August 12, 2006

Just Give The Kid The Chopsticks Already

jakes_chopsticks.jpgFor a couple of months, I'd been planning to ask the Rice Daddies for the best advice on teaching the kid to learn to eat with chopsticks. Then I found out they were using chopsticks from IKEA, or these tricky tweezer-like unisticks, or the weird training chopsticks from Combi, the Japanese division of the Baby Industrial Complex. I was about to ask them what the kanji meant on my new tattoo, too, but then I remembered it's an Asian-American dadsblog, and I was sounding like a nerdy egg.]

No Japanese toddler I've ever seen holds chopsticks right, but they can still shovel things into their mouths, but the kid didn't seem to be doing that much, so I've taken to rigging up the rubberband-around-the-rolled-up-wrapper chopsticks deal for her.

Now she picks up tuna rolls and single edamame with them, which is a cool trick, but according to the commenters on Blogging Baby's how-to-teach chopsticks post last week, I'm just screwing her up. We're the Asian dining equivalents of helicopter parents. We should just be handing her the sticks and letting her figure out how to eat somehow. She'll pick it up soon enough from watching us.

Anyone have any perspective on this?

When and how to teach kids chopsticks?
Unless you're a big Jake fan, you can skip to the middle of his how-to video [img above], and even then it seems too complicated. [ via bb, ]


One of the noodle places we go to has the little rubber cap you put over the end to hold them together. I stole some and have been meaning to let the kids play with them. Maybe tonight. When I want my kids to actually eat food for real, I just give them a fork.

My daughter is 19 months and is trying to use them but not quite successful; I've seen two-year olds who've mastered them more or less by the trial-and-error method though, so I'd say get rid of that rubber band...

Aw shucks, Greg, you shoulda asked us! Would've made great fodder for a post... "Dammit! What, he thinks we all have some chopstick gene or something? Next he's gonna ask us about martial frickin' arts!" ;)

I was never formally taught to use chopsticks, and thus, to this day, I use them "wrong." But I get the food to my mouth, so whatever, right? I mean, I'm a biracial, half-Jewish fourth-generation Japanese American, for god's sake. :) And my wife's Filipina American, so we're more apt to go the fork-and-spoon route at home--though I did buy The Pumpkin a pair of those Combi trainer sticks way too early, just to have. Those little people-shaped hingey-toppers look cute, too.

But anyway, we were at the food court of a Koreatown (LA) mall not too long ago and a mom and two little girls were eating at the table next to us. The girls were maybe 5 and 3 (maybe the younger was younger than that, don't know), and were attacking big plates of noodles with chopsticks. The older girl was proficient, but the younger was struggling, no help from anybody, just persevering and trying whatever improvisations she could think of to get some food to her mouth. And she was doing it, too. So I guess a lot of folks grew up with the sink-or-swim (or eat-or-don't) school.

[Yeah, I was meaning to ask about Bruce Lee... It's not too late to show your Asian Chopstick Pride. I'll add the link up top. -ed.]

And I thought I was the only half-Japanese-half-Jewish parent out there. (Well, I probably am in Wichita.)

Anyway, my 29 month old loves chopsticks. I think it's part of her kill impulse- she brandishes them like weapons and stabs at her food maniacally. She tried the rubber band wrapper thing but enjoys the double-fisted jabbing approach best.

Any training methods for eating with chopsticks at 30? No? Crap...

[I would not recommend rubber bands. -ed.]

If your looking for the 'weird training chopsticks from Combi, the Japanese division of the Baby Industrial Complex', you can see them here:

I have no memories of learning how to use chopsticks, so I must have been young. I, like daddy in a strange land, use them incorrectly. But hey, I get the food from plate to mouth so who really cares. I also hold my pencil wrong so maybe I'm just generally freakish.

I would say, hand her the chopsticks without the rubber band and let her sink or swim. =P

The rubberband trick is a piece of cake. And while I'm sure sink or swim works for some kids, I can tell you that using a rubberband goes miles toward increasing the confidence level of some kids (not just mine). It's like having training wheels for a bike (sort of).

Quick comment on the whole training with chopsticks thing... my parents tried to teach me with the rubber band method and it drove me nuts. I refused to use chopsticks with a rubber band on them, and just sort of roughed out my own weird way of holding them (no thumb use, one held between point and middle finger, the other between the ring and pinky fingers) and then once I got older and learned how to hold a pencil it just kind of clicked, and POW! chopsticks made sense.

Ok, this may sound profoundly stupid but so be it. I'm flying solo here, and I actually got the chopsticks for myself. I don't have a child yet, my wife is still in China, and I would really like to learn how to use them. Innumerable adults have tried to teach me and all have failed. Thus, I resort to the maxim of "If a 5-year old can do it, so can I." But, if that's going to work, you actually have to do it like a 5-year old does. The problem is that there are no instructions on how to hold the Combi trainers! All they tell you is to use the bridge and the yellow hinge, but there isn't a single picture demonstrating it! I've found at least three different ways to hold the sticks, but I have no idea what is right. I would appreciate any further information anybody might have!

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