25 Rules of Toddler Etiquette at the Dinner Table

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The next time your toddler’s behavior makes you want to give up on family dinners and just serve cereal all day, consider that the problem isn’t their lack of manners. It’s that they still only know the rules of toddler etiquette.

1. Arrive underdressed. – Let everyone know you aren’t an ordinary diner. Arrive at the table missing at least one piece of clothing such as a sock, shoe, shirt or, ideally, pants. If it is a formal meal, wear extra stickers.

2. Bring a guest. – A toy should be with you at the table. If necessary, hold the preferred toy hostage until your request for a plus-1 is granted. Your toy will understand.

3. Be patient. – Wait until seating assignments are settled before selecting another seat to take or lap to sit in.

4. Sit up straight. – You will know you are sitting up high enough when you are standing in your chair.

5. Always be the first to order. – Ordering food should begin long before dinnertime and continue until you are asleep in bed.

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6. Hide your napkin. – Napkins belong on the floor. Ball your napkin up and throw it down. If it is a formal meal, however, allow it to float to the floor.

7. Wait until everyone is served. – When everyone is finally beginning to eat, ask someone to take you to the bathroom.

8. Don’t reach across the table. – Crawl across the table.

9. Hold your spoon, fork and/or spork properly. – Grip your eating utensil like a drumstick so you can bang it on the table like a drumstick, sans a beat.

10. Compliment the other guests’ food choices. – Declare everyone else’s food as being better proportionally, visually and on better plates. Kindly request that they share their food until it becomes necessary to take it by force.

11. Be willing to talk business at the table. – If you eat what feels like of all your food and/or keep your listening ears on, you should receive something of equal or greater value. Begin by negotiating for dessert, but don’t agree to anything until you have also acquired additional playtime, a late bedtime and a free pass from washing your hair.

12. Keep your face clean. – Wipe your face with the length of your arm. The one exception to this rule is that it’s okay to let your nose run.

13. Take one bite at a time. – Try to eat your entire meal in one bite. If anything tastes odd or you just think of something better to do than continue chewing, give somebody the opportunity to catch your food before spitting it out. If somebody doesn’t volunteer quickly, you are permitted to spit out your food anywhere you choose.

14. Eat with your mouth open. – You don’t want anybody to question whether you took a bite of your food.

15. Sympathize with a loser. – Lose a utensil under the table, in your seat or wherever you throw it across the room.

16. Be timely. – Eat at a furious pace or not at all.

17. Present your spoon, fork and/or spork to your mouth rather than lowering your head to eat your food. – The extra distance will increase the chances you will spill your food all over yourself, which leaves you with less food to eat.

18. Gesture with your cutlery. – Waving your food around on an eating utensil is a discreet way to get your food to fly off and decrease the portion you have agreed to eat.

19. Always send back at least one course. – A meal can never be perfect, so select a food and throw it, kick it or slingshot it off your spoon.

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20. Request more courses than anybody else. – A seven-course meal is a meager snack, because you should only be expected to eat one bite of anything.

21. Butter your own bread. – Refuse anyone’s offer to butter your bread. Butter all of your food yourself, but use ketchup instead of butter.

22. Pour something out for your homies. – At least half of a sippy cup of water should be spilled in your vicinity. Your pet, real or imagined, will love you for it. (Spilling food counts too.)

23. Save your uneaten food. – Ask someone to save your food for you, but never eat it later.

24. Don’t stay in touch. – When you get down from the table. Stay underneath it and out of the reach of adults.

25. Compliment the chef. – Insist that the chef (probably Mommy, maybe Daddy if it is a full moon) is the only person qualified enough to hold you. Make them hold you forever.

A toddler’s strict adherence to these rules should at least give you hope that they might someday follow the general rules of common decency at the dinner table. But until then, you can keep eating all of the good candy while they sleep as sweet revenge.

Related post: 25 Easy Ways To Annoy A Toddler

10 Reasons Why I Respect The Toddler


Let me start by saying that I have the utmost respect for that often maligned creature, the toddler. As a local toddler once said “Toddlers are a lot like real people. But better.”


It’s a complicated age. The age of innocence, on the one hand, but also the age of, how shall I put this delicately – being a little d-bag. It’s a strange time in the evolution of a person.

During the toddler years emotions run very, very high. Logic and reasoning run very, very low. That was charitable of me. Logic and reasoning are nonexistent. In short: A toddler is an emotional powder keg packaged in dough. He is Kanye West at an awards show.

I think I’ve lost my way here. What was I saying?

Oh yes, that I respect the toddler. I feel like I haven’t built up the strongest case in support of this declaration just yet. So let’s shift gears and focus on the positive traits reserved largely for the 2T set.

1. CONSISTENT GRATITUDE. Look at these kids:


They are keenly aware that their parents have made a herculean effort to get them fed, changed, dressed and out the door for a play date. They know it means a lot to their parents that they have a great time, or more essentially, do not embarrass the family.

They will NOT let their parents down, because of the gratitude that runs deep within them. Gratitude for the very fact that their parents gave them the gift of life and also, in many cases, goldfish crackers. In the above photo, what looks to the naked eye like a group of toddlers either sobbing or looking entirely bored is actually a group of toddlers whose faces are contorted in ecstasy. The boy on the far right is so pleased that he’s trying to hurl himself onto the floor in a spasm of delight. The girl in the pink sweater’s head is about to spin 360 degrees and spew green vomit because her little body cannot contain her gratitude.

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2. UNPARALLELED ATHLETICISM. Ask yourself this: Can you stick your toes in your mouth and/or run back and forth across your living room floor for seven hours straight on nothing but dairy products and blueberries? CAN YOU? I didn’t think so. You know who can? Your nearest toddler.

3. PATIENCE. This is truly one of the toddler’s hallmark traits. Toddlers are able to wait and wait and wait to get what they desire. They never get agitated or frustrated when asked to delay gratification. They are a veritable study in Buddhist doctrine.

4. APPETITE FOR KNOWLEDGE. Toddlers are voracious readers. Sometimes they are so voracious about it that they eat the pages of their books. Do you eat your books? And while we’re at it, when’s the last time you learned a new word? Any new word? It’s time for some introspection here. FACT: Your toddler may seem like a simpleton when he kisses the dishwasher, but he is learning more in one day than you have learned since 1997.

5. KNOW WHAT THEY WANT AND GO FOR IT. Do you fight with passion for what you want? It’s worth asking the question.

Common desires of toddlers:

  • Lick dirty objects
  • Eat out of the garbage bin
  • Touch electrical outlets
  • Dogs

Would you be willing to throw a tantrum because you weren’t allowed to, say, stick your hands in a toilet? I think not. That’s because a “strong reaction” requires commitment, which adults are sorely lacking. Keep the toddler intensity and focus in mind next time you’re going for a promotion at work. Just ask the first toddler you see for tips. It will serve you well.

6. STELLAR COMMUNICATORS. Many if not most toddlers communicate through an elaborate dance of grunts, whines, hand gestures, and strategically timed feces deliveries. A lot is said with their eyes. Also sometimes with their lips. The other day my son was babbling away in his crib and he sounded an awfully lot like an auctioneer. I can’t be sure, but I suspect he’s live streaming to a QVC affiliate.

7. NO SHAME IN THEIR GAME. Do you feel free to grab your own junk while grocery shopping?** Do you run up and down your hallways naked, thigh rolls jouncing to and fro? The toddler not only accepts his or her physique, he/she delights in it. No part of the body is off-limits, at any time. No shame in their game.

**This may be illegal in your state

8. STRONG CONVICTIONS. A toddler lives by a set of deeply held convictions typically reserved for religious converts and Amway salesmen. This belief system was discreetly implanted into your toddler’s brain by some divine combination of biology, Daniel Tiger, and a secret manifesto available only to babies on Amazon Prime. It is unflappable.

For example: 100% of toddlers are aware that possession is nine-tenths of the law. A toddler holds this and many other truths as sacred. Just try to reclaim your iPhone from a toddler who has recently gained control of it. You will see what I mean.

Toddlers know that “sharing” and “compromise” are just buzz words thrown around by hippies. They stand by their personally held belief that all objects are their objects. This is called conviction. Look it up.

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“Why hello, friendly lady at the mall. I see that you’re trying to engage with me by complimenting me on being ‘such a good boy.’ Social norm dictates a response on my part. But you know what? I think I’m just going to stare blankly at you. Yeah. That’s what I’m going to do. Social norms mean nothing to me, if that wasn’t clear.”

“Why yes I am hosting a play date with some gal pals. But you know what I think I’ll do instead of be charming? Shit my pants and throw a tantrum. Boom.”

10. UNBRIDLED ENTHUSIASM. A toddler is naturally enthusiastic. This enthusiasm extends to many situations in which it is not entirely prudent, but that never stopped a self-respecting toddler anywhere. Toddlers know that zest is a trait associated with increased likelihood for college graduation. Parents: do you want your child to go to college? Ok then. Stuff your ears with cotton balls and put on a padded suit if you need to. You’re riding this crazy train and there’s no getting off.

Related post: 25 Easy Ways To Annoy A Toddler

Toddler Course Catalog: Spring 2015

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Following is our course schedule for the spring 2015 semester. If you are approaching two years of age, talk to your guidance counselor about how to register.

Pants and How Not to Wear Them. This beginner-level class takes you through the steps of why your parents insist on your wearing pants (something about social norms and/or cold weather) and gives you helpful tips on how to fight back.  Bicycle kicks not working?  Mediocre results with your tried and true method of shrieking, “NO PANTS!  NO PANTS! STOP, STOP, STOP IT!”?  Let our team of experts (i.e. 4-year-olds) take you through the steps of “adamant refusal.”  (Wednesdays and Fridays, 6PM-9PM)

Pulling Things off Shelves with Abandon. This class will once again be held in the campus library, much to the dismay of the librarians and custodial staff.(Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7PM-9PM)

Intro to Toddlerhood. New to toddlerhood?  This class allows you to get a firm grasp on the basics before pursuing a specialized course of study.  Guest speakers cover such perennial topics as: Opening cabinets full of dangerous cleaning solvents; Sneezing in the mouths of loved ones; and Goldfish Crackers: The art of competitive eating.  Master the art of smiling innocently while crushing avocado into the dog’s fur.  (Mondays and Wednesdays 12PM-4PM)

Annoying Shows and How to Constantly Ask For Them. Missing out on Calliou?  Craving a nine-hour loop of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse?  Start watching what you want to watch when you want to watch it!  Back by popular demand, this course teaches someone with a vocabulary of under 70 words how to bully a full-grown adult into submission.  (One Week Intensive: Monday-Friday 1PM to 8PM)

Where to Leave Legos So That Your Parents Will Step on Them in the Dark. Hoping to cripple the two adults who’ve put their lives on hold so that you can have a meaningful childhood?  This class will give you hints on where to play (ideally right where people are trying to walk) and tips on how to casually leave toys where they’ll impale themselves in the feet of people groggily walking to the bathroom.  Legos not provided.  (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 7PM-9PM)(Prerequisite Class:  “Where to Leave Small Matchbox Cars So That Your Parents Will Step on Them in the Dark)

Introduction to Not Sharing. Back by popular demand, spots in this class are incredibly limited and fill up quickly.  Sign up now and the space is yours and if you don’t sign up now, too bad, someone else got to the spot first and no matter how much you cry or yell that you want a spot in this class you can’t have one.No.  We’re not giving you a spot.  This is our class, you can go take a different class. (Tuesdays and Fridays, 12PM-3PM)

Walking Slowly. Class begins at 4PM and is held in a building 200 feet from campus down a road littered with interestingly-shaped sticks and little pieces of paper.  Anyone arriving on time receives a failing grade. (Wednesdays and Fridays, 4PM-6PM)

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Climbing Out Of Your Crib. Still crib bound?  This activity-intense class is perfect for the toddler who’s tired of looking at her dangling mobile and would much rather be walking around her room opening Vaseline jars or sticking ball point pens into electrical sockets.  (This could be you!)  Our instructors train you in traditional crib-departure techniques (i.e. standing on a bunch of your stuffed animals until you can get your leg over the rail) as well as answering questions such as “Does it hurt to land on a hardwood floor?” “Could I bounce out of the crib using my mattress as a trampoline?” and the perennial, “Can the mobile above my crib hold my weight and theoretically would I be able to swing out of the crib like Tarzan?”  (Wednesdays 8PM-4AM)

Intro to Food Refusals. Master the art of turning down perfectly delicious, high-quality food because “it’s touching other food on the plate” and/or “there are little green things in it.”  Let our professionally-trained in-house chefs prepare a five-course meal for you to push away, hurl on the floor, or smoosh into your hair while screaming.  (Mondays and Thursdays, 6PM-9PM)

Intermediate Art. The fact that you don’t fully understand language doesn’t mean you don’t have something to say.  This time-tested class is considered by many to be the perfect venue for encouraging self-expression using nothing but glue, permanent markers and your parents’ upholstered furniture.  (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12PM-3PM)

Related post: 25 Easy Ways To Annoy A Toddler

What I Say Vs. What My Toddler Hears

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If Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then toddlers must be from a completely different solar system. I often wonder if my toddlers and I are speaking the same language. We’re not, but when I have 45 seconds to myself I like to waste it by pondering about things I can’t do anything about.

The translations between my toddlers and I are a little fuzzy. It’s like visiting France and asking for a glass of water in Gaelic. For all I know, the French person I’m speaking to thinks I just asked them if I could buy a horse with a pink fedora. And really, who wears fedoras anymore?

Here are a few examples:

What I say: Please pick up your toys.
What my toddler hears: Let’s play cars and dump the whole bin on the floor.

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What I say: Please eat your dinner.
What my toddler hears: Drive your broccoli and carrots around the table, up your arm, and over your forehead. Then meow like a kitty non-stop for four whole minutes.

What I say: Get Dressed.
What my toddler hears: Nothing.

What I say: Please stop touching that.
What my toddler hears: Please keep touching that.

What I say: Don’t jump off the stairs.
What my toddler hears: That. Was. AWESOME! Next time, tuck and roll as you come off the stairs into a full somersault. Then roll right into the dining room table.

What I say: Please share with your sister.
What my toddler hears: Never, ever give her that toy. Guard it with your life. Like it’s the last toy you will ever have.

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What I say: No.
What my toddler hears: Ask me thirty more times.

What I say: Please put on your shoes.
What my toddler hears: Take off your shirt and put your pants on your head.

Maybe I’ll just go live on Venus. If there is any life over there I’m sure the translational challenges won’t be much different than talking to my kids. At least over there I’d expect them to continue asking me the same question thirty times. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see them wearing pants on their head and pink fedoras on their feet.

Related post: 50 Reasons Your Toddler Might Be Awake Right Now

Toddlers: The One Word Answer to Any Question

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Many people have pondered the question, “What is the meaning of life?” Some say it is to love others and be loved in return. Others say it is to make a million dollars on a reality show. As for me, I’m too tired from my kids sucking the life force out of me to answer that question.

What I can do for you, though, is give you an answer to many, many other questions. If you’re the mom of a running, smiling, nap-refusing, tantrum throwing little one, I can answer just about any question you ask with one word:


Don’t believe me? Have you ever asked these questions?

What is that smell? Toddlers.

Why am I so tired? Toddlers.

Who took my socks? Toddlers.

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Why is there a stain on my coat? Toddlers.

Who’s in bed next to me? Toddlers.

What happened to all the Post-Its? Toddlers.

Why is there something floating in my water? Toddlers.

Why do I have to make dinner every night? Toddlers.

How did I get so many gray hairs? Toddlers.

Who ate my sandwich? Toddlers.

What do I talk about with the grocery clerk? Toddlers.

Why am I up so early? Toddlers.

Why can’t I sleep? Toddlers.

Why am I sitting here watching Super Why by myself? Toddlers.

Why is my house such a mess? Toddlers.

What is that noise? Toddlers.

Who put my hairbrush in the toilet? Toddlers.

Who peed on the couch? Toddlers.

Why is there pudding in my hair? Toddlers.

Why am I always forgetting things? Toddlers.

Who colored on the walls? Toddlers.

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Why haven’t I showered this week? Toddlers.

Why can’t I get any work done? Toddlers.

Why does my car look like a Goldfish graveyard? Toddlers.

How did a banana get in my shoe? Toddlers.

Who’s in charge of my life? Toddlers.

One word. Two syllables. The answer to almost any question you can ask. You’re welcome.

Related post: 25 Easy Ways To Annoy A Toddler