Setting the table for dinner is a chore that even very young children can learn to do properly. It gives them a sense of pride to be able to help the family. The correct placement setting for a basic dinner includes the dinner plate in the middle, the fork and napkin on the left, the knife and spoon on the right and the cup in the upper right-hand corner. If you have a separate bread and butter plate, that goes in the upper left-hand corner.
As children are just learning how to set the table, purchase specially made place mats to help. These are laminated, washable placemats that show where each utensil should go. Children simply need to place the item on top of the pictures. This is ideal for young children who cannot read, because pictures make the placement obvious. If you are not interested in the look of these placemats, you could draw your own version that your child can refer to as she sets the table.
Without a visual image, memory tricks can help your child remember where the items go. The Emily Post Institute suggests using the word "forks" to remember placement. Starting from the left of the plate, the child would place a fork first. Then, a child would place the “O”-shaped plate to the right of the fork, and then a child would place the knife and spoon to the right of the plate. Yes, you omit the "R" in ''forks." The Emily Post Institute also suggests making a lower-case "b" with the fingers of the left hand, and a lower-case "d" with the fingers on the right hand to remember that you place bread plate to the left of the dinner plate and you place the drink to the right of the dinner plate.
Play games with your child to help her remember the procedure. For example, create a place setting, and then ask her to close her eyes while you make some changes. You might remove one or two items, change the glass to a different style or reverse the knife and spoon. When she comes back, ask her to tell you what has changed.
Practice makes perfect, and this is also true of learning how to set a table. Allow your child to set the table at dinner and be gentle if he makes some mistakes. Setting a table takes practice and does not have to occur only at mealtimes. In the Montessori classroom, for example, table-setting is part of the curriculum. If you think your child might enjoy practicing this, set up a small tray with all the necessary items and let him work on it, whenever he wishes.
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