Social skills are the building blocks to a preschool education. While children may learn letters, numbers, shapes and even the beginning stages of reading, it is here that they develop the most important skill of all: social relations. Children learn these skills through observations of others, including parents, friends, and relatives. As children need frequent reminders of appropriate social behaviors in the early stages of making a learned behavior seem innate, they may require assistance from you. Fellow occupational therapists and teachers like to use the term: Teachable Moments.

A teachable moment is unscripted and unplanned. When the grownup is observing the child/children engaged in play, an opportunity may arise to positively redirect the negative behaviors or reward desired behaviors. By helping the child/children recreate the scene and identify what was correct vs. what could be changed, you are helping them develop awareness of their own pro-social behaviors.

For example, Henry is playing with blocks in the middle of the floor. Charlie is in the corner with his favorite puzzle. Once completed, Charlie puts away the puzzle and sits down in front of Henry’s castle and says, “That’s a big building. Can I play blocks with you?” Henry quickly responds, “You are stupid, it’s a castle!” Dejected and angry, Charlie walks away, accidentally tripping on the rug and causing the demise of the castle. Henry starts screaming and crying. The teacher has observed the entire episode and sits the two boys down to discuss the incident. They review classroom rules, how words can hurt and apologies are made.

Although the boys are upset, Henry learns that calling people “ugly names” – or using the “S” words are not acceptable social behaviors. With the teacher’s guidance, he recognizes that hurting someone’s feelings makes everyone sad. Charlie learns that you can let someone know you are angry without damaging property.

To redirect attention and enhance social skills, the teacher gives the boys a book to to share about different types of buildings. A castle is a building and there are many types of buildings: big, small, commercial, castles, high-rise condominiums and offices. As the next activity begins, the boys decide they will try to build the biggest building in the world!

To make the most of a teachable moment:

1. Listen more and speak less. Observe behaviors and listen to conversation before jumping to conclusion and interfering in children’s activities. If there is no danger, allow the children to resolve their issue without intervention.

2. Following the incident, offer praise for using their best manners to resolve differences and not hurting anyone’s feelings.

3. Trust children to mirror the behaviors they see. Patience, kindness, respect and understanding can make a difference in the way people are perceived.

In EtiKids classes, teachable moments are used because they are the most meaningful to the child. If you have any questions about how to incorporate this method into your daily parenting routine, please do not hesitate to contact Julie.

has even more examples of teachable moments for you to check out!

I recently did a survey on the EtiKids website. The question was “do you make children say please when you ask for something?” Out of the responses, 58.3% said they do “all of the time.” 16.7% said “not as often as I should,” and 25% had other answers, including, “I will when I have a child!” and “Yes- but they are not my children…” 0% of the people said never!

The word “please” is to be used when you want something: to ask rather than to demand. That “magic word,” as it is often referred to for children, changes the tone of the sentence. An ultimatum begins to resemble a request, and the demeanor between the involved parties relaxes. A person is more willing to get the job done (with far less under-the-breath muttering) should that word be included.

The results of this poll should show just how hard it is to enforce that 1 word into daily vocabulary. Although it is amazing that more than half of the pollers are diligent about regularly enforcing the use of the word please, the 16.7% were brutally honest in their “not as often as I should” answers.

From an article on Parents Connect, Nanny Stella gives great advice for teaching children to use the word please (and thank you) in 3 steps: “1) show by example, 2) praise the pleases, and 3) be a broken record.”

Children truly learn from behavior being modeled, meaning, they learn by watching those around them. Control the market by showing them the behaviors that you want them to exhibit in public. If you want a child to hand you the cup of water instead of spill it, you should say, “Please hand me the water.” When the child uses the language on his/her own, praise him/her repeatedly. Positive reinforcement, is a highly effective way to teach children behaviors that you wish for them to continue without negative repercussions. Finally, if the child doesn’t use the word please, do not provide them with what they want until the magic word is said. For children, their new language can become innate with a bit of consistent practice. They will get it.

Children love challenges, so provide them the opportunity to rise to the occasion. Count how many people said, “please” when they asked for something, whether in a restaurant, in a classroom, in a store. Let the kids listen for the magic word, and let them watch people’s reactions when it is and is not used. Children can learn from their own recognition skills: why politeness matters.

Please is the most basic of social etiquette; the politeness displayed by the courtesy will open doors with its usage. Teaching children this social skill at a young age will ensure mastery and give them the tools to succeed as grownups.

That is the question…

Kids put many objects into their mouths such as fingers, pen tops, pencil erasers, but one of the most socially acceptable items found in the oral cavity is chewing gum. A popular habit from the age of the caveman, it is often used to relieve stress, freshen breath, and may even prevent plaque buildup and gum disease. Studies by The Wrigley Science Institute (dedicated to studying gum), have suggested it may have an effect on appetite and memory. Not to mention that it is most helpful providing oral-motor stimulation to a child with sensory needs (talk to your Occupational Therapist about this). According to chewinggumfacts.com, over 100,000 tons of chewing gum are being consumed every year. It clearly provides enjoyment and sensory stimulation to many people. But... While gum can be useful, gum chewing can be one of the most annoying habits to watch.

Sticky and gooey, a piece of gum can be chewed for hours, used to blow bubbles or “put it on the bedpost overnight”** to resume chewing in the morning. It can end up on the bottom of an unsuspecting shoe, stuck in someone’s hair, strategically placed under a desk or plastered all over an unsuspecting face once the bubble bursts. It is pliable enough to stretch into long strands, twist into pretzels and can be used to make hideously loud clacking noises. Mostly, it is irritating to everyone else subjected to watching the monotonous chewing motion and listening to the sound effects of repetitive mastication. Since gum is not on the verge of extinction, should gum be banned or is there etiquette to chewing the rubber?

Two problems noted by Sheryl Eberly, author of 365 Manners Kids Should Know are the visual image and what to do after it’s been chewed (known as ABC gum). The most obvious solution is not to partake in the habit which is not really a viable alternative.

Following a few simple EtiKids' guidelines can help eliminate references to “chewing like a cow” or other ruminant animals from family, friends and teachers. Basically, chewing gum should be avoided in public places such as school, houses of worship, social events (weddings, birthday parties, theater), job interviews, private classes or studios, and any other place one may talk, eat or disturb others.

· Use small pieces one at a time, not giant wads that pad the cheeks. EtiKids stresses social skills and encourages behaviors that keep food inside the mouth. This is much easier to do if the mouth is not full. Bubbles are a no-no!

· Cracking gum and blowing bubbles is not an enjoyable experience for those not chewing. To be polite, refrain from such actions. The person on the left will be quite thankful.

· While chewing, lips should remain closed. This helps to eliminate sound effects. Chomping noises are never considered good manners.

· Share with friends. If one is tempted to slip a piece of gum into the mouth, make sure a piece is offered to accompanying friends.

· To remove gum from the mouth, place in a tissue and put in the trash. Please do not throw it in the toilet or spit it out. That’s a blog for another time!

Parents can set be helpful and set guidelines. Exaggerate for children what open mouth chewing looks like and discuss how it is perceived. Explain that it is difficult to remove if it gets on one’s clothes or in hair, and it should not to be swallowed.

Most important for safety, parents should remember choking is one of the leading causes of death to children that are age three and under. In addition to the usual dangers of hot dogs, peanuts and whole grapes, chewing gum is listed as a safety hazard by the American Academy of Pediatrics and should be a concern for parents. Be prepared, learn the Heimlich maneuver!


Oh-me, oh-my, oh-you
Whatever shall I do
Hallelujah, the question is peculiar
I'd give a lot of dough
If only I could know
The answer to my question
Is it yes or is it no

Does your chewing gum lose its flavour
On the bedpost overnight
If your mother says don't chew it
Do you swallow it in spite
Can you catch it on your tonsils
Can you heave it left and right
Does your chewing gum lose its flavour
On the bedpost overnight

Based on the 1924 original by Ernest Hare & Billy Jones, "Does The Spearmint Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight? (Marty Bloom / Ernest Breuer / Billy Rose)

Lonnie Donegan - 1958 (Also recorded by: Ding Dongs)


Yuck! Everyone has heard the word, spoken the word or wanted to say it at least one time. It could happen eating a family dinner, tasting a new restaurant dish, sampling an unlucky-pot dish or simply nibbling at a bad meal in the home of a friend. Adults think “Yuck, this taste’s awful,” and a child might exclaim, “This is yucky!” The burning question: does one actually have to eat the food, or is there a socially acceptable way to deal with the “yuck?”

The bad food situation can arise either at home with family or in public. Often, one look at a dish with a unique presentation (fish with the head attached) or hearing the inclusion of an unusual ingredient (sardines) is enough to cause the exclamation “Yuck!” Begin exposing children to different kinds of foods at an early age, as that is the time they are most impressionable. Studies have shown that children need to be exposed to new foods 10 times before actually being able to decide whether or not they like it. Therefore, introduce it in fun and different ways. Just in time for the Halloween season are Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes with Avocado Buttercream Frosting, which can be found on the blog Chocolate and Tea (avocados are seriously mystical foods!).

Another way to lessen the stress of unwanted/"yucky" foods at mealtimes: engage children by planning meals together. Use a food chart, shopping for ingredients and teaching them how to make healthy food decisions, which will ultimately prepare children to make better choices for themselves.

Finally, parents can explain that the word “yuck” is not an acceptable way to describe food on the table and provide a suitable alternative response. If the child does not wish to try something, a simple No Thank You will suffice. After all, not wanting to sample a dish does not mean that manners should be lead astray!

It is important for children to realize a meal takes time and effort to concoct. Our EtiKids can understand preparation communicates caring for others and makes people happy. Expressing feelings by making faces or describing how yucky the food tastes is hurtful behavior and should not be excused. It is also important to be sensitive to other people's feelings; everyone does not have the same interests in food, and various choices should be respected. In EtiKids, one of our favorite phrases is "Don't Yuck My Yum!"

At the home of a friend or in a restaurant with other people, there is ample opportunity for exposure to strange or unusual foods. First, one should never say “yuck” out loud. Second, “Thank you, I’ll try a little,” is the perfect way to accept a small helping if it is a new food or one is unsure of the taste. If the flavor is too strong or tastes unpleasant, one can hide the fact by playing and pushing small pieces around the plate. Please do not feed the pet as many animals have allergies and can become very ill. Spitting into a napkin is never good manners!

Individuals with food allergies, medically restricted diets can say, “It looks delicious, but I am gluten free.” For ingredients which are unknown or suspect, “No thank you, I have a food allergy,” is a polite and acceptable answer.

As grownups, set an example and be a role model; try new foods and experiment! Try to sample different dishes and be open to new tastes and textures... But please, Don't Yuck My Yum!


"Gravel Girty... dresses dirty; hair a mess, tear in the dress.

Second glances, muffled gasps, nails need buffin’, Poor Rag-A-Muffin…

Dress for success, sure to impress; you can rule and still look cool!"

Present Yourself Appropriately:

First appearances are very important to both animals and humans alike. Animals (on a very basic level) use their image to attract mates (the biggest antlers get the girls) and claim status. The outer presentation for a human is necessary for both of those scenarios, as well as creating social status, and getting jobs.

Although outward appearances can often be deceiving, it is how humans most quickly form an opinion of another person. A first impression can be made with a simple glance, so think carefully how you want to portray yourself to others. There is no right or wrong answer; however, if you are covered with piercings, have a mohawk and torn clothes, chances are that you will be passed over for promotions in most conservative companies.

That being said, knowing dress attire of the social or business situation and dressing appropriately will help you feel comfortable in any circumstance and rise to the occasion. On April 12, 2006, Forbes Magazine published an article that relayed the necessary do's of dressing appropriately in Dress for Success. Most helpful in the article was a shopping list for proper work attire (a must read for men and women). Although it stressed simplicity, you may still feel that you need to stand out amongst the sea of black business suits. Accessorizing to maintain individuality is how you can conserve your sense of self, as well as manage to stay memorable. A red tie or glass-bead necklace is always a standout!

Teaching children at a young age to dress appropriately will save them a lot of discomfort later in life. As the grownup, it is your job to tell them when it is and is not a suitable time and place to wear their wants. Knowing limits and setting boundaries is what will make children successful as adults: they can always push the envelope should they choose, but it will be their choice.

However you present yourself, "Gravel Girty", or a "dresser for successor," it is and will be your choice to present yourself appropriately.

Through EtiKids, I recently taught an etiquette class to a Brownie Troop in Bergen County, NJ, in which the subject of napkins came up. The question had been posed to the girls, “how do you know when to put your napkin on your lap?” The vivacious group of 22 looked pensive for a (brief) moment but quickly figured out the answer. “You wait for someone else to do it!”

That was a great idea, and according to some sources, correct! It is believed that one should wait until the host/hostess unfolds his/her napkin. The situation changes when not at a dinner party: in a restaurant, if the napkin is on the plate, the diner should immediately stick the napkin on the lap. As some restaurants start pouring drinks immediately upon being seated, it is a great way to prevent accidental outfit “water-staining.”

At a less formal dining establishment: as soon as ANY food is served would be an appropriate time to put the napkin on the lap. Since the napkin is often placed underneath the fork, it should be placed on top the lap as soon as the fork is lifted.

When getting up from the table, make sure to put the napkin on the left side of the plate (gently folded). As napkins are to be used for the purpose of wiping food away from one’s mouth, they should not be on the chair, where dirty bottoms are often placed.

Finally, one should not tuck napkins into the top of their shirts (resembling a bib). Using proper table manners (elbows off the table, no licking fingers, asking people to pass, chewing with lips closed) will prevent food from winding up down the front of one's shirt. As bibs are typically used for those who cannot feed themselves, it is inappropriate for a person to tie a napkin around their neck solely for the sake of preserving an outfit (unless eating lobster). When in doubt, don’t wear white. Meaning, don’t go to a restaurant that serves tomato sauce-rich foods, wearing light colors that will get stained.

These simple techniques for appropriate napkin use will help children and grownups alike in the present and future. As etiquette is meant to prevent uncomfortable situations by teaching people how to behave in social situations, teaching children these skills at a young age will ensure that they will have the knowledge of how to behave as adults.

Those Brownies were so excited to know an actual time as to when they should put their napkin on their lap and couldn’t wait to go home and teach their grownups. Watch out parents! The word is spreading…





What is it about gossips that make them so bad? After all, it is only words that are used in gossiping (sharing a rumor or personal story belonging to someone else). Once words are spoken, they cannot be recycled, erased, collected, expunged, obliterated or changed. Passing along information spoken in confidence or that may have heard from someone else can hurt another person very badly. Sometimes it can backfire and put the person who spread the story in trouble too!

Being sensitive to the feelings of others can be a useful guide. Putting oneself in the shoes of another can help understand how it may feel! Sharing information that is personal, health or job related should be left to the individual if and when they are ready to share the information.

Some quick tips...

If the information seems too personal, keep it to yourself.
If the information is hurtful, don’t pass it along.
If the information serves a malicious purpose, break the chain.
If the information can affect someone’s livelihood, don’t repeat it.

Leticia Baldridge, author of the Complete Guide to Executive Manners cautions, “Think before you participate in gossip, either by adding to it or by reinforcing it, even if you believe it to be true.” Time is spent building self esteem and making good decisions; choose what appropriate dialogue. Emphasis is placed on doing the right thing such as refusing to listen to the idle chatter, redirecting conversation to other topics, walking away or taking a leadership role by defending the target of the gossip by saying, “I don’t think Jane or Bob would want this to be discussed”.

Parents can set an example for their children by diffusing gossip-y conversations. Change the topic to something less volatile. Explain that the information may be incorrect and should not be further transmitted. Discuss feelings regarding communication of personal information. Clarify how easily rumors begin and the damaging effects they can have on a person (consider role-playing). If this seems confusing, perhaps a class that enables children to focus on the positive development of their social skills, such as learning to converse, rather than the spread of vicious gossip is in order. Contact EtiKids for more information!

Think of your mother's words: if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything!

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!”