“Does eating with my hands make me a savage?” These are not the words you want to hear from your 5 year old, especially when ‘eating with your hands’ is a delightful part of your culture, your link to home and home cooked food. It’s an integral part of the cultural sensory experience that you’ve grown up with. Ask any person who’s used to eating with their hands and they’ll tell you that it makes the food tastier.
It breaks our heart when little ones worry about their cultural customs and habits and how it’s perceived by the people around them. Comments like this can make them self conscious and affect their relationship with food.
If you want your kids to feel comfortable with different food habits like eating with their hands or using chopsticks, here are a few tips that can help:
1.Lead By Example: If you want your kids to feel comfortable eating with their hands in public, show them that it is a normal and acceptable behavior by doing it yourself. Eat with your hands at home and in public, and your kids will follow your lead.
2.Talk about cultural differences: Eating with your hands may not be the norm in some cultures, but it is perfectly acceptable in others. Teach your kids about the cultural significance of different food habits and help them understand that different cultures have different norms. Eating with hands, chopsticks, utensils or even from a common family plate are all cultural food habits.
3.Teach Them How: Eating with your hands or chopsticks or utensils are all skills that your little one can learn. But, you need to show them how.
4.Provide Opportunities for Practice: Encourage your kids to practice eating with their hands or chopsticks at home, so they feel comfortable doing it in public. You can serve finger foods or traditional foods that are eaten in different cultures
5.Wash Your Hands to keep the germs away: "It's okay to use your hands to eat, as long as you wash them before and after.
6.Explain Etiquette: Different places require different table etiquette. Teach your kids about proper etiquette when eating different types of food. What foods can we eat with our hands and what should we use utensils for?
7.Teach Them Empowering Phrases: Even if your little one is comfortable eating at home, they still need help telling their friends or adults about their food habits.
Here’s some things they can say:
"In some cultures, eating with your hands is a normal and respected way of enjoying food."
"Using utensils is not the only way to eat. I use my hands because it's more comfortable and enjoyable for me."
“It’s more important that I enjoy my food and have fun while eating than how I eat.”
Whether you are raising kids outside of your heritage country, an immigrant kid, expat kids, interracial kids, adoptive kids or a little global citizens, let's open up our children's hearts, and minds!