For us grown-ups the holidays are a festive time. We travel to the homes of family and friends, or invite them into our own. There we show off our children, and indulge in recipes from our own childhoods.
While we like to think the kids are enjoying themselves, that’s often not the case. Unfortunately for the children this is a time of crazy chaos, uncomfortable clothes that need to stay neat, sitting still for photographs, lengthy car rides, and of course getting kissed and hugged on by family members they may only see once or a twice a year. We’ll hope for their sake your family doesn’t have any cheek pinchers – if so, it’s even worse!
Let’s face it – children would rather be grounded to their rooms for life than endure these holiday horrors.
Oh Boy! It’s not hard to imagine how all of this can cause the holidays to be a hassle and bring out the worst in them. This time of year should be fun for all, grownups and children alike. Manners can be taught in a relaxed and fun way that offer up much better results than high expectations and sternness.
Grandparents, parents and friends can help ease the “agony” of holiday meals by following some of these helpful hints on teaching children proper etiquette and good manners in a way that is beneficial to all.
1. The Menu- Face it, we would like them to try all the different and sometimes foreign dishes on the table, but having a few “kid friendly” and familiar dishes like home made mac & cheese will bring a smile to their face. This also assures that they eat something that’s a little better for them than cake, without an ensuing argument and force feeding tactics.
2. The Attire - Allow them to bring a change of clothes along. Try to get any picture taking out of way as soon as possible, and always before food is served. They’ll be much more comfortable, and you’ll know for sure that there won’t be any punch on the front of that white dress shirt.
3. Participation- Encourage them to participate in some of the meal preparation. This can become messy and slow things down a bit, but the pride they show when that dish comes to the table is more then worth it. Cooking together is a great way to enjoy spending time with your child. It allows you to teach them a valuable life skill – and even get a jump start on passing down the family recipes!
4. Education - Teach them an etiquette rule for the day. A fun example would be how to make a toast. Explain to them that a toast should last only a few seconds and is meant to make others feel good. They can make a toast to welcome the family, show special appreciation to a family member, or tell what they are grateful for. Remind them that the person being toasted should never drink to themselves.
5. Decorations - Let them be a part of decorating the holiday table. Send them on a scavenger hunt for holiday decorations to accessorize the table with. Go along with what they choose, it won’t be the perfect table but it will show creative holiday character and your family’s ability to work together.
6. Relaxation – Try to keep things light hearted. Your children want to enjoy the holiday, so let them! If you’re hosting the get together, don’t use linens or tableware that will cause you to go into a panic when sticky fingers stain it or drop it. Before correcting your child for any behavior, make sure that it’s truly warranted – they are after all only children. Expecting them to exude the same decorum as an adult is probably not very realistic. If you feel something must be addressed do so quietly and quickly. There’s no reason to go into a 20 minute lecture over placing elbows on the table in the middle of the meal.
7. Indulgence – The holidays are special occasions. Will having three pieces of pie really matter in the grand scheme of things? Practice healthy eating habits the majority of the time, but let your kids be kids and sample those gooey goodies.
8. Compliments- Show praise and compliment each child equally for all the considerate deeds they did that day. Let them know how grateful you are for them. Be sure to compliment your hosts as well!
9. Clean Up- Encourage them to be involved in the clean up, especially if you’re the host! There are lots of things they can help with. It will make things easier for you, and assure they feel involved.
10. Activity - Do we need to remind you what idle hands can do?? Preparing holiday crafts, taking part in family games, and having conversations that EVERYONE takes part in will assure your children stay out of mischief. These activities will also create some of their fondest holiday memories.
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Chef Gayle “Gigi” Gaggero is co-owner of Kids Culinary Adventures (KCA). This exciting cooking school is where math, science, reading, and art mix with kids. KCA is proud to serve as the Bay Area’s premier professional cooking school for children and teens. KCA boasts a broad spectrum of offerings ranging from one-day classes to a professional culinary certification program. KCA also mixes up a great time for seasonal camps, birthday parties, special events, and field trips. For more information
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