crawling toward tomorrow’s Wonder! :)

  1. Hi! I didn’t know that there was a certain way of setting the table at resturaunts. Though, now that I think about it, there was one show on Food Network where the employees had to set the table the right way for a grand opening of the resturaunt, and they had to do it a certain way. My family has a few rules while we are at the table: chew with your mouth closed, and don’t smack your food. And we wash our hands before we eat. This wonder was interesting! Thank you for today’s wonder! :) ;)

  2. Oh, and Happy mother’s day!! My family got our momma a camelbak hiking backpack that has the drinking tube thing, and a pair of binoculars, and a teapot. Enjoy your mother’s day!!

    • Hello, Berkleigh! Please wish your awesome mom a WONDERful Mother’s Day! :) It sounds like you have been doing a great job celebrating your mom today! :)

      We are so happy you told us all about your cool connections to our Wonder today– we think your family’s table manner rules ROCK! :)

  3. Hi Wonderopolis! We thought today’s Wonder was AWESOME! By the way, we were the one first vote and we made it have five stars! Meredith: I never knew that setting a table was so complicated, but now I know. Thanks so much for today’s Wonder! Madeline: I especially liked today’s Wonder because today’s Mother’s Day, and our family is having a special dinner with guests! Thanks so much for teaching us proper manners, so we can remember to be polite!

    • Hey there, Madeline and Meredith!! Thank you so much for sharing your comments and voting, too! It sounds like tonight’s dinner is going to be a treat for Mother’s Day, indeed! Have a great time celebrating your WONDERful mom! Great work, Wonder Friends! :)

  4. Wow! That is very cool. I did not know some of those rules but I will practice! And I will also practice setting the table. Bye!

    • Hey there, Frankie! Thanks for sharing your comment with us– we’re glad you’re going to practice setting the table! You’ll have it down in no time at all! We bet your family will appreciate your new skills before you sit down to eat! :)

  5. First you put a table cloth I think then set flowers then plates then silverware then put food on it. Like a romantic date. :) :)

    • Great work, Timothy! We are happy you shared the step-by-step process for setting the table. We think flowers would be WONDERful on the table, right in the middle! We think you have awesome table-setting-skills! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How do you set the table?
  • What is etiquette?
  • Why are good manners important?

Wonder Gallery

place settingVimeo Video

Try It Out

Would you please do us the honor of checking out one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member?

  • Think you have what it takes to set the table correctly? Using what you learned in today’s Wonder of the Day, give it a try. Tell your parents YOU are going to set the table tonight. If you need help remembering what goes where, just jump online to print out some of these handy Table-Setting Place Mats. Before long, you’ll have it down and won’t need them!
  • While you’re eating dinner tonight, put into practice some of the things you learned today. Share what you learned about etiquette and good manners with your friends and family members. We can all use reminders from time to time about how to be on our best behavior! Which rules do you and your family members usually follow? Are there any rules that you tend to break on a regular basis? Are there any special rules you follow that weren’t mentioned in today’s Wonder of the Day? If so, be sure to comment on today’s Wonder of the Day to let your Wonder Friends know about other rules that might be good to follow!
  • Up for a challenge? Ask an adult to take you on a special field trip to a fancy restaurant. You know the kind. If you’re not sure what kind of restaurant we’re talking about, try to find a restaurant that requires reservations and uses real cloth napkins! In addition to enjoying a quality meal, take the time to absorb all the details you can about the restaurant as it relates to what you learned today. Are the place settings correct? How many utensils are featured? Where were the napkins placed? Watch the other patrons around you. What rules of good table manners do you see them following? Are there any rules you see people breaking? Have fun and enjoy seeing good etiquette on display!

Still Wondering

ReadWriteThink’s School Manners and Behavior Topics lesson provides suggested school manners and behavior topics to assign students for an interview in which they ask community members about specified behaviors.

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