September is National Manners Month: Fun, games, tips for teaching etiquette

When I was a kid, one rule my six siblings and I were required to follow at the dinner table was to request seconds of anything by asking, "May I have more <whatever> please?" Those words were the golden ticket to more potatoes or milk or whatever it was our heart so chose — if there was more to be had.

Seems rather Dickensian now. Not too much fun to learn, either.

Many might think learning manners and proper etiquette isn't meant to be fun. Those thinking that have more than manners to learn, though, as two products I recently received for review from Patch Products teach kids manners in fun new ways.

Read on for my reviews, followed by helpful tips for grandparents who want to encourage good manners in their grandchildren.

blunders game

First up is the game Blunders, an entertaining board game for ages 5 and up, to be played by 2 to 4 players or in teams. Blunders is an award-winning game that support national curriculum on character development, and it's created by Aimee Symington, a children's etiquette expert and parent.

Here Aimee explains the Blunders game, featuring Billy, Brenda, Bobby and Becky Blunder and their parents:

The 300 questions on the 150 cards are divided into three categories — Dine, Home, Play — and include up-to-date dilemmas related to technology. Examples:

From the Dine category —
Q: Billy was eating dinner with his grandfather and he burped so loudly his grandfather's false teeth fell out!
Consequences: Say the tongue twister "Bad Burgers Burping" seven time without messing up and then move back four spaces.

From the Home category —
Q: Bobby had a friend over to play and instead of playing with his friend, he played computer games and ignored his friend!
Consequences: Say th tongue twister below five times without messing up then move back three spaces. "Computer crazed crazy kids."

From the Play category —
Q: Becky was playing hide-and-seek whena girl in a wheelchair asked if she could play too. What should Becky have done:
A.) Ask her why she's in a wheelchair.
B.) Say no because it would be too hard to have her play.
C.) Say, "Sure, come and play."
A: C.) Say, "Sure, come and play."

The object of Blunders is to be the first player to reach the FINISH space on the board and be invited to the Mannerlys' (neighbors of the Blunders) Annual Pool Party Extraganza. Game play takes approximately 20 minutes.

The Blunders Game retails for $24.99 and can be purchased from Patch Products and select Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft stores.

manner mats

Another Blunder product designed to reduce etiquette blunders of all sorts is the Manner Mats for ages 6 and up. The package of 38 tear-off placemats are designed to encourage fun, games, learning and conversing while dining.

Each of the Manner Mats features puzzles, games, questions and trivia to be shared with the family during dinner. Think crossword puzzles, multiple choice and Did You Know questions to entertain (and edify), and a specific conversation starter.

Though Manner Mats are intented for youngsters, my oldest youngster — now 31 years old — was visiting when I opened my review package and was quite impressed with the Conversation Starters on each placemat. "That alone would make them worthwhile to me," she said, "considering how important it is to dine with family and have interesting conversation during meals." Smart kiddo I have, if I say so myself.

Questions that impressed my daughter include:

  • "If you could be another person for one week who would you be and why?"
  • "What is your earliest childhood memory?"
  • "What is the best thing that happened to you today"

Dinnertime was one of our favorite family times when my daughters were young, and I can see how Manner Mats would have made a perfect addition to those meals. Heck, I just might surprise my local daughters with a mat at their place the next time they visit for dinner. I'll definitely pack them into my Grandma Bag to share with my grandsons when I next visit them.

Manner Mats retail for $9.99 and can also be purchased from Patch Products and select Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft stores.

Disclosure: I received free samples of the products for review. Opinions and anecdotes are my own.

Tips for grandparents from Aimee Symington

Grandparents Teach Their Grandchildren Social Skills

According to a recent Harris Interactive study, grandparents spend more quality time with their grandchildren than previous generations. In fact, the study found that 98 percent of grandchildren learn social skills from their grandparents.

Being such an influencer on grandchildren is a blessing, but it can also be hard to know what manners to teach these children of the digital age, and how to relate to the younger generation to teach these essential social skills which include table manners, electronic etiquette, introduction skills, and how to make a good first impression.

Listed below are some tips for helping you teach your grandchildren manners and social skills.

Writing Thank You Notes

  • It’s not old-fashioned!  While most kids, and their parents, might think that hand-writing a thank you note is “old fashioned,” it isn’t! In fact, because not many people take the time to write a note to send via “snail mail,” when a person actually does receive a hand-written note, they are extremely impressed! Yes, saying “thanks” in an email or by phone is nice, but when you take the time to put pen to paper, address an envelope and put it in the mailbox, you will make a positive, lasting impression!
  • Teaching Tip. If your grandchild is 6 or older, you can purchase (or even make) some stationary with envelops for your grandchild, give him/her a book of stamps, and then teach them how to address an envelope and write a proper thank you note.

Table Manners at Home

  • Help out. Encourage your grandchildren to help prepare the food and/or set the table for dinner. This is also a good time to talk and bond with them and teach them the proper way to set a table.
  • Wait for everyone. Kids should sit properly in their seat and then wait for everyone else to be seated before they begin to eat. During the meal, there is no reason to leave the table unless it’s to go to the bathroom.
  • Teach basics. Encourage your grandchildren to hold their fork properly (like a pencil), put their napkin and the hand they’re not eating with in their lap, keep their elbows/arms off the table, and keep their mouth closed when chewing.
  • Magic words. Say “please” and “thank you” and pass the food to the right.
  • Give thanks. At the end of the meal ask to be excused and then say, “Thank you for dinner.”
  • Teaching Tip. Role model the behaviors you want to see, have patience, and be consistent. Play games that make learning the manners more fun; for example, if someone if caught putting their elbows on the table during dinner they have to sing the “Birthday Song”. Another helpful tool is to purchase the Blunders® Manner Mats® and use those at the table to teach polite manners and encourage polite conversation at the dinner table.

Restaurant Etiquette for Kids

  • Remind your grandchildren ahead of time what behavior is expected of them. For example: no running around and no talking loudly.
  • Bring something into the restaurant to entertain them if needed. This can be an activity book or something quiet for them to play with while waiting for their food.
  • Remind kids what silverware to use with which course. It is also a good time to review other basic dining etiquette such as elbows off the table, napkin and hand in lap, etc.
  • Don’t pick things up. If they drop something on the floor they should not ever go onto the floor to pick it up. If something like your napkin or fork drops just politely ask the waiter for a new one.

Cell Phone Etiquette at Home

  • Make a house rule that no one is allowed to use their cell phone at the table. This includes not leaving the table during a meal to answer the phone.
  • People come first. Remind your grandchildren that whenever they are talking to someone in person and their cell phone rings or they get a text, it is not okay for them to answer the phone or text immediately and interrupt the person they are with. Instead, quickly turn the ringer off and continue the conversation to show that person respect.
  • Be Nice! If your grandchildren use their phone (or iPad, or other electronic device) to go online and to social media sites, they should always remember that they should never write or post a picture of something that they wouldn’t want blasted on the TV news or printed on the front page of their local newspaper. The Golden Rule can be applied here: “Treat others online the way you want to be treated.”
  • Teaching Tip. Be firm about the times you expect that they will put the phone away, such as when a meal is served and when company is over and you would like them to socialize with the family. You might even have a basket in the kitchen that has a white sign with black stripes (to look like a jail cell) with the words “Cell Cell.” 

Telephone Etiquette at Home

  • Inform the caller. Each family may decide what they feel comfortable with, but if your grandchild answers the phone at your house, you may want them to say something like “Hello, this is the Smith residence. May I ask who’s calling please?” At their home, they might say “Hello, this is Luke Smith. May I ask who’s calling please?”
  • Take a message. If the person the caller is looking for is not home, ask your grandchild to take a message with the person’s name and phone number. Having paper and pen by the phone is helpful.
  • Talk nicely. Remind your grandchildren to not mumble into the phone, talk too quietly or loudly, or yell for someone to pick up the phone.
  • Teaching Tip: Get 2 phones and practice, practice, practice, with your grandchild about what they should say when they answer the phone, and how they should say it, until they get it right. Then, be with your grandchild when he answers the phone the next time and praise them when they do it right!

Polite Greeting, Introductions and Small Talk

  • Polite Body Language. Teach your grandchildren what “polite body language” means – direct eye contact, nice smile, and a firm handshake! If your grandchild can do all of that when meeting someone for the first time, they will make a great first impression with your friends, their teachers, new kids, etc.
  • It’s nice to meet you. Remind your grandchildren what they need to say after they have been introduced to someone. Proper things are to say “It’s nice to meet you”, and then to use their last name and add “Mr. Smith.” Children should always call an adult by their last name unless the person asks them to call them something else.
  • Then what? After the introduction, kids need to remember to make small talk, which means to answer questions fully and then to ask a question of the adult. For example, they might say “I’m fine, thank you. How are you today?” Or, “I live in Charlotte, NC. Where do you live?” Making good conversation is like a volleyball game and the ball is like a conversation going back and forth over the net between two people.
  • Teaching Tip. Practice, practice, practice. Teach your grandchildren what to do and then have them practice meeting someone, looking them in the eyes, smiling, giving a firm handshake and then making polite conversation.

Best Advice? Make learning manners and social skills fun for your grandkids! You want this to be an opportunity for you to bond and for you to make a positive, lasting impression on them.