Helping children have manners that Sparkle and Shine

Photo by Kate Penn

for Smart

Heidi Thomas said she always gets compliments from strangers.

They notice how well behaved her children are while out running errands or at restaurants.

Even at a young age, they know to put their napkin in their lap, excuse themselves from the table and engage in proper dinner conversation.

Now, she’s sharing these and other etiquette tips with her students.

Thomas began teaching the Sparkle & Shine Model Charm School program at Greater York Dance about a year ago.

The program started with just a handful of students and is now up to 14 participants.

“I have always felt that essential manners and life skills are crucially important for children to learn,” Thomas said.

How was the program started? What age groups do you serve?

My Artistic Director, Lori Pergament, was key in creating the Sparkle & Shine Model Charm School program at Greater York Dance. She arranged for my formal training to become a certified, licensed etiquette trainer. We are in our first year of this program at Greater York Dance, which runs every Friday, September through June. Anyone can participate; you don’t have to be a member of Greater York Dance. Our program serves boys and girls. Our age divisions are as follows: tots, ages 4 to 6; elementary, ages 7 to 9; youth, ages 10 and up. Private lessons are also available.

What skills do you teach in the Sparkle & Shine program?

Some of the topics we cover are: meet-and-greet essentials; please, thank you and you’re welcome; tact; apologies; sharing; gift giving and receiving; attending a party; table manners; eating at school; eating at home; using your napkin; passing food; sitting politely at the table; correct use of utensils; American-style dining; continental-style dining; good hygiene; dealing with teasing and bullies; joining a group conversation; exiting a conversation; telephone manners and safety; and text messaging manners. All subjects are taught in a fun and relatable way.

What is the most rewarding part of teaching manners and appropriate etiquette to children?

Knowing that I am shaping a generation of young people to help them form confident social skills and useful manners in all situations, from the classroom to the country club.

What do you hope students gain from their training?

I hope that students gain confidence and ease in every social situation. And have a firm grasp of proper table manners at home and in public, for both formal and casual dining. Making people feel comfortable is a big reason that we use good manners and to instill integrity in each child so they can say to themselves “I am honest, and I have high standards.”

What tips do you have for parents on teaching skills to their children?

Grownups, make manners fun! Model good manners for your children at all times. Embrace the rules of etiquette. Respect and value your children so they will respect and value others. Do not assume that your children will “pick up” good manners and social skills. Manners and etiquette must be enthusiastically taught. These are the building blocks that lead to success in adulthood.

Heidi Thomas

Age: 34
Occupation: Certified Etiquette Trainer, Sparkle & Shine Model Charm School; Early Childhood Dance Instructor, Greater York Dance; Facilitator, TLC Montessori
Lives in: York
Married to Christopher Thomas. Daughter: Bella, 7. Son: Christopher Jr., 4.
For more information about Sparkle & Shine Model Charm School, call 717-755-MOVE or visit

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7 Responses

  1. Tammy says:

    Loved the article on Heidi and the charm school. More tips for parents on teaching manners to our children are a welcomed addition. If only we could possibly enforce the training on parents first so they in turn would teach their children. There are way too many rude and impolite parents and children in this world. Maybe if there were advice readily available, someone would pay attention. Thank you Sparkle and Shine Charm School.

  2. Lauren says:

    This is fantastic! It’s really important for parents to be properly educated in etiquette, so they can teach their children how to act as well as better themselves. Great article, thanks!

  3. April Trotter says:

    Ladies, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the article.
    Heidi also shared some great tips in our feature on age-appropriate etiquette lessons that you can check out here:
    Thanks for reading!

  4. Sara says:

    What a great article! Its an interesting way to really teach children life skills. I would love to see more of this taught everywhere!

  5. Laura says:

    I think many types of manners are becoming a lost art. Further, with new technology, new types of manners are needed. It’s great to see there are classes for children, since many people and parents probably do not even realize there are manners they may be breaking or failing to reinforce. I think what Heidi is doing is extremely beneficial for our community and society. It is vital for children to learn essential manners at a young age, creating a strong foundation. I don’t have children yet, but when I do, I definitely would like to enroll them in an etiquette class!

  6. Bhumi says:

    This is a wonderful article for all the parents….I definelty can use this for my kids!!! love to read more from you Ms.Heidi.

  1. February 8, 2013

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