June 24, 2011

Ideally, lessons in proper table manners and basic polite human interactions begin with the very young, said Marisa FitzGerald Aull, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer sciences in Jessamine County.

“We do the LEAP (Literacy Eating and Activity for Primary) program with Head Start program participants in our county, and they specifically requested a lesson on manners and etiquette,” Aull said. “This age (3 to 5 years old) really is the time to start emphasizing manners, especially at mealtime. We decided to have a tea party to help the children grasp the important concepts.”

 With about 100 children participating, Aull said they couldn’t offer the lesson in one tea party, so she decided to split it up into a few different parties. The big one is July 30 and they still have a few spots open for that day.

“We also wanted to offer both stay-at-home moms and working parents a chance to participate with their children,” she said.

The party began with Aull reading a story about manners and then asking the children questions based on what the book said. She then passed out several plush food-character toys to each child. They discussed which of the food items could be eaten with their hands and which ones the children should eat with silverware. After a second story, the children lined up to receive their place setting items and then correctly arranged the items with the help of diagrammed placemats. Once the place settings were assembled, the children served themselves fruits and vegetables and sat down to practice the good manners they’d been learning about.

Instead of tea, Aull served white grape juice in tea cups, which she encouraged the children to take home and use each day for the evening meal to help them remember what they learned at the tea party.

The LEAP program uses storybooks to teach children about heathy eating and taking part in physical activity.  Parents receive a newsletter that encourages them to take part in their children’s nutrition, and activities. 

Involvement in the LEAP program has created in children an interest to learn more about good nutrition through preparing healthy meals, and it’s also encouraged them to increase their physical activity.

Aull said she’s also incorporated the program’s objectives with preschoolers and kindergarteners at the Jessamine Early Learning Village.

For more information about the July 30 tea party, contact Aull at 859-885-4811.