Good Manners for the Holidays in Four Easy Steps (Prep your kids with games that ACTUALLY work)


‘Tis the season for giving, being grateful and holiday gatherings. Are your kids ready? Does your child know how to accept a gift gracefully? How to be a great host or guest? Write a kind thank-you note? Or do you sometimes feel as if you go to a family gathering with your fingers crossed – “Please let my child behave today”?

We all have those moments when our children embarrass us by not behaving properly. The possibilities of what can happen at a holiday gathering are endless! The best way to try to relax and enjoy the festivities is to offer your kids a pre-holiday refresher 101 course on being a good host and guest.

Don’t fear. Help is here! Prep your kids with these four game-changing rules to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable. Play these simple games to equip your kids with the confidence to interact during the holidays and, hopefully, not embarrass you! And the best part: no nagging required.


Step 1 – How to Be a Polite Host. It’s never too early to start teaching your child the art of being in charge! Talk to your child about how to act as a good host. There are a few simple basics to review:

  •  Hello – Say hello to your friends at the door. Show them where to put their shoes or coats. If they have never met your family, introduce them and show them around.
  •  Share the Rules – Let them know any special house or party rules. Maybe a certain room is off-limits. Is the dog-friendly? Is your brother’s toy off-limits?
  •  Be Flexible – Try to be flexible on what to do. Come up with different activities and ask your friends what they would like to do.
  • Welcome – Make your friends and family feel welcome. Ask them if they would like a drink or something to eat.
  • Goodbye – Always follow your guest to the door to say goodbye (even if you would rather finish playing the rest of the video game or watching a little more of the TV show). And make sure you thank them for coming over.

Game Challenge: Play host with your child. Ask your child to think of different ways to make you feel welcome in their home. Role-play. You can also play bad host with your child and role-play the difference.


Step 2 – How to Be a Polite Guest. Does your child know how to be a respectful guest? Show your child how to be a considerate guest at someone’s house. A few simple rules can make everyone much more comfortable:

  • Hello – Say hello to everyone in the house. Take your shoes and coat off and ask where you should put them. Don’t just throw your stuff in a big pile in the hallway!
  •  Learn and Follow the Rules – Make sure to do what your host asks. If your friend tells you that you cannot disturb his older brother, listen. Never wander around a house by yourself. Don’t jump on furniture.
  • Goodbye – Thank your host for inviting you over to his house or party.

Game Challenge: Let’s play charades! Ask your child to demonstrate how to be a bad guest and then how to be a good guest. Discuss the difference and which way could make everyone feel much more welcome and comfortable.


Step 3 – How to Accept a Gift Gracefully. Accepting a gift with kindness is an important skill, especially during the holidays. This first thing to teach your kids is to always say something positive about each gift. “What a cool toy.” “This is just what I wanted.” It’s also important to explain that they need to have a smile and a happy tone while opening gifts. There are a few rule-breakers to go over – Never ask how much something costs. Don’t put the gift aside and not say anything. And if someone didn’t bring a present, never embarrass them by asking where it is.

Game Challenge: Do you have tact? Teach your child to see the positive instead of focusing on the negative. Play the situation game with gift-giving. What would you do? Here’s a sample question. Then make up your own questions and answers.

For Christmas, your aunt gives you a sweater which you think is ugly. When she asks if you like it, what should you say?

a. Thanks, Aunt Peggy. I love the colors of the sweater.

b. I really don’t like this sweater. Can I return it?

c. Toss it aside and ignore her.


Step 4 – How to Write a Thank-You Note. A little note can make such a difference! Help your children understand that the purpose of a thank-you note is to let a person know how much his or her generosity and kindness are appreciated. It doesn’t have to be long – a brief, thoughtful note is all that you need.

Give your child a guide to help them write the card – simple steps. Being by talking about the gift. Say something positive. Have you used it? Did someone comment on it? What did you really like about it? Then thank them for coming to your house or thinking of them. To end the note, just thank them a second time.

Game Challenge: Who can come up with the most creative thank-you card? As a parent, we need to motivate our child to see the fun in writing thank-you notes. They can make homemade cards, take pictures/video messages, etc. Taking the time to write a thoughtful note is an important lesson in gratification. Please visit our website to download a great thank-you note guide.

Have fun playing it SMART this holiday season. I wish you all a wonderful holiday with very few embarrassing moments! Remember, manners do matter – in big ways and in small. It is a learning process for your children and it takes work, but it’s worth it!

Please visit to learn more about the award-winning activity books The SMART Playbook series. A complete holiday prep course for the entire family!

Suzanne Wind About Suzanne Wind

Suzanne Wind is a wife, mom of three and author of the award-winning series, The SMART Playbook and Lil' Champs Play it SMART. Her passion is to empower parents to teach the next generation social skills that fit a modern world and are the key to their future successes. She writes about ideas and activities designed to help children gain confidence and character.
Visit our website to learn more.

What do you think?