10 sentences Italian children learn at the table

The dining table is the most important piece of furniture in Italian houses. Italian familial relationships are forged “a tavola” and children learn very soon how they should behave

1.) SI MANGIA TUTTI INSIEME – WE EAT ALL TOGETHER

Italian see their children as young adults. We eat all together, no discussions. Parents help their kids to eat only until they learn to hold a fork. Children learn very soon that “a tavola” is a very important call.

2.) MANGIAMO LE STESSE COSE – WE EAT THE SAME THINGS

As soon as children don’t need help with fork and knife, they eat exactly what adults have on the plate. In Italy children eat smaller portions, but the food is exactly the same. If you will go on holiday in Italy, you will notice that there’s no “children menu” in restaurants.

3.) È PRONTO! – IT’S READY

When mom or dad say “è pronto”, kids must join immediately the family at the table. If they don’t, parents or older brothers go and pick them up. No excuses.

4.) AIUTAMI A PREPARARE IL TAVOLO – HELP ME TO SET THE TABLE

It’s like a game. When mamma (nowadays also papà) asks for some help for setting the table, children put la tovaglia, the table cloth (there’s no Italian table without table cloth!) i tovaglioli (napkins), i piatti (plates) and le posate (fork and knife). When everything is set, kids are ready to sit down.

5.) USA FORCHETTA E COLTELLO – USE FORK AND KNIFE

It is amazing to see how Italian children learn to use fork and knife so early. A fork is as dangerous as a knife, so the soonest children learn to use knives properly, the better. When I was s child in elementary school, I clearly remember we used a safe knife, but definitely learn how to handle it.

6.) PER FAVORE, GRAZIE E PREGO – PLEASE, THANKS AND YOU ARE WELCOME

Please, thanks and you are welcome, per favore, grazie e prego are words Italian children learn at the table when they ask for more food or water. Mamma is ready with a smile or the magic question:”Come si dice?”. Si dice “per favore”.

7.) NIENTE COCA COLA – NO COKE, WE DRINK WATER

Soft drinks in Italy are not as common as they are in the US. Italians usually drink water. Coca Cola is allowed in pizzeria or in special occasions, like parties or meetings with other kids. Young Italian parents know how toxic that stuff is. Grandmas, be aware!

8.) FACCIAMO GLI GNOCCHI? – LET’S MAKE GNOCCHI TOGETHER

There are some positive habits coming from this long lasting economic crisis. America is doing good, by Italy is still in trouble with unemployment. Italian families are going back in time and make their own food with basic ingredients. Young parents ask grandma and grandpa how to prepare proper food. It’s cheaper and better. Children learn how to make bread, pizza, gnocchi and pasta with mom and dad.

9.) NON LO MANGI OGGI, LO MANGI DOMANI – YOU DON’T EAT IT TODAY, YOU EAT IT TOMORROW

Italian parents used to be quite strict with “bambini capricciosi”, naughty children. When children refused to eat, mamma would put the same thing on the plate the day after. Nowadays parents are softer, but this rule is quite common even these days.

10.) NON SI MANGIA FUORI DAI PASTI – DON’T EAT WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY. RESPECT LUNCH AND SUPPER TIME

Merenda is the Italian word for the afternoon snack. Fruit, a small pizza (pizzetta), focaccia (soft bread with salt and olive oil) or a tasty panino with salame or prosciutto (Italian sandwich) are common. But the size is pretty small. No sauce. That’s the only food children are allowed to eat outside regular meals. Before lunch (pranzo) and after supper (cena) the fridge (frigorifero) is off limits.

What is your experience as an Italian chid, or as a tourist in Italy? Please add your comments.




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    Riccardo
    Milanese, graduated in Italian literature a long time ago, I began teaching Italian online in Japan back in 2003. I usually spend winter in Tokyo and go back to Italy when the cherry blossoms shed their petals.

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