Now your first question may be who am I to talk about chopsticks? That is a good question. In high school I had good friends who are Cambodian, Vietnamese and Chinese. I went to several of one of the friends' siblings weddings where you often did not get a fork or spoon until the fourth or fifth course so your only option was to eat with chopsticks. This is how I learned to use them. Then in graduate school my roommates were a woman from China and a woman from Japan. (I have to say they were the best roommates I ever had!!) Our apartment had both Chinese and Japanese chopsticks as well as American utensils. We use to joke that I used the chopsticks more than either of them. Do you know the difference between Chinese and Japanese chopsticks? The Japanese ones are more pointed and usually shorter where as the Chinese tend to be more square on top.
Wikipedia also provides a detailed history. However for a more concise history, Chopsticks.com gives a summary. Chopsticks are believed to have been used for 5,000 years and started in China. They were first used when fuel was scarce so the Chinese cut food into smaller pieces so it would cook faster and the bite size pieces gave no need for a knife at the table. Around 500 A.D. chopsticks spread to other Asian countries. In Japan they were first used only in religious ceremonies. (Source: Chopsticks.com)
How to eat with chopsticks. There are many tutorials on-line including YouTube if you want to see a video. For written ones check out: wikihow.com.
First let me tell you about the picture book we found: Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. The book is about a pair of chopsticks who are "practically joined at the hip" until one day one of them breaks and while on the mend he insists his partner go out on his own and explore the world. Then the uninjured one discovers uses for himself as a single then they do things together and singly afterwards. It is cute but does not really go into details about chopsticks or what they are used for, how to use them, etc. It is a good book for children who have never really seen chopsticks to be exposed to them.
For a lesson on cultures and chopstick etiquette check out this great lesson plan from Asian Cultures Museum. It includes how to use chopsticks at the end as well as the dos and the don'ts in each culture. One thing I know, is if you are going to eat rice with chopsticks you need a rice bowl and need to hold it near your mouth. You also need to be sure you are eating what I call sticky rice and not the rice that is common in the US.
There are many ideas of crafts and activities with chopsticks. I think the most popular is to make hair chopsticks. Family Fun has a great picture and craft tutorial on this. Another popular one is to use them as knitting needles. I imagine the Japanese style would be best for this. Apples4theteacher shows an easy frame to make (and provides a link to Oriental Trader for the kits, but they look easy enough to do without the kit). eHow has a New Delhi Arts and Crafts of making a kite using chopsticks. Activity Village has the Chopsticks Game that seems a bit like a relay race using chopsticks to move objects from one bowl to another. TLC Home offers five reuses for chopsticks including to make garden stakes, pick-up-sticks game and for crafting like this life-size canoe by Shuhei Ogawara. At North Shore Pediatric Therapy they have a page of activities to do with chopsticks including the Chopstick Game and more and give the benefits of using them. Finally FaeMom has some great Chinese crafts including decorating chopsticks that she used to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Well I hope this gives you some ideas of introducing chopsticks to your young one(s). I know I will be pulling some out to have Hazel practice with them and maybe we will try to make a frame or a kite. Plus we will definitely be getting some Chinese food in the future and maybe I can get her to eat it with chopsticks with me. I will also introduce her to my wok and have her help me with a stir fry. Stay tuned for more experiences with this one! I will add pictures with any of the activities we do try. Enjoy!!
Then she started to make letters: X, L, and T. Then she wanted to break the etiquette rules and use them as drum sticks.
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