It was a perfect day having lunch at Epcot Japan Pavilion during our holiday visit last December 2017. My 31 months old daughter Audrey, ask us if she can use chopsticks (just like we do) instead of spoon and fork that she normally use during meal. To satisfy her curiosity, we handed her a wooden pair of chopsticks. I can say, she’s keenly observing how we position our fingers into the chopsticks. At first she’s having a hard time picking up small pieces of chicken. At home, we normally practice modeling a task before formally teaching her the proper way to use a material or an object. So we let her use the chopsticks without an interruption of an adult. We let her explore and problem solve how she can successfully get the piece of of chicken using a chopstick. The struggle is real! We saw how her food repeatedly fell down and quietly witnessed how she patiently pick up the food many times UNTIL she finally figure out how to use her index finger to help establish the chopsticks from falling down.
While it may be quite frustrating on her part or inconvenience for us to see our child struggle to do things on their own, it is actually a rewarding experience. We let her learn things on her own by providing an opportunity to use her problem solving ability. The sense of fulfillment and confidence the child gain from this life experience truly matters to us. And that’s our main goal as a parent….to see them happy and successful in whatever they do! Now let’s dive into the main point of this article. Below are the benefits of using chopsticks as utensils in the early years of a child’s life. Majority of these benefits are interrelated with brain development in early childhood. My goal when I introduced chopsticks to my child is mainly to give her the confidence to use this tool while we dine in any asian restaurant without my full assistance. I never thought that this type of utensils are packed with benefits that supports my growing child.
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BENEFITS OF USING CHOPSTICKS AT AN EARLY AGE
- Fine motor or small muscles develops in a much rapid pace during early years of training.
- Improves concentration.
- Develops hand-eye coordination and precision of movement.
- According to research by medical scientists, brains and arms develops fully through the use of chopsticks. There are more than thirty joints and fifty muscles on shoulders, palms and fingers function during this type of activity. This means that the brain functions actively and so does the small muscles.
- Your child’s ability to grip crayons, pencils, scissors, and other tools improves dramatically from weak to stronger grips.
- The acquisition of knowledge and or skills provides an opportunity for a rich social interactions. Isn’t it fun to see little kids having dinner while using chopsticks confidently like the rest of the family members?
- The child’s new skills like using chopsticks (fine motor) builds new pathways to brain. This connections are important for a much higher-level abilities like problem solving, self regulation and communication.
CHOPSTICKS ACTIVITY TRAYS
I recommend to start first with the training chopsticks or kids chopsticks for practical life activity trays. Below are examples of helpful activities you can apply at home or in your classroom.
- Training chopsticks
- Small bowls or cups
- Non-toxic dough (mold into variety of shapes for fun)
- Yarn (cut into 2-3 inches
- Iwako sushi erasers
- Mini eggs
Procedure: Invite your child to sit beside you or in-front of you. With the work mat and the activity tray, show and discuss her what the activity is all about by saying “Today I’m going to show you how to transfer the pompoms using this chopsticks.” After each tray presentation, let the child do the activity. Encourage her to return each tray activity upon completion. “The more the child repeats the activity the better.”
“The child’s instinct confirms the fact that work is an inherent tendency in human nature; it is the characteristic instinct of the human race.” (Dr. Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood)
Cotton balls transfer
Small molded dough transfer
Miniature eggs transfer
With “a child in mind” providing a tool to support her developmental stages will help her acquire new skills that would last a lifetime. By giving her choices to use during meals such as using a training/beginner chopsticks is the best and developmentally smartest decision we’ve ever made. I thought it may take few years for my daughter to learn the use of chopsticks but no, I’m wrong with my theory. At thirty-one months or nearly three years old, without really teaching her to use the chopsticks, she was able to eat her lunch joyfully. Happy momma here!