Wednesday, April 28, 2010

knives and kids

It's easy to want to protect our kids, or over-protect them. (I would know, my kid is the only one wearing a helmet on her scooter on the block...)
Sometimes that urge to protect can hinder their development. I've seen 3 and 4 year olds using forks with rounded ends meant for much younger children, which can be really frustrating for them.

As Maria Montessori says kids come from, "Help me do it myself."

Here are a few knives we have found most helpful and notes about using knives with kids.

1) always supervise a child with a knife
2) eat family meals together so they can watch you use a knife and learn from you
3) make the task appropriate. Your 3 year old can't cut steak, but she can cut bananas.
4) watch that the child can master a skill before moving on.
5) consider kids' cooking classes. We attended a fun one on knife skills when M was just 4. She learned about curling her fingers under like a "bear claw." When I help her cut, all I do now is say, "Bear claws!" and she tucks her fingers under.
6) have the right tool for the right job (see below)
7) be sure the child is stable-standing or seated
8) be sure the cutting area is stable, use a just-dampened paper towel under a cutting board so it won't slip...

Remember, each child is different in their interests and skills. One child may be more adept at using the knife than another. Watch your child and see if any of the options below might work..

Lettuce knife. Great for kids helping with meal prep. Here is M at 4 cutting green beans. A mom at school told us about this knife. Her son has been chopping veggies since he was three. (He is way better than M at this...)

Ikea knife, nice handle, great starter knife. There is some serration, so be sure to monitor use. Good for cutting bananas, soft fruit...

Fancy kids'-set knife. Right size, good to have with meals. Not too risky.

spreader used for... spreading. Cream cheese, nut-butters, hummus... (On sale at Target after Holidays, mine was 4 for $1...)

What are your tricks with knives, or tools for the kitchen with kids?


  1. No kids (yet), but we actually keep some of that bubbly shelf liner on a magnetic clip on the fridge to keep cutting boards from slipping.

  2. Brilliant Kate! I knew my readers would start adding their own great tips!

  3. This is wonderful and informative. Thank you, Katja. My two children love to help cook. We prepare vegetable soup together. When I told Ellyn Satter she asked what did I do about the knives. I told her my children use dull but real knives. Afterall, cutting is fun! So, to make it easier I pre-cook the hard vegetables then, set the pot on the table (I am more afraid of fire, I guess) to dump all the vegetables.

    PS. I love that you mention Maria Montessori.

  4. They both use knives that look like the last one you show (they are from Ikea, it's a set of a fork, knife and spoon for kids, metal ones... we don't use plastic with food), even Lucas (he's 2 now). For cooking, I let Chiata use a regular knife to help me with softer foods, she likes it.

  5. Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

  6. I wish I could understand what you are saying! Welcome!