This past year, I opted to give my students a unique kind of Valentine’s Day Party instead of the traditional ones that include candy and craziness. Our party had a purpose. The classroom was set up like that of a restaurant. The goal was to provide an opportunity for students to learn and practice table manners. To set the stage, the tables were covered with table cloths, cute matching Valentine’s Day cups and plates, and completed with a place setting of plastic ware. I then decorated the tables with some fun Valentine’s Day confetti and made name cards for each child’s seat. Our menu consisted of some healthier items-popcorn, fresh fruit, cheese, and jello. These were items the kids liked and actually voted on. They were also food items that accommodated a student with a tree nut allergy.

To begin the party, I have the children enter with classical music playing and as they find their seats, the boys practice pulling out the chairs for the young ladies. Throughout the party, we talk about and practice how to use our napkins, how to sit at the table, and how to say, “yes, please” or “no, thank you” when being served the food and drink items. Of course, we talk about how to eat our food (not with our mouths open!), appropriate conversation for dining as well as the appropriate voice level when talking to people you are dining with. We even learn how to toast.

This type of party is always a hit with kids and parents definitely appreciate it. You can choose to plan ahead and have your kids dress the part; I usually do. The girls will generally choose to wear skirts or dresses and the boys will generally wear a nice shirt with pants. It is amazing how the students seem to behave according to how they are dressed. Many students, when wearing their “outside of school” clothes, will behave in a more reserved and mature manner.

Tips for Implementation:

  • Recruit parents to help with set-up. If possible, choose a time when the students are out of the classroom so they can arrive back at their restaurant.
  • Provide a sign-up sheet the week before for parents to contribute food items.
  • If your classroom is not equipped with tables, move desks together to form clusters.
  • Don’t forget about the music! Set the stage with something soothing like Classical, Jazz or nature sounds.
  • Calling all Scrapbookers…get really fancy and make a formal invitation to the children. Use your invite theme to make the place settings and decorations.
  • If time allows and the kids are up for it, include a little lesson on dancing. Fancy, right?