By Maureen A. Duffy, M.S., CVRT

Location technique step 1

The Locating Technique is helpful when you’re exploring your place setting at the dinner table. With practice, the locating technique allows you to explore the table setting safely, discreetly, and minimize spills.

For additional information, along with tips for easier eating and pouring, see Hints for Easier Eating and Pouring.

You’ll know you’re using this technique successfully when you can:

  • Move your hands slowly and in a systematic pattern;
  • Locate items at your place setting without moving or spilling any items that are on the table;
  • Locate each desired item and return it to its place.
Location technique step 2

Here’s a technique:

While seated comfortably at a table, rest both of your hands on the front edge (the edge closest to you) of the table surface, with one hand to the left and one hand to the right of the place setting:

  • With your palms facing down and your fingers (including your thumb) slightly curled, begin an exploration of the table surface with your hands in this position.
  • Your fingers should be slightly curled/relaxed but not clenched so tightly that your fingertips touch your palms.
Location technique step 3
Correct position: Your fingers should be slightly curled and relaxed.

Location technique step 4
Incorrect position: Do not curl your fingers tightly into your palm.

Location technique step 5
  • Beginning at the front edge of the table, move both of your hands forward (or away from your body) slowly in small circular motions, keeping your fingertips slightly curled and in contact with the table surface at all times:
  • Follow a systematic pattern (i.e., move from the front edge of the table away from your body), keeping one hand to the left and one hand to the right of the table setting.
  • When you hold your hands in this position, maintain contact with the table surface, and follow a systematic pattern, your fingers will act as exploratory “bumpers” and provide information about the position of your flatware, your drinking glass, and your entire place setting.
  • For example, when you use this technique to locate your drinking glass, it will help you contact it at the base (instead of at the top) and you’ll be less likely to knock it over.
Location technique step 6
If you contact your drinking glass at the base, you are less likely to knock it over.

Location technique step 7
If you contact your drinking glass at the top, you are more likely to knock it over and spill the contents.

Location technique step 8
Reaching out across the table with your arm in the air can cause spills or similar dining “disasters.”

  • Hints: As you explore the table setting, do not extend your entire arm across the table surface unless you’re aware of the location of all surrounding items. This precaution will prevent your body from leaning too far forward and knocking over glassware or other table items.
Location technique step 9
  • To return an item to the table surface, such as a salt shaker or butter dish, use one hand to locate a free space on the table top and the other hand to hold the item that you’re returning to that space. Keep your hand in place on the table top until the item is returned to a secure spot.

The locating technique is not limited to the dinner table, however. It can be helpful when you’re trying to find an object (such as a small piece of jewelry) on a bureau, or locate the always-elusive remote control on your coffee table. It’s a useful technique you can use creatively in a variety of household, dining, and daily living situations.