This Thanksgiving, be the perfect guest or host with these Thanksgiving etiquette tips!

Because it’s considered the easiest task, RSVP’ing often gets put off until the last minute. It’s important to be mindful of responding in a timely fashion so that the host knows how many numbers to expect, and if there is room to extend invitations to others. If you are able to attend, be sure not to come empty handed. When your host is asked if you can bring anything, the polite response is to say not to bring anything at all. The polite response when your host is asked if you can bring anything is to say not to bring anything at all. However, that isn’t what you should do! Be sure to bring a good bottle of wine or a festive dessert. Keep in mind, they may not open the wine if they have already paired specific wines with their meal, but the gesture is important. If you’re concerned about adding to an already organized menu, I recommend bringing quality candles as a gift, or a floral arrangement.


If you’re having a formal Thanksgiving dinner party, I recommend using place cards to direct individuals on where to sit. This is especially useful if everyone in your group doesn’t necessarily know each other. If you let everyone seat themselves in a situation like this, you’re more likely to get cliques and have less full-table conversations. I recommend seating a more outgoing person next to a shyer person to help conversations continue. If you have young children you can turn writing place cards into a fun art project!

Be sure to introduce yourselves to others you may not know. The host has brought everyone together because you all play an important role in their lives. It’s considerate to make them feel that they made the right choice mixing circles. Further, be careful to keep conversations at the table light hearted and positive. You don’t want to bring up topics such as politics or religion, which can easily offend others. This is especially the case when dining with new people. And be sure to compliment the food in only a positive way, try a little bit of everything, and be sure to help the host clear up afterwards!


Not all children will be able to sit through the entirety of thanksgiving without getting a bit antsy. I suggest making little bags filled with quiet activities to keep them occupied. Examples could include colouring sheets with a couple of crayons and some stickers. I also suggest waiting to introduce this bag until kids actually become antsy. Introducing it too early can cause the activities to quickly lose their novelty! If you have everyone on one table I suggest creating some fun conversation starters to give every age group a chance to contribute to the conversation.

Having kids feel like they are part of organizing such an important event can give them more reason for wanting to be on their best behavior. Designate jobs such as setting the table, clearing up, or initiating a conversation about what they are thankful for. Older kids can take the role of watching over younger ones, too!


Sunita Padda is a masters-level B.C.-Certified teacher and the founder of TableSmarts. To inquire about children’s Dining + Social Etiquette classes at the Terminal City Club, please contact:




School is officially back and the kids’ are going to want to catch up with all of their friends! Of course, parents all want their kids to be on their best behaviour at their friend’s house, but playdate etiquette isn’t just about the children; parents also have a set of rules they should follow.

Drop off’s at the door may be stressful for your child for many reasons. They are (potentially) saying goodbye to you and entering a home that they may or may not have visited before – making it unfamiliar territory! If your child is feeling nervous and the playdate doesn’t involve parent participation, I suggest sticking around for part of the playdate, even if it’s only 5 minutes, to help your child adjust to the situation. You could make your extended presence even more beneficial by asking the host parent what the kids will be up to during their playdate – your child will feel much more assured once they know the itinerary of their date.

If your child is feeling nervous about saying hello to a new adult (their friend’s parent) I suggest practicing with some go-to phrases that your child can memorize and whip out when feeling nervous. In our Dining + Social Etiquette class we call these our “elevator pitches.” A good one to start with could be a simple: “Hello” with a smile. Slowly, you can work your child up to a: “Hi, its nice to see you again.” Remember, this may be really difficult for your child at first, try not to show disappointment if they forget or become too nervous to use their greeting.

First, find out if the playdate involves parent participation, which is usually the case with younger children. If you prefer to stay, perhaps to calm your child’s (or your own) nerves about being apart, you could always bring dessert and suggest “tea and cake” with the host parent as a way to socialize while still being near your child. 


Second, if you are dropping off your child, it is your responsibility, as the parent, to be clear about expectations during a playdate. If you prefer that your child not consume any “junk food” or refrain from watching TV – be sure to let the host parent know this to avoid any disappointments.  Further, if your child has a specific diet (gluten-free, vegan, etc.) it is best to be prepared by packing a few items – especially if the host parent has not inquired about your child’s food preferences/restrictions prior to the playdate.

Third, once you find out what time the playdate is ending – be sure to be on time! If you’re running late, communicating with the parent via phone or text is appropriate so that the host parent (and your child) are in the loop!

Finally, be sure to reciprocate the offer by hosting the next playdate!

Remind your child that when visiting their friend’s home its important to be mindful of which toys are open to play with. Giving examples of some of their sentimental toys can be a good way to illustrate boundaries.

In most cases, food will be a part of your child’s playdate either in the form of a quick snack or a meal. This can be a new experience for your child – eating in a potentially unfamiliar environment with potentially unfamiliar foods! In our Dining + Social Etiquette course we encourage children to try everything once, even a very small amount, since every new food is a new experience. Let your child know that by trying a little bit of the food they can finally discover where the food lands on their “favourite foods scale.” Further, remind them that every dish tastes different based on how it is cooked. They may not have enjoyed spaghetti at last month’s restaurant, however, it could taste very different when made at home by their friend’s parent. The exception to this rule, of course, is restricted foods or allergens. In which case, your child can politely say: “I’m sure it tastes wonderful, however, I can’t have _______.”

When you arrive to pick up your child, don’t be afraid to ask your child and their friend if they had a chance to clear up their toys together. By asking both kids, you aren’t singling out your child and potentially making them feel uncomfortable. Further, you are showing that you place importance on your children cleaning up after themselves – especially when at someone else’s home. If the kids haven’t cleared up, encourage them to do so while you wait and chat with the parent.  

Phrases such as: “Thank you for hosting our playdate,” or “Thank you for having me,” is an important phrase for your child to learn especially as they practice speaking to adults. If your child is still developing their confidence, a shorter phrase such as “Thank you” with eye contact is a great start!



Sunita Padda is a masters-level B.C.-Certified teacher and the founder of TableSmarts. To inquire about children’s Dining + Social Etiquette classes at the Terminal City Club, please contact:




Ever wondered what the reasoning is behind why we’re discouraged to put our elbows on the table? Or where all the cutlery is suppose to go and what each piece is actually meant for? If these questions have been plaguing you for sometime, perhaps you should consider taking part in a dining etiquette course.

The TableSmarts Everyday Dining for Adults course runs through the ABC’s of table manners. Topics include, how to approach and exit the table in a polite fashion, placing an order with the waiter, navigating place settings, napkin-uses, rules for eating bread and soup, correct handling of utensils, passing food at the table, appropriate behavior at the table, and dealing with unwanted food.

Those who are intrigued by these “rules” of dining but are a little apprehensive about succumbing themselves to a course, have nothing to fear. The two-hour class is composed of friendly instruction (nothing like those stiff, whip cracking finishing schools you often see portrayed in films), group discussions, and hands-on practice during a three-course lunch at Vancouver’s Terminal City Club.

Our TableSmarts class is great for anyone who wants to present a more polished self at a business lunch with clients or those who simply wish to attain a better grasp of dining etiquette. There’s also a Fine Dining course for adults and an Everyday Dining course for kids too.


Here are my own top 5 dining tips we should all be following:

  1. Place your napkin on your lap before you take your first sip of water, as it signals the beginning of your meal.
  2. When someone asks for the salt or pepper – consider the two “married” and always pass them together. This way they stay together and people don’t have to ask for the salt and pepper individually when they need both.
  3.  It is courteous to keep your mouth closed during chewing and to avoid making noises such as slurping.
  4.  Never stretch across the table for a dish or condiment, for example. Politely ask for someone to pass it to you.
  5.  Do not blow on your soup to cool it down. In our Everyday Dining classes, we practice the “edge” technique where you learn to enjoy your soup without looking rushed or eager.


For more information about the classes and courses we offer, please contact me on