Tips for Introducing Children to Chinese Cuisine

Bringing children to a Chinese restaurant is an excellent way to teach them about expectations for public behavior as well as respecting another culture. Since the food and the atmosphere may be significantly different than anything they have experienced in the past, parents should understand that their children may act in unexpected ways.

The younger the child, the more parents need to come prepared to distract them during waiting periods and instruct them on socially acceptable behavior.

Etiquette Lessons to Teach the Kids When Visiting a Chinese Restaurant

Children are still learning social norms in their own culture, so it’s unrealistic to expect them to know the customs and etiquette of China. The first thing kids will need to learn is how to handle chopsticks in the correct manner. Kids preschool aged and under probably won’t have the manual dexterity to use chopsticks as intended. However, parents can place their hands over the child’s hands to demonstrate how it’s done.

Older kids may see the chopsticks as something to play with rather than a utensil for eating. They may use them to poke each other, bang them on the table, and engage in other behaviors that make it difficult for other diners to enjoy their meal. Parents need to emphasize to their children that chopsticks in Chinese culture are the same thing as spoons and forks in American culture. That means they’re not a toy.

If the kids order a dish that includes a bowl of rice, they should not place their chopsticks straight up in them. The Chinese consider this a sign of bad manners. Lastly, parents should instruct older children to use chopsticks only to pick up the food, not to spear it as they would with a fork.

Chinese Dishes That May Appeal to Young Palates

For toddlers and some preschoolers, an appetizer from the menu of a Chinese restaurant may be enough to satisfy their appetite. Egg rolls make a good choice if a parent cuts them into small pieces first. Kids may enjoy the novelty so much that they don’t even realize they’re getting their vegetables. Wonton soup and egg drop soup also appeal to children because of their bright colors and easy-to-chew chicken pieces. Kids who have the physical coordination to dunk their food in sauce may enjoy steamed dumplings filled with vegetables and pork.

Some possibilities for the main dish include:

  • Cold noodles with sesame sauce: Most kids like sweet and salty flavors, which this dish has. They should like it if they’re fans of spaghetti.
  • Fried rice: This is an especially good choice for toddlers as it contains rice, egg, meat, and small pieces of vegetables that are tasty and easy for them to chew.
  • Lo Mein: The Chinese stir-fry dish with vegetables and meat looks just like spaghetti to a lot of children.
  • Moo Goo Pai Pan: Kids will probably enjoy just saying the name of this dish. It comes with vegetables and chicken in a light sauce.

After the main course, parents and kids can enjoy a low-calorie fortune cookie while they read fortunes to each other. This will be quite the novelty for kids who have never seen a written fortune placed inside a cookie.