I try involve my kids in the kitchen as much as my patience will allow. Having them help me is a means for me to keep them busy, while also teaching them good life skills. Since we eat a diet of primarily whole foods, it involves lots of food preparation with a knife and cutting board – slicing, dicing, chopping, and cutting. They see me standing at the cutting board multiple times each day; It’s only natural that they always want to help.
In our home, the first step was a butter knife. We have kid-sized flatware so it’s easier for their hands to hold. The picture below includes a standard butter knife to offer size perspective. We started our kids out by cutting soft foods like bananas, baked potatoes, bread, deli meat, and soft fruits like ripe pear slices. We enforce good habits right from the beginning and act as though any knife they hold is a sharp and dangerous tool – no knife in mouth, no waving at others, curled finger tips, etc.
For the second step, we progressed to a nylon serrated knife. Ours are the brand Curious Chef. With this type of knife kids can begin cutting firmer foods like cucumbers, carrots, celery, apples, and other fruits or vegetables.
The third step we progressed them to was a serrated metal (steak) knife. This stage is more difficult to describe in a finite way because some steak knives are incredibly sharp and others are just barely sharper than a butter knife. This type of blade is generally more effective so children should be able to hone their skills better. Our serrated knife is sharp enough to break the skin with a little effort, but not at a simple graze. At this stage, supervision is important until you feel comfortable with your child’s skills and maturity.
What age should you introduce knives to your children?? That depends on the interest level and maturity of your child. We started the butter knife stage as soon as our boys had the dexterity to manage the knife (it was backwards frequently, ha!). At ~2.5 years old, Holden would copy his brother using the nylon knives. By age 5, Camden preferred the serrated metal knife, but I continue to encourage the nylon knife so I don’t feel the need to supervise his use as closely.
With many foods, I often do partial preparation before I have my kids begin cutting. A good example of this is where I remove the stem and seeds of a bell pepper, then give a large pre-prepped half to each of my sons to cut into strips or chunks. At 5 years old, Camden is actually helpful to me in the kitchen. I can rely on him to help me get vegetables prepared for dinner. And truthfully, I’ve had to exercise a bit of “So What!?” to do this because his pieces are rarely uniform in size, but the help is well worth it and he’s so very proud of his contribution to our meals. Holden (age 3)… he starts, but his attention span isn’t as long and he only finishes the chopping some of the time.
Do you have any additional tips or kids knife brands to share? I love hearing about what others are doing and using with their kids in the kitchen.