Learning About the World

Food is a great way for children to start learning about the world. Here are some ideas on activities and ways you can use to do this:

  • Start by talking about  the different ways people eat around the world (e.g. sitting on the ground or on a mat or at a table; eating with their hands, spoons, skewers or chopsticks).
  • Use the Internet or books from the library to learn about mealtime customs and utensils from different countries.
  • Have a tasting party with foods, utensils and seating styles from each country.
  • You can ask the families in your centre about their culture and traditional customs around eating and utensils.
  • Make a chart with your child showing mealtime customs from different countries. List the utensils used for eating, how people sit for meals, and one or more special foods from each country.
 Mark off each country as you try their customs.
 For instance, in Japan many people eat sushi with chopsticks while they sit on pillows on the floor or at a low table. Explain that chopsticks are used in places such as China, Japan, Korea, etc. along with forks and spoons.

Using Chopsticks for a Food Activity

  • Give an older child some chopsticks and a bowl of one or two different foods cut into cubes, e.g. buttered whole grain toast, banana pieces, broccoli flowerets or cheese.
  • Invite your child to try using the chopsticks to pick up the food. Let your child experiment for a while before showing how to use the chopsticks.
  • Chopsticks can be tricky to 
use. To make it easier for a younger child, try wrapping a
 strong elastic around the 
square ends of the sticks.
Then slide a piece of folded 
paper up to the elastic to help wedge the chopsticks in an open position.
  • This activity is good for developing finger dexterity and eye-hand coordination and learning about different ways to eat.

TIP: Children are more likely to try new foods if they have a chance to learn about them and explore them in a fun way. Here are some ideas of what to say to explore different ways of eating:

  • Chopsticks are like little pinchers to pick up food. Would you like to try them?
  • People use many different tools for eating. Which ones can you think of?
  • With younger children, begin by talking about countries that use their fingers as tools. Compare eating with fingers to using forks and spoons. 

  • With older children, try eating foods that are harder to pick up with chopsticks, e.g. leafy greens such as spinach or gai lan (Chinese broccoli). Compare eating with chopsticks to using a fork. 

A good read-together book: Let’s Eat: What Children Eat Around the Worldby Beatrice Hollyer

Safety Tips

  • Cut foods into 1 cm or 1⁄2 inch pieces for children 1-4 years old to avoid choking.
  • Chopsticks can be sharp. Keep an eye on your child when using new utensils.

Source: LEAP BC is a set of resources for healthy child development which includes Hop, Move, Talk and Food Flair.