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Source: Pat Pesci, 785-532-2210,
Web site:
News release prepared by: Nellie Ryan, 785-532-6415,

Monday, Nov. 9, 2009

Holiday help:

MANHATTAN -- Sitting down to a big Thanksgiving dinner can be quite intimidating for a child who might be questioning which fork to pick up first or which direction to pass the rolls.

According to Pat Pesci, director of Kansas State University's hotel and restaurant management program and known as K-State's "Mr. Manners," there are several ways parents can help prepare their children for proper etiquette at a Thanksgiving dinner.

A practice dinner would be ideal, Pesci said, but it may be unrealistic as today's families are so busy. However, just talking about the event with your kids can be helpful -- just don't do so too far in advance or younger children might not understand or might forget what you told them, he said.

"Talking about it in the car on the way to Thanksgiving dinner and setting some rules or expectations for the child can be very positive," Pesci said. "As a parent, tell other adults at the gathering that your kids might need some help during the meal so the kids are not embarrassed to ask for help. Also, tell your kids to slow down with their food, ask questions and follow an adult's lead."

Kids also should be encouraged to ask if they can do anything to help, whether it is setting the table, decorating the house or helping in the kitchen, Pesci said.

"While sometimes the adults like taking care of it all, it is good practice for kids to start offering to help -- and it also impresses grandma," he said.

When it is time for the meal to start, Pesci said children should ask the host where they are supposed to sit. After sitting down, they should pick up their napkin, which usually will be located on their left, and place it on their lap.

When children see their place setting, they might be a little intimidated if there is more than one fork or a small plate and a large plate. Knowing what these items are for is confusing to children -- and some adults, too, Pesci said.

"It is perfectly OK for the child to ask for help," he said. "If they don't know which fork to use or the platter of turkey is to heavy for them to pass, kids should not be afraid to ask for help. Somebody will be there to instruct them."

When it comes to passing food, the person closest to the food passes it to the right at the start of the meal, Pesci said. The salad should be passed first. If a child wants a salad, the salad plate should be located to their right above the spoon. If two forks are at the place setting, the outside fork is the one they should use to eat their salad, he said.

Another issue for children is there might be food at Thanksgiving that they are unaccustomed to. Pesci said the correct thing to do is ask what is in it, and take a small sample.

"It would be impolite for a child to say 'I don't like this' or 'this doesn't taste good' when somebody at the table put a lot of work into cooking the meal," Pesci said. "Kids don't have to try all the food offered, but they should eat a variety."

Once the meal has started it is important for kids to remember to eat slowly. Often times, kids are in a rush to finish their meal, but for a special occasion like Thanksgiving, people are at the table to talk, share stories and enjoy each other's company, so it might last longer than a normal meal, Pesci said.

"Sometimes kids, especially teenagers, go to these meals and try to eat as fast as possible," Pesci said. "I always tell them to slow down -- it is not a race."

It is no secret that kids have growing bodies and often will dig in for seconds. Pesci said asking for seconds is OK, but there are some guidelines to follow.

"You don't want to be asking for seconds when the rest of the table hasn't even finished half their meal yet," Pesci said. "This goes back to the reason why kids should take their time while eating."

Pesci also offered these general rules for kids -- and adults -- to follow at Thanksgiving dinner:

* No hats at the dinner table;

* No chewing with your mouth open;

* No talking with food in your mouth; and

* No talking or texting on your cell phone at the dinner table.

When the meal is over, kids should offer to help cleanup, whether it is picking up the napkins and silverware from the dinner table or taking out the trash. The adults who prepared the meal will be very appreciative of this, Pesci said.