Friday, February 8, 2013

Using a utensil- practice activities.

The simplest act of using a utensil begins when we introduce solid food.  I started both my kids around 6 months.  I loved the IKEA play set which contained real spoons and dishes.  They were the perfect size for infant portions.  As the gained better motor coordination, I gave them one spoon to their hand and I fed with another.  Soon, as they developed their abilities they were able to eat on their own around 12-14 months.

The emphasis for utensils is cultural.  Dr. Montessori pointed out that we are a product of our time and place.  Where and when we are  shape who we are.  Forks and spoons are a huge part of the Western etiquette for proper social behavior and table manners.  As an adult, it is our responsibility to help our children learn these social norms to adapt into society.  Many other cultures, including my own, use their fingers or chopsticks for meals and many different etiquette are part of those cultures and social norms. Because of this, I have allowed my children to both learn to eat with their hands and utensils, we're only now considering introducing the chopsticks to the 4 year old who has shown a great interest in it.  I'm working on getting the starter set!

Another aspect of table manners is also washing your hands before and after meals, and sitting while eating.  These are often seen as unnecessary or something that will come later as the child grows older.  Unfortunately, this is not true.  It is far more challenging to change habits when we don't start early.  Using wipes to clean an infants hands continues and a child then waits with their hands outstretched for it to be done for them.  Instead simply carrying them and washing their hands under running water will be as effective.  (I hope to do a pots on Washing Hands soon).

When I was teaching I had a little boy who was almost 3 whose mother asked me if she could come in at lunch time to feed him. I explained that it would be best for him to learn to eat on his own and by being with his peers who varied in age he would adapt quickly.  She called me everyday for weeks to see how he was doing.  When I said he had a lot of trouble sitting down for the meal she asked me if I would hold him and feed him.  I explained this would be impossible and it would be unproductive to his development.  It took a long time for this little boy to adapt, mostly because he wasn't expected to do the same at home.  He was fed all meals either in a high chair, or dinner which was in front of the TV so he wouldn't walk around as much.

My point in this story, is that it is in the home that the child learns the most basic and vital life skills that will serve him for the rest of his life.  Taking a little extra time and effort in the early years will benefit them greatly when they reach adulthood.

I was told a few years ago by a very close friend that she felt ill equipped with carrying on simple things like cleaning and cooking and how to care for herself as an adult because most of her life her mother did everything and never asked that the children help out. (see Road to Independence)

In many ways, we have to let go of things being perfect all the time, or things being messy, or things not being done the way WE want.  It's not about us, it's about the child and what's best for their development.  The only thing that will be perfect is the joy the child will have when he knows he did something all by himself.

 In this "presentation" two similar bowls and a small spoon are set up as above.  I spooned all the peas from one bowl to the other very slowly so that she could see my movements.  Once I was done, I moved the bowls back from full on left and empty on right, and then moved the tray in front of her so she could carry on. 
 This is a lesson in the Primary classroom, it's usually for a child between 2 1/2 to 3.  My little one is just 2 but I was aware of her abilities and felt confident in giving this to her.

Towards the end, she ended up pouring the grains from bowl to bowl.  Depending on who you ask, some might say to stop the activity, but recently when I attended a refresher course, it was also pointed out that if the child is engaged and seems to be concentrating and "working" then we should allow them to go on.  If they are misusing by banging and throwing then there is no purpose and it would be wise to ask them to clean up.  As you can guess, after a while the peas ended up all over the table and floor and so it resulted in cleaning up.

Shared on :For the Kids Friday, Share it Saturday,   hip homeschooling moms, Small Footprint Family


  1. I really like all of the points that you made. My almost two year old loves feeding himself and for the most part he does. I do still feed him foods that are very messy (like applesauce)and I keep telling myself I need to stop and just let him do it. This was just the motivation I needed.

    1. Thank you! I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed this post. It's so hard to fight the mess since it's so much work for us, but it's worth it when you can also leave them to eat and go get yourself a cup of coffee and they can eat on their own. I used to mix applesauce and yogurt and my kids LOVED it. You can start to use place mats which can wash out easily. I go back and forth between cloth and plastic ones. You can also introduce him to cleaning up after himself with a small sponge. I started this at around 12-14 months. I can't remember if I posted on this, well I'll try and get to it. Thanks for reading.


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