5 Pennies

On Mondays we review Table Manners at our house during Family Dinner.

Although I have taught my kids all of my 20 Table Manner Lessons, we are far from perfect. We still need reminders and reviews.  The reminder might be as simple as focusing on proper posture one night or specifically practicing cutting meat or a mini review of the why behind a manner.

And sometimes we play games for our Manner Review.

I have told you about the Politeness Police before (which is always fun), but our latest manner review game is “5 Pennies”.

Here is how it works:

I give everyone 5 pennies by their plates in a little ramekin.

Then we watch and observe manners at the table.

If you catch someone in the act of bad manners, you get to take one of his/her pennies.

But if someone catches you using bad manners, you have to give up one of your pennies.

The goal is to collect as many pennies as possible by the end of dinner.

The kids get to keep whatever pennies they can collect.

The first time we played “5 Pennies” was interesting. The bad news was pennies were exchanged back and forth all night.  The good news was that the kids really did know the manners.  They were noticing all kinds of manner mistakes.

Elbows on the table got called out. (Manner #14)

Someone forgot to address another by name when he asked for the food to be passed. (Manner #8)

Someone brought up an inappropriate conversation topic. (Manner #17)

A napkin was on the floor instead of in a lap. (Manner #3)

A glass was not put back in the right spot. (Manner #15)

In case you were wondering, there was little fighting associated with the game because fighting is bad manners and you would lose a penny.  Overall, the game was a great review of all the different Table Manners.

We played “5 Pennies” another Monday night at dinner and it was a much different scene.  Hardly any pennies were exchanged.

Instead I heard so many ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ and first names being used.

“Dad, please pass the salt.”

“Do you mind if I take some first Crew?

“Excuse me, Elle, as I reach to put this back.”

“May I have some more please, mom?”

Dinner was a truly delightful experience.  Partly because dad was the first one to lose a penny and mostly because we sounded like we were straight out of a “Family: Isn’t it About Time” commercial.  It was sappy and wonderful and everyone used their very best manners.

We decided that we are going to change up the rules next time we play “5 Pennies”.  Instead we are going to catch people using proper manners and give them a penny when we see it.   A little positive reinforcement can go a long way too.   We will see how that version goes.

If your kids are older you could use more incentive like dimes or quarters or candy pieces.  You could even have them bring their own dollar bills to up the ante.

Let me know if any of you play the game and how it goes.  We enjoy it and the kids beg to play ‘5 Pennies’ other nights of the week.






4 thoughts on “5 Pennies”

  1. I stumbled upon your blog a couple months ago, and after reading the 5 pennies game I thought that we really need to work on manners too. My daughter is 5 and eats like a cave woman, we try to tell her how to eat properly but she just looks at us with a blank stare. My son is 2 and eats with his fork better than his big sister, still grabs food with his fingers but we remember that he is just 2. I have went through your whole list of 20 manners and picked the main 12 we struggle with to work on in general, we will tackle the others when both children are older, like using a spoon and knife, and who gets served first or passing food. Thank you so much for the inspiration. I hope once we get these first 12 down we will be able to all play 5 pennies.

  2. Thank you for these great ideas and fun approach to teaching such important lessons! I am new to your blog and love it. I will use the 20 Table Manners outline for a ‘Mind your Manners’ church activity this week. Do you have a print out of the table manners created? If not I better get started on one. 🙂

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