Civil Action


Who’s being nice, not naughty, at the dinner table this year? Your little ones, if you get them enrolled in one of these etiquette classes just for kids.


THE SEASON IS UPON US, AND WITH IT comes the inevitable rounds of family dinners, holiday parties, and other celebratory occasions. It’s hard enough for adults to remember one’s manners at these events, but there’s the added worry of how children are behaving, too. To the rescue: a crash course in etiquette, just for kids, offered at two of the city’s most distinguished hotels: the Plaza and the Ritz- Carlton. These programs will get your kids ready for the holiday circuit in just hours.

“The idea is to introduce etiquette in a fun, relaxing environment,” says Lyudmila Bloch, an instructor at the hotel’s Young Plaza Ambassador Program. Since its inception in 2000, the program has educated more than 3,000 children in the finer points of dinner table decorum.

In the Basic Dining Skills class, children ages six to 14 learn the key elements of dining, good manners, and table settings. Everything from making an introduction to what to do with your napkin is addressed. There are interactive demonstrations, les- sons in continental dining, and a session where kids draw questions from a bowl to ask about the many mysteries of manners, such as where to seat a guest of honor.

The Eloise Tea and Social Skills class uses the relaxed setting of a tea party to give children ages six to nine a chance to practice their best behavior and learn new social skills, such as hosting, the way to eat and serve tea party fare. and how to be well mannered in any social setting..

The Advanced Dining Skills class teaches the nuances of dining at special events. The course answers questions about what makes an event “formal,” such as special invitations, name cards, place settings, and hosting. It also covers difficult situations, such as not finding a name card on the table, dealing with food allergies, and leaving the table during a formal dinner.

Beginning this year, the Ritz-Carlton New York at Battery Park is offering a similar course in etiquette, an extension of Miss Judith Re’s Social Savvy™ classes from the Ritz-Carlton Boston.

When Re’ began the program in 1987, she trademarked Social Savvy™, because it was about more than just etiquette; it was about building social awareness and confidence among children. “For example, a child relates that he just moved here and hasn’t been able to make friends yet,” Re explains. “That question isn’t related to dining or manners, such as ‘Pass to the right at the table,’ but it is a social question that involves fitting into society, introductions, and conversational skills.”

And so, approximately 12 children ages eight to 13 gather in the hotel’s private dining room, with stunning views of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor, for a les- son in social skills. Seated at a large round table in order to facilitate a conversational atmosphere, children are taught proper introductions, telephone etiquette, writing thank-you notes, and other social skills.

When the children leave the class, they know how to leave the table, how to politely refuse a food they dislike, where to place their napkins, what to do in case of a spill, and how to catch the server’s attention. Re also teaches them how to start an introduction, how to “volleyball” the conversation and keep it alive, and also how to pet out of it without an abrupt departure.

“It’s about being as gracious to the person pushing the broom in the lobby as you would be to the CEO you are there to have a meeting with,” Re’ says.