My mother-in-law helps work with the girls at church who are ages 8-11, this group is referred to as the Activity Day Girls. The girls have general goals that include developing their talents, serving others, and strengthening their testimony in Christ. The activities that Lucy plans (my mother in law) are supposed to help the girls develop themselves in one or more of those areas. The concept is really fun. Lucy loves to plan activities and the girls love what she has in mind.
We were brain-storming things that she could do with her girls over Easter and I mentioned an etiquette dinner. Thomas and I were the ten-year-old Cub Scout leaders a few years ago and we did a mother-son etiquette dinner with the boys and it was a huge hit. They passed off lots of requirements and honestly had a great time doing it. I told Lucy about it and she thought it would be a great fit for her girls and she invited me to help.
This was my second etiquette dinner for youth and I loved it, so I thought it would be a really fun thing to blog about. I know lots of you ladies are active in your churches and communities and this might be something you’d like to do too. If you aren’t currently in a position to work with youth then this would be a really fun family night activity too. Who says you can’t teach a manners and formal dinning to your own kids?!
How to plan an etiquette dinner:
Once you have the group you are going to work with in mind (Activity Day girls, Cub Scouts, the youth group at church, family…) decide what your goals are. Will you be trying to pass of merit badge requirements, prepping for Junior Prom, or are you just looking for a fun night together? Knowing what you are after will help you get there.
Will you serve a multi-course meal? Who will help you serve if you decide to do this? Where will the event be? Will you have a kitchen available at the venue? Do you want the kids to help with the cooking? Will a parent be invited?
For us, we wanted the girls to invite their mothers (and we planned it the week before Mother’s Day). Prior to the event the girls wrote invitations (which is a lost art in my mind, but a great skill), made table decoration, and help planned the menu. All of these little extras where things they could check off in their books and helped them to more fully “own” the night.
The night of the event Lucy and I had all of the food ready (we didn’t have the girls help cook), but we did not have the tables set. I brought real dishes from home and had everything laid out for them. The first lesson of the evening was learning how to set a semi-formal (informal to some people) place setting. Do you know how to set a table?! It’s a great skill to have and is definitely not common knowledge anymore.
After the table was set we had the girls seat and then serve their mothers. We didn’t do multiple courses; the kids are pretty young. But we did go over which forks are which and when to you use them.
And while we were eating I went over a handout that I had prepared. Here is the information that we talked about during dinner. It was just enough to be fun but not so much that it felt over whelming. It made for great dinner conversation but left enough time for talking among ourselves. Don’t fill the whole dinner with lessons because having time to socialize and practice their new skills is important too.
Here was my hand-out:
Why is learning table etiquette important?
• Manners and formality show respect to you and those around you, plus, it makes you look as intelligent as you really are.
When will I use this type of information?
• Visiting friends
• Future job/scholarship/dating (even if it’s with Dad) opportunities
• Special occasions and Birthdays
• It’s fun to know! Now you can teach your own etiquette lesson to your family for Family Home Evening
Things to Remember:
• Proper place setting
(This is pretty hard to see, but I had a hard time finding an informal or semi-formal place setting picture. This imagine is from Girl Power Hour.) In addition to this we had a brad plate (above the forks) and set out a dessert fork (above the plate).
• The Basics – take small bites, chew with your mouth closed, please and thank you, sit up straight, no “three second rule” allowed
• How to properly butter bread, just because it’s fun.
• Don’t forget that practice makes perfect.
Fun Trivia that is also good to know (and makes great conversation during the dinner)
This info came from: LDS Living – it’s a pretty great article on planning a bigger dinner for older youth, so check it out if that is more who you are planning for.
1: When do you put your napkin on your lap?
A: When your food comes
B: When you sit down
C: You only need a napkin if you’re eating soup or spaghetti
Correct answer: B. As soon as you sit down at the table, you put the napkin on your lap. You may have not even received your menu or food yet, but the napkin goes in your lap.
2: When you excuse yourself to use the restroom, where do you place your napkin? (If you’re coming back to your table.)
A: On the seat of your chair
B: To the left of your plate
C: Hand it to your neighbor to hold for you
Correct answer: A. According to “Miss Mary’s Manners,” there is a “silent code language” between restaurant patrons and the staff – if you leave your napkin on the chair, it’s a “signal” that you’re not finished with your meal and that you’re coming back.
3: When is it appropriate for you to begin eating?
A: Once you have received/ dished up your food?
B: Once everyone has been served.
C: As soon as the host/ hostess says you can begin.
Correct answer: B/C. It’s kind of a trick question. Technically, you should wait until the host or hostess says you may begin, but generally the polite thing to do is wait until everyone at your table has been served. Then you can start digging in.
Feel free to copy and paste that if you need to. It should fit on one sheet of paper nicely. I thought it would be nice for them to take some of the information hope with them so that they could then teach it to their own family. They were given all of the above information on a paper to take home at the end of the night.
All in all it was a really great night and I know that the girls (and their moms) had a lot of fun. They learned a lot, had a delicious meal with their mom and friends, and got to feel a little fancy and grown up for the evening.
Have you ever had an etiquette dinner? Any other suggestions, ideas, or things I missed?!
Thanks so much and remember – Keep Calm and Mind Your Manners