Having good manners is a key social skill. It’s also a bit of an abstract concept for preschoolers. Using picture books as a tool for teaching good manners goes a long way in making that concept more concrete as the children can see illustrations and hear dialogue that makes these concepts more relatable. I like to read books about manners, particularly table manners, before snack time so that the children have an immediate opportunity to practice. Here are just a few books on manners that I enjoy.
Froggy Eats Out by Jonathan London, follows the ever-lovable Froggy as he accompanies his parents out to a nice restaurant. He gets a lesson in manners that includes “Be neat, be quiet, and don’t put your feet on the table.” Of course, Froggy runs into embarrassing problems as he always does, but his family comes up with a more “Froggy-friendly” alternative for dinner.
Tea for Ruby, by Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, is the story of Ruby, a little girl who gets a surprise invitation to have tea with the Queen. As she excitedly prepares for the big event, she gets tips on how to improve her manners. Pictures of her mistakes are paired with her perfectly regal behavior on the opposite facing page. Finally the long-awaited day arrives and Ruby joins the Queen (who turns out to be her Grandma) for a perfectly polite tea time.
Please is a Good Word to Say by Barbara Joosse gives plenty of examples of how to use polite words and how our words influence the way people feel. Harriett, the heroine, is quirky and cute and certainly childlike. She explains the importance of good manners to children in a way that children not only understand, but enjoy! (Just as a note, it does use the word “butt” once, but as long as you still have pre-readers, you can simply edit that as you read, using your preferred term instead.)
This Little Piggy’s Book of Manners by Katherine Madeline Allen lets piggies be the examples, both good and bad, as they show your little ones the importance of good manners. Hilarious and informative with fantastic illustrations. Three great qualities for a preschool social skills book!
Many of these books use both good and bad examples. This is one way of firming up the concept, showing both types of behavior. Make sure to take the time to discuss what is happening, what is polite, impolite and what the children might do in those situations to really help them internalize the information. Don’t put too much of the emphasis on the impolite behavior being funny, or you’ll end up with children imitating them for a laugh. Always turn the majority of the discussion towards what they should do.
It’s important to note that while many of the characters in these books are chastised for their bad behavior, that is done for story and instruction. With actual children (as opposed to illustrated children…and pigs and frogs for that matter) it’s important to avoid over-correction. Perhaps just concentrate on one skill at a time. Phrase correction in a positive way rather than a critical way. For example, “Please chew up your food and swallow it before speaking so I can understand what you’re saying,” rather than “Don’t chew with your mouth full!” (Phrasing positively will actually be the focus of this Saturday’s Positive Guidance post, for those of you who are following. And for those of you who aren’t…..why not start?)
So now that I’ve shared a few favorites with you, can you use good manners and share too? What books do you enjoy for teaching young children about manners?
For more food-themed activities, click here!