Thursday 30 June 2011


The Importance of Teaching Your Child to Use Chopsticks

As I started implementing Montessori’s Practical Life lessons with J, which aims to develop children’s fine motor coordination skills, it dons on me more and more that actually “Montessori” type lessons began in China a few thousand years ago – through chopsticks.

Montessori’s practical life lessons of transferring items with tongs, tweezers, etc. are actually similar to the Chineses' way of transferring food into their mouth with chop-sticks. So perhaps the Chinese have actually been having some Montessori lessons at least 3 times a day – morning breakfast, afternoon lunch and evening dinner for thousands of years!!!

Chopsticks orginated in China sometime during the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 B.C.). Its use was spread to Korea, Japan and other parts of Asia. The Japanese, Koreans, Chinese and Singaporeans believe that using chopsticks stimulate the development of a child’s intellectual development.

It therefore got me interested to start and do some research into the use of chop-sticks and its correlation with the intellectual development of children, but the findings are so far inconclusive and non-scientifically proven.

A Japanese website claims that a person uses about 30 articulations and 50 small muscles when using chopsticks. According to the website, “the movement of the hands, especially the fingers, stimulates the development of this net. As a young child exercises the fingers, the net of nerve cells in the brain governing the movement of hands and fingers develops. In response, mobility of the hands increases and the fingers begin to function as desired, and as the ability to move the body develops, thought, understanding, and imagination processes also develop which means that using chopsticks and pencils stimulates the development of a child's intellectual faculties.”

What about any scientific study that supports the effectiveness of Montessori teaching method? The closest I have found is this article "The Montessori Mafia" which lists the number of creative elites such as Google's Founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, who all had attended a Montessori School when they were preschoolers.

If using chopsticks "tastes" a little similar to Montessori's concept, then perhaps the success of Montessori teaching concept does lend a little credibility to the Chineses' belief that using chopsticks stimulate intellectual development... ok, I am stretching it a little too far here!

To summarize, the use of chopsticks thus has the following objectives:

1. Helps to develop the child’s fine motor skills
2. Helps to develop the child’s eye-hand coordination skills
3. Through the above two ways, it thus helps to stimulate intellectual brain development
4. Develops the small muscles
5. Helps the child to become familiar with the handwriting position at an early age

Here are some toddlers 2 years old or younger who have learned to use chopsticks successfully:

So why am I waiting to introduce chopsticks to J, especially when it is such a natural part of our culture!!! Myth or fact, I would rather err on the wrong side and start introducing the use of chopsticks. And better late than never! I will start tomorrow for dinner and make chopsticks a more integral part of our normal daily life, especially during meal time.

It is very sad that more and more Chinese families in Singapore are resorting to the convenience of using fork and knife to eat Chinese food, also many Danish-Chinese families here in Denmark.

Teaching your child to use chopsticks is not just for cultural heritage’s sake, but to help them in their intellectual development. I think if more Chinese parents realize that, they would be pragmatic enough to try harder to keep the use of chopsticks as an integral part of home life, instead of succumbing to modern conveniences. Also, once mastered, to the Chinese, using the chopsticks is actually more convenient than using other cutleries. The Japanese, Koreans and Chinese use chopsticks as their cooking tool too - beating the eggs, etc.

I found some wonderful training chopsticks for children from I intend to buy a set of right-handed and left-handed chopsticks each for J, so that they can help train both his right and left brains. Unfortunately, the supplier does not ship to Denmark or Singapore. If you live in the USA, you may want to check these training chopsticks out:

Additional Information:
Chopsticks come in pairs and are considered an auspicious item by the Chinese at weddings, because they symbolize togetherness. Some families have the tradition of giving chopsticks to the bride on her wedding day. Traditionally to the Chinese, giving chopsticks to children represents a wish for a buoyant childhood. Presenting chopsticks as a gift to the elderly is a symbol of well-wishes for longevity and good health.


2 July 2011 (2Y3M28D) - First real practice with chopsticks... pretty good :-)

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