My mother was raised in Europe with a very strict code of etiquette. When trying to teach her children what was appropriate at the dinner table she came up with a very clever game to help us learn. We simply call it “The pig game”, and the rules are very simple and appropriate for anyone ages seven and up.
Place a small plastic pig in the center of your home kitchen table. When anyone at the table does not follow an agreed upon dinner table rule the pig gets placed before them, and the rule that is not being followed is announced. The person with the pig in front of them needs to be on the lookout for another rule breaker and try to get rid of the pig before the end of dinner. Whoever is stuck with the pig at meals end has to clear the table and wash the dinner dishes.
A few example of dinner table rules to follow:
1. No talking with food in your mouth.
2. Never rest your elbows on the table, and both hands should be present during the meal, unless reaching for your napkin.
3. No inappropriate dinner conversation ( not the time to discuss anything that would make your food unappetizing at the table, or make a guest uncomfortable).
4. Always contribute to the dinner conversation, but do not monopolize it.
5. No reaching over anyone for food, instead request for something to be passed to you.
6. Ask permission from the host(usually mom or dad) to leave the table at any time.
7. If getting up to refill drinks or get seconds, ask if anyone else needs anything.
8. You must try at last a bite of all food prepared by the host, unless there are allergies or religious convictions involved.
These are a few easy rules, that can be added to for more formal occasions, but are great starters for any family. These were really helpful a few years ago when my younger daughter left for camp. She has to follow very specific rules at her girl’s camp or risk getting her tribe demerits. We have also played this game at casual dining restaraunts and used a pink sugar packet as our pig.