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).
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.
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