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Easy to use training chopsticks for kids

Updated on December 19, 2015
Adapted from illustration by
Adapted from illustration by | Source

Why use training chopsticks?


If you regularly enjoy eating Japanese, Chinese, Southeast Asian, or Korean food, you know that it is traditional to eat such foods with chopsticks. It's a myth that using them properly is a difficult skill; it simply takes a little bit of time and practice.

I may be biased, especially since my son and daughter-in-law live in Japan, but using chopsticks is a skill that is important to learn, especially as culture becomes more and more global.

For those with small children, the earlier you introduce your children to chopstick usage, the better. Using them also helps develop small motor skills. Using fun themed chopsticks only for eating, and not to play with (which is considered a breach of etiquette), also helps children develop categorizing skills and self-control.

Plus, children like doing things that make them feel more grown-up, so be sure to model proper chopstick usage as they learn. (Don't worry, we've included all of the information you need to do that -- including instructional videos if you are new to using chopsticks.)

The sense of accomplishment they will have when mastering eating with chopsticks, as with other tasks, will also boost self-esteem. You can start your children off with a variety of cute inexpensive children's training chopsticks and make it fun and even easier for them to learn to use chopsticks.

Chopsticks for kids

Fun Training Chopsticks with Monkey Motif

Fred CHIMPSTICKS Hinged Chopsticks
Fred CHIMPSTICKS Hinged Chopsticks

Kids love these chimp chopsticks that are easy and fun to use. The ends of the chopsticks are actually the monkey's "hands" which not only adds an extra touch of whimsy but makes it easier to pick up and hold the food.

Be careful using "fun" chopsticks and help children learn that they are not toys to be played with. Playing with one's chopsticks is considered bad form across cultures and children old enough to learn to use chopsticks are old enough to learn the difference between whimsical chopsticks for eating and toys for playing.

 

The First Chopsticks

The oldest chopsticks we know of were made of bronze and found in Chinese tombs dating back as early as 1200-1600 BCE. The earliest chopsticks were probably long twigs or branches used as cooking utensils to safely reach into large pots of boiling water or oil.

Source

Did You Know that all Chopsticks are not the same?

Chopsticks are different in different cultures

Chopsticks differ in more than just the style of their decorations. They are also not just Chinese or Japanese but are also used in Korea, Viet Nam, and some areas of Thailand, Taiwan, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Tibet and Nepal.

Chopsticks in China are longer, thicker, blunter, and square-ish. In Japan, they are shorter (about 9 inches long, although historically women's were shorter), rounder and more tapered. Koreans prefer theirs shorter than the Chinese but longer than Japanese ones. Chinese and Japanese chopsticks are frequently made of wood, while in Korea, although they were traditionally made of precious metals, today they are usually stainless steel.

Vietnamese chopsticks are similar to the Chinese style but taper to a blunt point. Tibetans usually import chopsticks from China and did not develop their own style. In Nepal, chopsticks are shorter and blunter. In all of these cultures, longer and sometimes differently shaped and named "chopsticks" are used for cooking.

Although there are similarities in chopstick etiquette, each country also has different customs regarding the proper way to use them. We recommend The Global Etiquette Guide to Asia for details about chopstick etiquette and more among and across Asian cultures.

Eating with Chopsticks

Chopsticks were not used for dining until around the dawn of the 5th century. A boom in Chinese population spread resources thin and fostered more economic ways of preparing food.

To make do with less, food was cut into bite sized pieces prior to cooking. Prepared this way, food used less oil and fuel to prepare andwas easy to pick up with tweezer-like chopsticks.

The spread of Confuscianism was also influential in popularizing dining with chopsticks. (See below.)

My Son's Favorite Children's Chopsticks

As a child, our son knew the name of every dinosaur. His first grade teacher was so impressed she gave him the lead in the class play about dinosaurs. He was the paleontologist.

Children are still fascinated with dinosaurs and you can't go wrong encouraging them to use chopsticks by giving them chopsticks topped with their favorite prehistoric creature.

Kotobukiya Star Wars: Lightsaber Chopsticks Set: Yoda and Luke
Kotobukiya Star Wars: Lightsaber Chopsticks Set: Yoda and Luke

And of course, we would be remiss if we did not include his favorite movie of all times, albeit with apologies to Confuscius (see next section).

Perennially popular, and with the latest release of Disney Studios "The Force Awakens" in December, 2015, Star Wars themed chopsticks are more desirable than ever. It may be difficult to get the youngest children to understand that these lightsabers are for eating and not fighting, but we have found that, with some gentle age-appropriate explanation, even 4 and 5 year-olds can appreciate and exercise restraint and successfully use these only for eating.

 

Confuscius Says: Chopsticks at The Table

As a vegetarian, Confuscius (551-479BC) believed that the presence of knives and other sharp utensils at the dinner table were reminiscent of animal slaughter and evoked violence and warfare, which were not conducive to maintaining the contended setting and experience of mealtime. That is why, to this day, Chinese chopsticks have blunt ends and knives do not appear at the table.

What Kid Doesn't Love Animals?

All kids love animals and these training chopsticks feature a lot of different types of zoo, farm and other animals in bright colors. You can buy them individually or as sets.

The ones that are packaged in multiples include different animals so each child can choose their favorite or alternate using different ones. (They also make great party favors!)

Two sets of animal chopsticks: Zoo Sticks and Fish Sticks by Hog Wild. Not shown: Farm Animals. Available in sets of 8 or individually at
Two sets of animal chopsticks: Zoo Sticks and Fish Sticks by Hog Wild. Not shown: Farm Animals. Available in sets of 8 or individually at | Source

Disposable vs Reusable Chopsticks

Disposable chopsticks made of bamboo or wood were first made in Japan in 1878. Today, China produces more than 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year. Most (25 billion) of these are imported and used by the Japanese.

The environmental toll is 25 million fully grown trees annually. Since 2006, when China levied a tax on chopsticks for conservation reasons, some are now made of sustainable materials. In addition, the use of re-usable personal chopsticks is promoted and catching on.

Teach Your Children to Use Chopsticks

These Books Make Using Chopsticks an Even Richer Learning Experience For Children to Enjoy

The Story of Chopsticks by Ying Chang Compestine, Maggie's Chopsticks by Alan Woo, Martha's Magic Chopsticks by Leslie D Yoakum, and What You Never Knew About Fingers, Forks, & Chopsticks by Patricia Lauber. Descriptions below.
The Story of Chopsticks by Ying Chang Compestine, Maggie's Chopsticks by Alan Woo, Martha's Magic Chopsticks by Leslie D Yoakum, and What You Never Knew About Fingers, Forks, & Chopsticks by Patricia Lauber. Descriptions below.

The Books Shown Above

Are All Available at Alibris

The Story of Chopsticks by Ying Chang Compestine with illustrations by YongSheng Xuan
For ages 4 (preschool) to 8 (3rd grade)
Compestine tells how the youngest of three Chinese brothers invented chopsticks in order to compete with his older siblings to get enough food without burning his fingers or waiting until it cooled off, by which time there would not be any left. Seeing the advantage in Keai's use of sticks, his family adopted the practice, which soon spread throughout the community and ultimately, throughout the entire country. The story explains why chopsticks are known as Keai (Quick) in China. The author also provides facts about the history of chopsticks, explains how to hold them, and describes good Chinese (Confucian) table manners. A recipe for one of the dishes mentioned in the story is also included.

Maggie's Chopsticks by Alan Woo, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
For ages 4 (preschool) to 7 (second grade)
A charming story about learning to use chopsticks, carrying on in the face of failure, and learning to be a unique individual as Maggie gets sometimes contradictory "advice" from her Chinese family members and still manages to become adept at not only using chopsticks but also understanding and accepting differences -- including her own.

Martha's Magic Chopsticks by Leslie D Yoakum
For ages 5 (kindergarten) to 8 (third grade)

Martha's family is moving, and she is not happy about leaving her friends and having to make new ones. Magic Chopsticks help her deal with her feelings and misgivings about the move and, in the end, help her make new friends.

Fingers, Forks, & Chopsticks by Patricia Lauber, illustrated by John Manders
Ages 6 (first grade) and up (sixth grade)
A fascinating and often hilarious global history of eating rules and tools from the late stone age through the present. For example, did you know that in the medieval era, the first written book of etiquette advised readers to wipe their greasy fingers on the tablecloth? A thoroughly entertaining social history that will be enjoyed by anyone who eats.


Edison Chopsticks for Kids (for left hand)
Edison Chopsticks for Kids (for left hand)

These Colorfully topped Edison chopsticks are imported from Japan and are the same type used by Japanese kids when they are little.

Available in left and right handed versions, they attach to make learning to use chopsticks easier and then separate for use as the child becomes more adept and for easy and thourough cleaning.

 

Chopsticks Around the World

~ The word "Chopsticks" is believed to be a bastardization of "chop chop", used to mean quickly in Chinese Pidgin English.

~ In China, chopsticks are known as "Kuaizi" which translates roughly as "immediate good wishes."

~ In Japan, chopsticks are called "hashi". Chopsticks used for cooking, not eating, are "Saibashi."

~ In Korea, they are "jeo" or, depending on context, "jeotgarak" (chopsticks+stick)

~ In Viet Nam, chopsticks are "đũa"

~ In Taiwanese, they are known as "Di".

It Helps Children Learn to Use Chopsticks if You Have Mastered the Skill - If you need to learn the proper way to use chopsticks, here are some tutorials

Some Chopstick Taboos

One should always be aware of differences in chopstick etiquette across cultures. However, in general, you won't go wrong following these rules of etiquette.

  • Do not cross the chopsticks or stand them up in rice, as the upright chopsticks resemble the incense sticks used at funerals.
  • If dining in a restaurant, ask for serving chopsticks if they are not provided. If serving chopsticks are not available, do not use the narrow end of the chopsticks that you eat from to take food from a serving dish. Reverse them and use the unused end to take food.
  • Do not use chopsticks to stir your food.
  • Do not chew on chopsticks or play with them. They are not drumsticks, hair ornaments, or toys.
  • Pick up chopsticks with your right hand. Then you may hold them in your left to facilitate the proper hold position with your right hand.
  • Do not point or gesture with your chopsticks.
  • Do not spear food with your chopsticks.
  • In some cultures, it is proper to wait for elders to pick up their chopsticks before others may do so.
  • Do not use chopsticks to dig or search through food for a particular morsel. (This is referred to as "digging one's grave" and is to be taken seriously, so take food only from the top of the dish.)
  • In China and Japan, it is acceptable and even common practice to bring a bowl closer to one's mouth to eat its contents with chopsticks, but not so in Korea, where it is considered bad manners to do so. Be aware of cultural differences when using chopsticks beforehand to avoid embarassing yourself or, worse, your hosts.

Easy to use chopsticks for kids & adults

Kikkerland EZ Chopsticks Set, 4-Piece
Kikkerland EZ Chopsticks Set, 4-Piece

Designed like a hinged clothespin, these 9 inch long wooden chopsticks are easy to use and suitable for all ages.

 

Why Silver Chopsticks? Why Not?

Silver chopsticks were preferred by wealthy Chinese during the dynastic period because it was believed that they would turn black if they came into contact with poisoned food.

However, poisons, including arsenic and cyanide, do not turn silver black. It is contact with hydrogen sulfide, released by garlic, onions, and rotten eggs, that tarnishes the metal

Do your children know how to use chopsticks?

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Common Chopstick Superstitions

~ Dropping chopsticks is considered bad luck.

~ Some believe if you are given an uneven pair of chopsticks you will miss a boat, train or plane.

~ In Korea, one old superstition holds that the closer to the tip you grasp chopsticks, the longer you will stay unmarried.

~ In China, chopsticks (called Kuaizi) were traditionally given to newlyweds so they would have male children because "Kuaizi" means "to have sons soon

Chopstick Rests

Happy Sales 5 Piece Crane Chopstick Set with Rests MC, Assorted
Happy Sales 5 Piece Crane Chopstick Set with Rests MC, Assorted

Origami style cranes in a rainbow of colors are popular with everyone no matter what age they are. A classic (and far more durable than the folded paper the origami cranes were originally made from).

 

Chopstick rests (called are called hashioki in Japan) are used to keep chopsticks from touching the table. Generally used for more formal dining occasions and in restaurants, they are also highly collectible.

Chopstick rests come in a wide range of materials from single-use home-made origami (decorative figural folded paper) to ceramic, carved wood, jade and other semi-precious stones, and even precious metals. Chopstick rests traditionally should be placed in front of dishes. The chopstick tips should point to the left and so the chopsticks are parallel to the table edge.

If dining in a restaurant and given paper wrapped chopsticks and no chopstick rests, it is permissable to fashion a rest from the paper wrapper. When chopstick rests are not used, it is acceptable (although not preferable) to place chopsticks sideways across the plate, saucer, or bowl. They should be parallel and touching each other. In a formal setting, one should lay the chopsticks down when being served.

3 piece Panda Chopstick Rest Set
3 piece Panda Chopstick Rest Set

Every child loves cute cuddly pandas! This set of three differently posed cubs is sure to be a hit with the younger set.

 

Cute Chopstick Rests are Fun for Children to Use

Kids will enjoy using the proper way to handle chopsticks and how to place them when not in use with these cute figural chopstick rests.

You can get some to match training chopsticks or mix and match to make it even more fun.

These cute characters also make helping with chores like setting the table more interesting and fun for children.

Did you enjoy reading this page? Would you like to leave some feedback, or just make a suggestion? I'm always glad to hear what more you'd like to see here!

© 2011 Chazz

Thanks for visiting!

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    • chezchazz profile imageAUTHOR

      Chazz 

      6 months ago from New York

      Thanks for sharing your history with chopsticks. Very interesting. Appreciate the time it took and your kind words.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      7 months ago from Oakley, CA

      Very interesting. I learned to use chopsticks many years ago; self-taught from observation in restaurants, mostly.

      I did provide them for my kids (who are now adults), when I fixed Chinese food. Thanks to some world-traveling friends, I also learned the etiquette about not sticking them in the food, or leaning them on the side of a plate, as we are prone to do with knives and forks.

      As we were at home, there was laughter had, and no risk of embarrassement to anyone, when my younger daughter--ever the inventive one--left the table one day after some frustrating attempts to snag a morsel. She returned, having run one of the chopsitcks through the pencil sharpener, and proceeded to stab the offending piece. (She would not do this now!)

      Another time, this same child decided it would be a fun experiment to attempt to eat Mexican food with chopsticks. It was quite amusing watching her tackle a burrito!

      But--home is the place for those kinds of faux-pas--they know better when out in company, and that's the important part! I had no use for 'training' chopsticks; indeed, was unaware there was such a thing, as my children were much older (8 and 10) when we introduced them to this skill. Now, my youngest grandchild is 10--and the eldest is 23!

      Great article, and videos!

    • chezchazz profile imageAUTHOR

      Chazz 

      11 months ago from New York

      Glad you found it so. Thanks for letting me know.

    • Therese Anne profile image

      Therese Anne 

      12 months ago from Pen Argyl, PA

      Very interesting info about chopsticks!

    • profile image

      SoupPlate 

      2 years ago

      These are sooo old-fashioned! Use CleverstiX!

    • MsSnow4 profile image

      Carol Goss 

      6 years ago

      Haha I have tried and my sons have tried to teach me. Just can't get the hang of it

    • BrianRS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      6 years ago from France

      I think I could use some of these, I am absolutely hopeless when it comes to using chopsticks. I always end up asking for a fork. Nice lens.

    • whiteskyline lm profile image

      whiteskyline lm 

      6 years ago

      That's a pretty cool idea!

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 

      6 years ago

      After I spent 2 years in Fan Francisco... I learn how to do it!... it wasn't easy, but perseverance triumph. I wish I have this lens at that time...

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 

      6 years ago

      My children who have traveled in the Orient use chopsticks for Asian food but I haven't learned the skill.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 

      6 years ago from Topeka, KS

      I need these for ME! For some reason can't quite get the hang of using chopsticks. :)

    • lkamom profile image

      Heather McGlaughlin 

      6 years ago from Marryland

      Very nice lens. I'm not a child anymore, however I think I could benefit to learn chopsticks with these.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 

      6 years ago

      I had no idea there was such a thing as training chopsticks - I had to learn the hard way (the long, slow, hungry way!) years ago. What a good idea for kids!

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