Teaching our Families about Setting the Table

One thing I’ve taught my children over the years, is how to set a table.

Now as teens, will they always do it perfectly? Probably not. But that’s okay.

I remember years ago, my husband would remind me that once we initiated one of our children into the task of setting the table, that I’d need to leave it at that.

In other words, don’t point any mistakes out.

I’d have a tendency to jump in or point out how it could be done “better,” or for “next time.” (Perfectionist at heart.)

Yes, there’s always a teaching moment. But sometimes no words are best.

Better to join together at the table and say Great job!, to whoever set the table.

The holidays are a great time to teach your kids about casual and formal table settings, and then let them practice on your dinner guests!

In past years, I remember pointing out, “so and so set the table tonight” to our dinner guests. It wasn’t that I was trying to apologize for an imperfect table, I was really trying to show that our kids are involved, too, and things don’t have to be perfect all the time. (It’s okay if the tablecloth is on backwards, yes, it is!)

No matter the degree of informality, I do believe a table must be clean, orderly, and attractive.

These next two months are really a fun time for table settings, don’t you think?

A great teaching and creative time for the family.

What are your rules for letting your young ones help set the table, including for dinner guests?

10 comments on “Teaching our Families about Setting the Table”

  1. I have them practice during the week and work with them so they know left and right and what goes where. I also have them make place cards for bigger parties and let them set them out.

  2. my parents always made us set the table correctly for dinners during the week, and even though it was a pain at the time i’m really glad that they did. we don’t set the table all the time now that i’m married, but when we do it looks great :)

  3. Love this post, Sandy. My little guy can’t set the table yet but I always have memories of settling the table with my sisters growing up. Can’t wait to share the tradition!!

  4. Sandy, Just a note here to say that I enjoy your blog posts so much. They both inspire and inform me with the content, photography, and wisdom. I, like you, enjoy a pretty table that is put together properly, but you are entirely correct in letting the minor mistakes go. Had to chuckle when I saw the tag on the table cloth — I’ve done that myself! Please continue with your encouragement to all of us.

  5. I use to love setting the table for holidays. My mom and grama always encouraged me too with fun ways for flowers, candles, etc.

  6. I love a beautifully set table and appreciate anyone who takes the time to do it. The three males in my home do not share my enthusiam but I think it makes your guests feel more welcome and that you prepared for them.

  7. “I’d have a tendency to jump in or point out how it could be done “better,” or for “next time.” (Perfectionist at heart.)” That’s me! I am trying to let go, though…thanks to you, Sandy!

  8. This post has got me thinking. My parents weren’t really formal when it came to setting the table. No matter the occasion.
    I have two little girls, and love the idea of teaching them how to be creative when it comes to presenting the food, at the dinner table.

  9. Love your ideas – and that pic showing the upside down tablecloth!

    I remember when I was little – DREADING – visiting relatives on the holidays. They would want to “let me help” and often it was setting the table. But, at home, we were a fast food family or we ate in front of the TV. So, the only time I set a table…was at the holidays. And, I could never remember how. And, I was usually too embarrassed to ask.

    From that I have learned to first set one place myself.
    THEN…it there is a youngster I want to ask to help, I can say, “Can I ask a favor? Would you please help me by finishing up the rest of the table?

    That way, they have an example :)

    ~ Dana
    Cooking At Cafe D

  10. Because I was taught how to set the table from an early age, I assumed it was common knowledge for anyone over the age of say, 8 years old. Not so, as I learned when I asked my 23 year old female cousin to help set the table for dinner at our house a few nights ago. I don’t really have any rules, aside from the fact that I insist on using real plates at all times. I’m always surprised how many people I know who eat off paper or foam every single night for ‘convenience’.

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