child eating with hands

How To Teach Your Child To Eat An Indian Meal With Their Hands

I grew up eating rice with my hands. But unfortunately the same can't be said about my kids. I think I was so busy teaching them how to eat with a spoon and fork that I forgot to teach the simple pleasures of eating with their fingers. I guess I also wanted to avoid the mess that kids are bound to make - from getting food in their hair, dripping it on their clothes to smearing it on their faces.

But did you know that there is a science to eating with your hands? There is good bacteria/flora in our hands, mouth, throat, intestine, gut and the rest of our digestive system. When we eat with our hands, the flora is maintained and we are protected from harmful bacteria. Of course, it is important for you to wash your hands before and after you eat.

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But how do I teach my 7-year-old son to put the food in his mouth using his fingers when all he's ever used is a spoon? I'll tell you how.
For younger kids

There is no harm in starting young. When kids start feeding themselves they pick things with their fingers and put it in their mouths, so you can start there.

Imitation: 

Kids love to imitate everything their parents do. So if you want to teach your child to eat an Indian meal with their hands, show them how to do it. They will learn by watching and imitate you.

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Give the proper space to try:

More often than not, we feed our kids because we are afraid of the mess they will create. They won't learn to eat with their hands if you are afraid of the mess. It is almost impossible for a child to eat with a spoon on a banana leaf. They will have to have their meal served on a banana leaf with their hands.

Start small: 

Eating rotis and sabzi is much easier with hands than rice and curry. So let them start practicing to tear the roti with two hands and then move to using one. Then slowly start them on rice and gravy.

Makeup stuff:

Kids love stories. I told my son that his palm is a well and he cannot have the rice falling into the well. So he had to learn to scoop food up with his fingers and put it into his mouth before they fell into the "well".

Image and etiquette consultant Zohra Chitalwala explains why it is important to start young when teaching kids how to eat properly.

Pictures That Teach Your Child How To Eat With His/Her Fingers

picking up rice with hands

Image Source: http://www.wikihow.com

Using your right hand collect a small portion of the rice and gravy/dal together.

scooping rice with fingers

Image Source: http://www.wikihow.com

Using the last three fingers of your hands as a scoop, pick up the food with the front half of your fingers

The food should not touch your palm. Bring the food close to your mouth. At no point should all the fingers go inside the mouth. That's gross!

girl eating rice with fingers

Image Source: http://www.wikihow.com

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Using your thumb, push the food into the mouth.

That's it. They have just managed their first mouthful of rice and dal using their fingers. Be prepared for lots of messy mats and faces. But with practice, it will definitely get easier. I'm sure there are enough of parents who will agree with me that the taste of food when you mix the rice and dal and veggies and slip it into your mouth is so much better and satiates you. What do you think?

If you have any other trick that helped your child to start eating with their hands, please do share it with us. We really want to know.

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