The Los Angeles Times recently picked up on the news of Beijing kindergartens forcing children to use chopsticks in school in its article, “No spoons allowed: Beijing is pressuring its 4-year-olds to eat only with chopsticks“. The article was aptly timed to coincide with Panda Express’ release of the “chork“, a new dining tool with a fork on one end and chopsticks at the other end–a tool LA Times doesn’t think will be welcomed in Beijing, even though I’d trade chopsticks for it any day!
The news came as a surprise to me because although the corn bowl set I bought for Jax has a spoon, a fork, and a pair of chopsticks–I never took the chopsticks out for him to use. Not only does a chopstick look more like a weapon than a spoon or spork, but little boys are known to do mischievous things with them. There have been plenty of horror stories about children and chopsticks, such as this fourteen-month-old who stuck one up his nose (and survived!); or the eleven-month-old who fell on a chopstick, piercing his brain and right eye socket; and even two-year-olds are not safe from the dangers of chopsticks.
While many parents, especially in Japan and the West, will offer “children’s chopsticks” instead, even creating makeshift ones out of a pair of chopsticks and a rubber band, such a tool would not satisfy the Beijing education ministry.
Beijing has recently discovered that 75 percent of kindergartens (in the study location, not Beijing) do not enforce chopstick use in under 5-year-olds, with only 14.6 percent of kindergartens offering chopsticks to children. This study shows that kindergartens are not challenging children’s motor skills enough, especially not in a “cultural” way, as suggested by another chopsticks / motor skills study. The latter study suggests that early education of motor skills, specifically in chopsticks usage, affects how adults use chopsticks later in life; any corrections should be made early on. The best time to learn chopsticks, as determined by the first study, is at the age of four.
However, parents of Beijing kindergarten students rue the day this study was introduced to Beijing’s education ministry. Many complain that their children are not ready for chopsticks, and, since they’re not allowed to eat without chopsticks, return home hungry and discouraged. If you’re sending your child to a local kindergarten, make sure you’re ready for their chopstick enforcement!
I remember having chopsticks at home while growing up, but always used a spoon to eat. Even today, I do not hold my chopsticks “the proper way”, but tend to hold them like I’d hold a pen. Needless to say, I still prefer using a spoon. I won’t be introducing chopsticks to my son until primary school or later (not even a chork!). Til then, he can use a spork.
Photo: TheChork.com, By Isabella Lucy Bird [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons