Most people buy furniture that is appropriate for their day to day needs. This can mean that they are unsuitable for special occasions. For example, a dining room table that is of adequate size for a family of four can be quite small for an extended family gathering, which can have a dozen or more people showing up for dinner. A common solution is to acquire a second table (often a fold-out card table) and have a subgroup of the gathering eat there. This is often referred to as the "kids' table", as a typical way of determining who eats where is to have the younger diners sit at one table and the older diners sit at the other. One extra benefit of this is that the adults can have dinnertime conversation on topics the kids would not be interested in (and vice versa).
This trope occurs when a big meal is being held (often Thanksgiving) and an older child (usually 10-16) is made to sit at the "kids' table" instead of with the adults, despite insisting that they are old enough for the latter. Bitterness and envy will ensue, especially if a slightly older peer is sitting with the adults. If they eventually do get their wish, you can expect an Aesop about how it really is better to not try to grow up too fast or something of the like.
Occasionally, the person exiled to the kids' table is an adult. Sometimes for stirring up controversy by bringing up politics or religion, other times for being single and/or childless (either by chance or by choice) in a culture that views only married adults with children as "real" adults.
- 16 Wishes: One of Abby's wishes is to be treated like an adult, which she decides upon during a Thanksgiving dinner at which, although her rival of the exact same age was at the adult table, she is stuck eating with the little kids who torment her.
- In one of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Greg and Rodrick, who are about twelve and sixteen respectively, complain about having to sit at the kiddie table during Easter lunch, especially since Uncle Cecil (their Great-Aunt Marcie's adopted son) gets to sit at the adult table for some reason, even though he's a toddler.
- This happens in Fancy Nancy in one book, Our Thanksgiving Banquet where Nancy doesn't want to sit at the kids' table because she is way more mature than the other kids at the table. When she finally persuades her parents to sit at the grown-up table, it becomes super boring and regrets her decision.
- Dork Diaries: When Nikki and her family visit an aunt, Nikki hates it because shes forced to sit at the kids table with her little sister and younger relatives. Shes in middle school.
- In the Christmas reunion special of The Brady Bunch, Cindy is seated at the kids' table due to a lack of room, even though she's in college. It highlights her character arc throughout the special, which is that they still see her as the baby of the family; as she points out to her parents, everyone else was invited to the holiday gathering, but she was literally told to come. She does get an apology and an invitation to the adult table after she brings this up.
- The Cosby Show episode "Cliff's Wet Adventure" has Vanessa briefly complain about being stuck at the kid's table for Thanksgiving along younger sister Rudy and toddler cousin Olivia.
- Friends: At Chandler and Monica's wedding Ross tries to rearrange his seat to sit next to Mona but he misreads her place card and ends up at the kid's table.
- Last Man Standing: Eve didnt want to get stuck at the kids' table with Boyd.
- In the Thanksgiving Episode of the short-lived '90s adaptation of Parenthood, the oldest kid at the kid's table starts calculating how many adults (figuring from the oldest adult down) have to die before each child gets moved to the adult table (it's Played for Laughs).
- Quantum Leap: In "Camikazi Kid", having leaped into a 16-year-old boy named Cameron Wilson, Sam is humiliated at having to sit at the kids' table during the rehearsal dinner for Cameron's sister Cheryl's wedding.
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch: In the season 1 episode A Halloween Story, Sabrina complains about having to sit at the kiddy table while at her family's Halloween party. Salem immediately responds he has it worse since he has to sit at the kitty table.
- The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: Jimmy is thankful for the kids' table because it allows him to enjoy Thanksgiving without getting dragged into a political argument with his relatives.
- On You're the Worst Jimmy tries to bring Edgar to Becca's wedding as his plus one, but since he's not seen to merit a plus-one, Edgar—an Iraq War vet in his thirties—has to sit at the kids' table.
- In Young Sheldon, Meemaw and Dr. Sturgis come to the Coopers' for dinner, so Georgie and Missy have to sit at the kids' table. While Georgie hates it, Missy points out that at the kids' table, they don't have to pray and can swear.
- One xkcd comic suggests that the kids' table might not be so bad after all.
Cueball: [after leaving a judgemental conversation at the adults table] What're you talking about?
Kid: Giant squid!
Cueball: Mind if I join you?
- Subverted in this Thanksgiving comic from The Oatmeal. Matt actually enjoyed the kids' table and would rather go back there than listen to his adult relatives talk politics.
- In one Rhapsodies Thanksgiving storyline, Lori, the oldest child of the Fitzpatrick family has just been moved to the adult table. In the meantime, Fran and Olive, Rowan's subordinates, have been left at the kid's table.
- This entry for the 2021 Jacksfilms 48 Hour Film Festival is a music video about how the kids' table drives the family mentally unstable during family events. Not only do the annoying kids end up there, but a college-aged girl and an adult Creepy Uncle. By the end of the video, even the mom ends up at the kids' table, and Dad is at the adults' table completely alone.
- One episode of American Dragon: Jake Long has a family reunion on the mother's side. Jake expects to be able to get to sit at the adults' table for the first time but is passed over for one of his cousins because he already got his dragon powers. Since by this time Jake has been using his powers for months, he challenges his cousin for the right to sit at the adults' table.
- In the Bob's Burgers episode, "Turkey In a Can", fourteen-year-old Tina wants to sit at the adult table with the adults for Thanksgiving dinner, instead of at the kids' table with Gene and Louise. She even tries to act more mature, but Bob still refuses to let her eat at the adult table. When someone has been putting the turkeys in the toilet, Tina is suspected of doing so as revenge for being denied her chance to eat at the adult table. Near the end of the episode, it is revealed that the allergy medication Bob took due to being allergic to Gayle's cats made him sleepwalk and have dreams about potty-training Tina.
- The Craig of the Creek episode "Craig And The Kids Table" is naturally all about this trope. Craig's teenage brother Bernard wants a place in the grown-ups table during Thanksgiving as he's long since outgrown the kids' table (emotionally and especially physically). At first it looks like this year he has his chance, until his older cousin Jasmine drops in unexpectedly and takes the extra seat. By the end, Bernard gets his seat at the big table, but now appreciates the times spent at the kids table with Craig.
- In Family Guy, Peter's Catholic step-father Francis has always hated Lois for being a Protestant. During one dinner, he made her sit at the children's table with Stewie.
Stewie: I'm just saying, '70s boobs were different from today's... you know, it wouldn't hurt to contribute to the conversation.
- In the Kim Possible episode "Bad Boy", Ron has to endure this at a wedding, including being bullied by his Cousin Shaun, unless he can bring a date. Awkweirdness ensues.
- In the The Loud House episode, "A Tale of Two Tables", Lincoln wishes he could be at the grown-up table with his five older sisters, instead of the kiddie table with his five younger sisters, considering how immature his five younger sisters act. Clyde helps Lincoln train to be ready to eat at the grown-up table, and the day finally comes. Lincoln soon realizes the disadvantages of eating at the grown-up table, such as having to eat liver instead of chicken nuggets and not having dessert, and having to eat quietly instead of doing fun things, so the next day, he deliberately misbehaves at the grown-up table to get sent back to the kiddie table.
- Inverted in an episode of Pepper Ann. After counting the seats at the adult table for a holiday, she realizes that there's one extra and assumes it means her dad will be coming. She's disappointed to find out that it isn't the case; the extra seat is for her, since she's now old enough to leave the kid table.
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil: The episode "A Game of Flags" involves Star being annoyed at being forced to sit at the kid's table with Marco during a big meal with her parents. Hilarity Ensues.
- Tangled: The Series: Eugene is an adult, but yet he still ends up at the (noble) kids' table, to his great displeasure. This is thanks to Cassandra being in charge of the tables' arrangement.
- Mentioned in Voltron: Legendary Defender. Lance has a large family, and graduates from the kids' table the day he brings Allura home to meet his parents. Meanwhile, his older sister is still eating at the kids' table with her (much younger) nieces and nephews, to make room for Lance and Allura.