The internet is flooded with travel specials and more people are taking to the air. Airlines are filling planes to capacity leaving little leg room, decreasing services and increasing charges. While the weekend or holiday get-way can be a challenge, taking a child or two can test the mettle of the calmest individual. There are helpful hints and plane etiquette tips to make travel less stressful, a positive experience for children and an enjoyable pastime for all passengers.

Magic words, including Please!, apply in all situations. EtiKids emphasizes use of the words please, thank you and excuse me in all situations. Remembering to say please to attendants when requesting service or thank you to the pilots for a safe flight are common courtesies appreciated by staff. However, we caution the overuse of excuse me as a child repeatedly kicks the passenger seat in front of them or the window passenger marches frequently in and out of the row!

Define your space and stay within the limits. No one wants appendages flailing, sweaty body parts touching, and aisle passengers leaning to peer out the window, invading personal space. Bring reading materials or work that fit on a tray table. Use an arm rest to help define boundaries. Climbing over a sleeping passenger is a no-no! Gently wake them and excuse yourself before passing knee to knee.

Be kind to your fellow passengers. Personal hygiene prior to flying is paramount; perfume or cologne in closed quarters is not the answer to body odor. Christopher Elliot, travel columnist reinforces this in his column, 5 Ways travelers Have Lost Their Manners. The msnbc.com contributor writes, “One of the most common complaints I get about inconsiderate travelers is the way they smell”. Do your nails at home, not in the cabin of the plane. Keep idle chatter to a minimum especially when your neighbor is not interested in conversing. Turn down the volume of headphones- opera may not be for everyone!

Maintain parenting skills at all times. To keep children happy, keep them occupied. Offer food, games and treats special for the airplane. Keep the noise level of electronic games on mute or lower sound to minimum even when using earphones. Running in the aisles is dangerous, disruptive and not an appropriate activity for the plane. EtiKids' focus on social skills includes making time to practice age appropriate social skills and discuss expectations prior to taking flight.

Children can learn the joy of travel at an early age. Offer guidance and allow them to make choices about what they will bring. Let them benefit from the responsibility of carrying a small backpack or suitcase with wheels. Vacations can be relaxing and fun with a little planning.

I hope the Plane Truth was helpful. Happy Flying!

You have been invited to a person’s birthday party, and the event is in a home. Do you need to bring a gift? Absolutely. Does it need to be an expensive, thought-about-it-for-days kind of present? Certainly not! Simply put, having good social skills/manners means that you never show up to another person’s home empty-handed.

Some people might argue that they were explicitly instructed to show up with just their lovely smiles. Modern etiquette would dictate that in a social situation, whether a dinner party or event, if the host had to spend time and money in order to entertain, it is expected that the guest arrive with a token of their appreciation.

Grownups, if you are at a loss as to what to bring to said occasion, a bottle of wine is ALWAYS appreciated! Should the grape varietal of wine not be what the host prefers, it can always become a re-gift. And if you have any questions about wine pairings, contact the wine guru: Stacey Blacker www.redwhitebrew.net.

Another idea is to bring a plant, as they are the environmentally-aware compromise for flowers (flowers die after a few days, but plants can live on forever). Some easy to care-for plants are: spider plants, peace plants, snake plants, cacti and bamboo.

Clearly it is inappropriate for young children to bring alcohol to an informal, adult birthday or dinner party. Instead, I would recommend having the child create an artistic masterpiece that can be handed to the host (or hostess) upon entrance to the home/event. Not only can the child utilize his/her fine motor skills and one to one correspondence in the process but parents will have an opportunity to discuss appropriate social behavior in advance.

Whether handing a bottle of wine or a picture, it is important to look the host in the eye and say “thank you for inviting me. I brought this for you.”

Do you love the idea of entertaining but stress once people accept your proposed engagement? Most people don't realize that a considerable amount of planning is required to become the "host with the most." Visiting someone’s home can be a satisfying experience for both guest and host; responsibilities for the host begin by extending a sincere invitation. Choose a group that will have fun together and share a common interest. As RSVP’s are received, ask about any dietary restrictions or allergies (this includes pet allergies too!)

Organize. Organize. Organize. Use lists for the menu, cleaning and delegate assignments. For those individuals offering to bring something, politely provide guidance or assign a complimentary side dish. Prepare as much as possible ahead of time to decrease stress and increase enjoyment.

Greet everyone warmly and help them feel welcome by making introductions and smiling. Offer interests as topics of discussion.

Provide appetizers and/or drinks as soon as guests arrive. Who wants to drive for 45 minutes and not even get a glass of water?

Be a schmoozer and socialize with everyone. Pull those who may be isolated or uncomfortable into the folds of conversation.

Make sure guests leave safely. Walk everyone to the door as visitors exit. Thank them for coming.

The success of a gathering lies in the company of those invited. Although parties often include food, the laughter, pleasant conversation, and sharing of good times are what make the experience gratifying for everyone.

Creating that comfortable environment is the job of the host. Children can learn those skills by observation and practice. Give them a task to perform. Each child can be given age-appropriate activities and are more than capable of assisting in the kitchen. Tasks include: setting the table with some guidance, greeting guests and helping them find their seating. Create opportunities to participate in conversation – rather than monopolize -and practice using their good manners prior to having any visitors. These social skills and more are learned in EtiKids classes.

As Emily Post said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use!”

Being a good guest can take almost as much practice, forethought and preparation as a host. Whether it is an invitation for a casual dinner, formal party, weekend visit or extended stay, the best barometer to gauge visitor skills is receipt of a return invitation. In other words, if it has been a successful visit, the person will be asked to do this again.

A few key ingredients to guest etiquette can help assure that your company will be welcome at another time. While some may appear to be obvious, this list contains components worth repeating…

1. Respond to invitations in a timely manner. No one wants to guess how many people will be arriving, staying or eating.
2. Use the words please and thank you. No one is too old for the magic words.
3. Eliminate slurping and bodily noises. If necessary, ask to be excused and go into the bathroom to release all the bodily fumes, gases and fluids!
4. Be prompt. Respond when dinner is ready.
5. Offer assistance as needed. Try to be helpful if you see the host can use an extra pair of hands.
6. Respect other people’s property. No snooping in bathroom cabinets, drawers and closets!
7. Be considerate of resources. Turn off lights, water faucets, and take short showers.
8. Follow the culture of the home. Every home has there own unspoken rules, take note by observing the actions of others in the house.
9. Remember to thank the host for a lovely time. An appropriate, carefully chosen gift, such as chocolates, plants, wine and a written note, will always be appreciated.
10. Kindness goes a long way and guarantees a return invite!

Everyone seems to have jumped in on the etiquette bandwagon. Susan Blond's blog for the Village Voice offers tips to visitors and a litany of humorous suggestions for the weekend guest, such as feet off the furniture and certainly no picking at them!

Think about experiences that you have had and practice the positive. Envision the type of guest you would like to host and become that person. To help children meet success as their role of “guest,” role-play responses to situations that may arise in the homes of others. Teaching them the social skills at an early age will certainly ensure that their presence will be welcomed in the company of others in the years to come.

Finally, remember to have fun! Clearly the host enjoys spending time with you, which is probably why you were invited in the first place…

Cupcakes. No longer just for children’s birthday parties, cupcakes are now used at weddings, charity events, and other formal dining situations. Cupcake shops and delicatessens are popping up throughout New York City, as the craze just seems to be gaining momentum! Aside from the fact that every diner can get the same ratio of frosting and cake (no longer a fight for the coveted end piece), cupcakes can soothe everyone’s taste buds, albeit chocolate, vanilla, lemon zest or red velvet! The best part is that people with allergies can enjoy a treat that doesn’t lack in shape, texture or flavor (cupcakes are one of the few foods in which the allergy-free versions taste the same!).

On that note, I will say that some people have recently asked if there is an appropriate way to eat the said cupcake. “What is proper cupcake etiquette?” Not to answer a question with a question, but are utensils available? If the answer is yes, a knife should be used to slice off "bite-size bites," which can then be carried to the mouth by hand. This will help reduce an overabundance of crumbs. It will also help provide an appropriate frosting/cake ratio. If a knife is unavailable, a fork or spoon can be used to “slice” the cupcake, but it is not necessary to eat it with a utensil.

If you do not have utensils because the affair is much less formal, and/or you are standing, it is appropriate to break off smaller pieces and place them into your mouth. Biting directly into the cupcake can cause frosting to appear all over your face, which will receive unwelcome snickering from those around you. And yes, I will try to hide a smile but will be laughing as well. Seriously, the secret to cupcakes is to avoid making a mess.

If you are 3 years old, you are probably licking the frosting off first (most kids don’t even bother with the cake part; they just head straight to the frosting). And when they have successfully licked the top off of one, without fail, they will ask for a second. Although it is great to allow children to be kids, our job as grownups is to provide them with the social skills. If they choose to continue licking off only the frosting, well, at least we taught them the right way. Perhaps if grownups provided children with utensils for their cupcakes at an early age, the shock of learning how to slice a “bite-size bite” would not seem so traumatic upon entrance to adulthood. That way, when they are 30 and at a business dinner, they will at least be able to recall the appropriate cupcake etiquette.

Whenever Rupert Rude had a birthday, he would never send thank you notes for the gifts he received. He always thought, “why bother? I said thank you when I opened it in front of them” (even though after the fact, he rarely remembered who gave him what). His friends, Jolly Jonny and Maddy Manners watched him play with the toys that they gave him, feeling sad that Rupert Rude never mentioned whether or not he liked the toys, let alone if he even knew where he acquired the gifts from. Staring in horror as Rupert Rude stomped on the super-cool action figure (that he may or may not have known was from them) in front of them, Jolly Jonny and Maddy Manners decided that they would never bring him a gift ever again. “It seems like he doesn’t care either way,” said Jolly Jonny. Maddy Manners tearfully explained, “we just thought that he would really like it because we know he likes blue!”

Did that situation ever happen to you? Have you ever felt like you have picked the perfect gift for somebody, only to wonder if the receiver ever liked it (or got it)?

It is ALWAYS important to acknowledge a gift with a thank you. If a guest arrives at your house with a picture that was colored just for you or a bottle of wine, you (the host) need to look the guest in the eye and say THANK YOU. A thank you note is not required for this. Up to your discretion: if you feel like a person brought you something especially thoughtful, an email is always appreciated. Of course, I wouldn’t discount the fact at how nice it is to be on the receiving end of a handwritten note of gratitude for a gift I have brought.

If the event is a special occasion, such as an engagement party, bridal shower, baby shower, or planned birthday party (to name just a few), handwritten notes are pretty much the only way to go. Although there are some schools of belief that an email is appropriate, the truly heartfelt "thank you" often seems to be in the form of a personalized thank you note. Yes, a gift means that there should be no expectation of anything upon receipt; however, people just want a testimonial of your pleasure.

Moving past the “should you” or “should you not” send a thank you argument (you should!), the ever-burning question of turn-around time: how long should you wait to send a thank you note? According to some wedding etiquette books, the time line is 6 months. I feel very strongly about the fact that a THANK YOU NOTE MUST BE WRITTEN BEFORE A CHECK IS CASHED, GAME IS PLAYED WITH, JEWELRY IS WORN OR THE GIFT IS USED!

Even young children can learn the art of a thank you note. By the time a child is two years old, he/she is capable of creating a drawing of the present received. The grownup can write the “thank you” for them. Once writing skills are developed, they can be incorporated into the picture. For example, if the child can write his/her name, add that to the drawing of the picture. The message to be taken away is that young children can learn to express gratitude for a gift (or time spent): people of any age can learn to say “thank you.”

Dear Julie can help you write the appropriate Thank You Note for each occasion.

I was recently reading a posting on Facebook: someone was wondering proper "door etiquette." Although some responses were "to never hold the door for anyone" and "keep walking so as to avoid any sort of uncomfortable situation," I thought that it would be helpful to know how to handle the door scenario... After all, how else could we help raise a nice group of young girls and boys without modeling the appropriate behavior for them?!

First and foremost, it is always polite to hold the door for the person behind you. Period. As the image of doors getting slammed shut in one's face is not a pleasant one, taking an extra 5 seconds of your time will brighten someone else's day and you will have gone one step closer to fulfilling your good-deed quota of the day. Of course, if someone holds the door for you, don't forget to say Thank You!

Second, let them out before you go in. This rule can be applied to subway turnstiles as well. I know it seems like common sense; however, that rule is forgotten by many. A person has a much easier time exiting through an empty space, rather than maneuvering through a crowd. After the person is allowed through the door, the passer-by-er should hold the door for those entering.

Now, the age-old question of gender and door holding. Modern times dictate that chivalry is no longer an integral part of society. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune (written by Nara Schoenberg) modern etiquette has a twist with "Etiquette for Dummies" by Sue Fox. When someone crosses to the door, the first person to arrive is the one who will hold it open, regardless of gender. A person's age may be taken into consideration.

The same is true for a revolving door: the first person to enter is either the first one to reach the door or the stronger of the group, if the door is not in motion.

Regardless of gender, teaching your preschool child to say "thank you" every time a door is held for him/her will cause pleasantly surprised looks from the grownups around. Everyone will notice "Paul/Polly Polite". Not to mention that young children like to have responsibilities. By assigning them a job, such as "door holder," children learn the skills of dependability and reliability, which will only help them in their future endeavors.

And of course, encouraging them to complete any task, regardless of age, race and/or gender is a valuable lesson to teach children (and one that we hope will stay with them for the rest of their lives)

I promise to clean my room. I promise never to grab. I promise to take you to the game.
PROMISES are made daily.  A promise lets someone know that something will or will not be done.  Robin Thompson, author of Be The Best You Can Be – A Guide To Etiquette and Self Improvement for Children and Teens says “one of the best compliments to receive is that you keep your word.”

A promise is a pledge to oneself or someone else.  According to "Why Keeping Your Promise Is Good For You" in Psychology Today, an unkept promise to someone may be misinterpreted or can communicate a negative message.  Something else trumped the commitment. Others may perceive one is not responsible or dependable, even if the promise broken is small. Enough forgotten promises can spoil a relationship.

Sometimes a task or expectation may be overwhelming.  Responses that utilize social skills may sound like, “I’m sorry I can’t,” “I apologize, but I am not comfortable with that,” or “I just won’t be able to take the time at this moment.” Make promises that can be kept or assure someone something will be completed only if that is the true intent.  It is easier to let others know ahead of time that the task cannot be completed, so alternate plans can be arranged.  Using manners to politely decline an invitation shows appropriate social etiquette as much as accepting.

Simple steps from ehow.com to work on keeping a promise:
Assessing the situation, whether taking out the garbage or a deeper emotional commitment, one must ask if a conclusion will be possible.  Next, make a list of what is needed to follow through to completion or integration into daily activities.  Using a checklist can help one visualize accomplishments along the way; while notes help chart development.  Finally, anticipating changes and communicating progress with others allows time for assistance if required.

In conclusion, children learn by example. Unfulfilled promises send inconsistent and mixed messages. Keeping our word builds character and reinforces concepts of responsibility, strong values and dependability. Promising a child a trip to the movies only after the toys have been cleaned up can work. I promise!

The last segment of 4 Social Skills to Teach Children was such a hit, that I felt like it was time to share 4 more! I understand that many of these skills/manners are obvious and practiced by many; however, the reasoning behind their implementation is not always so apparent. As it turns out, manners were not only created as a way to be respectful of others ("Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use. ~Emily Post"), but they were intended to "keep your body safe," which is a hugely popular phrase in the preschool world.

Aside from the fact that your sleeves will wind up stained with the delectable meal you are eating, leaving elbows on the table is a successful way to share your neighbor's meal with the floor. As many people tend to engage in conversations, the excitement level rises during an intense discussion. One slide of your elbow can cause the plate or drink of the person next to you to break, leaving shards of glass and/or ceramic. To be on the safe side, leave one hand in your lap. The only visible parts of your arms should be the forearms, hands and fingers.

2) Hunch Over Ideas, Not Plates!
In a restaurant setting, the background noise can be overwhelming, so people rely on their vision to hear. When "listening" to someone talk, chances are that they eyes are watching the lips just as carefully as the cilia in the ears are dancing to the vibrations of the sound waves. If a person's head is facing his/her feet (which are hopefully underneath the table), it is often very difficult to understand the words, which become muffled and lost in the background. Instead of causing everyone around you to strain their necks in order to hear all of the important ideas that you have, just look up! Not to mention that your spine will thank you immensely... Slouching over your plate puts causes unnatural curvature of the spine, which can have serious long-term effects. Just ask orthopedic spinal surgeon, Dr. Nathaniel Tindel, author of "I've Got Your Back!"

3) Bite-Size Bites
Forks and spoons were created to be proportionate to people's mouths (children-size spoons are larger than baby spoons, yet smaller than those for grownups). The measurements were carefully taken to ensure that people would only take bites of food that could fit onto the fork or spoon. Two compelling arguments for taking appropriately-portioned nibbles: 1) you are 93% less likely to choke and 2) you can maintain chewing with your lips closed, as your teeth will be able to touch without your mouth filled to excess. A win-win for everyone!

4) Eating Utensils are for Eating
Although Ariel in Disney's The Little Mermaid thought that the fork was a dinglehopper, a device that humans used to comb their hair. However, "up there on land" the fork was used to help the food get to the mouth without the use of fingers. As fingers are often carriers of germs, due to their ability to touch anything and everything, eating utensils were created to prevent the spread of sickness. Use them!

On that note, EtiKids' "4 Social Skills to Teach Children- Part 2" will help them keep their bodies safe (and yours!).