Taking little Johnny and Susie to grandma's house for the holidays means a chance to break some bad habits that may have crept into your home. Here are a few tips that will ease the transition in training your kids from the casual to the semi-formal holiday traditions. Let the other kids take all the heat for being little monsters, while you're relaxing and catching up with friends and relatives.

Eat at the Table

Start training them now, that food stays at the table. No more wandering around through the house, on the couch, or in bedrooms with food and snacks. Just let them know that this is the way it goes, and the transition will be much easier at grandma's.

Turn Off the Television for Dinner

Make dinner a no TV time. Put on some music and just enjoy one another's company.

Have Dinner Conversation

While you're staring at each other, strike up a conversation. Ask your kids about their day and make it a game. Ask them to pick their favorite part of the day and their least favorite. Start asking them what they're thankful for, and ask what they'd be willing to share with others at the holiday meal. If you have tiny tots, play a form of eye spy. Each of you think of a colorful object in the house and try to guess what it is. If you have a baby, just disregard this part.

Make Manners a Game

Have a play tea party where you show your kids how to place a napkin on their laps, and say "Please" and "Thank you." At the end of the party, have each child ask to be excused before they can get up. Whoever plays with the most manners wins. Take turns and see who can be the most polite.

Let Them Know What Topics to Avoid at Dinner

Make sure you tell them when it's OK to talk about body functions and when it isn't: i.e., at the dinner table. Tell them it's always best to say "Excuse me" after burping or passing gas. Also, let them know what words are acceptable to use for those functions. Fart, is like the F-word in some homes, so if "toot" is more appropriate, let your kids be aware of the fact.

Most manners are learned by children between the ages of 2 and 4. But if you've got teenagers, remember, you're not too late. Just start setting up the new rules of the house, and watch how they become traditions. Watching television on the couch while eating dinner becomes less appealing when you find out how much you can learn from each other at the dinner table. With older children, tell them how much it means to the seniors to be greeted and engaged in conversation. Encourage them to talk to grandma first, before running off to play video games. It's the little things that build great bonds between generations.

Very Small Children Section

With a small bit of planning you can spend your holiday less stressed about baby spilling peas and milk on grandma's Persian rug and enjoy that pumpkin pie. Some things to pack ahead:

  • sippy cups with lids
  • finger food
  • portable, disposable carpet cover, for under high chairs
  • disposable place mat
  • large bib
  • lots of baby wipes

These tips will send you well on your way to having a more relaxing, enjoyable holiday with your children and extended family.

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