Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Children with Knives! (And other Kitchen Tools)

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by http://www.hobomama.com/2011/11/november-carnival-of-natural-parenting.html" target="_blank">Hobo Mama and http://codenamemama.com/2011/11/08/nov-carnatpar/" target="_blank">Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I'll admit, I laugh a little inside when people tell me that kids in the kitchen is dangerous. That they shouldn't "play" with knives. Well, ok. No, they shouldn't PLAY with knives. They should be taught the right way to handle a knife. So, we have our Rules for Knives and we offer a few versions of knives, to work up to and practice these skills.

Rules for Knives
1. Only adults get out knives. The only time you may have a knife is if you are handed one.
2. Knives stay on the cutting boards. The end of the knife should stay on the cutting board, no pointing or moving about with a knife.
3. Don't lick the knife.

The "Play" Knife
For all manner of play foods: mostly wood and felt. Rare chance of actual damage being done, but isn't actually good for anything but play foods. The important part is trying to emphasize real knife safety in the playing.

The Practice Knife
We bought this knife with the idea that it would be a good teaching tool. Turns out, it is about the same tool you can get in a pumpkin carving kit. It is ok for teaching and letting them use on soft foods (bread, cheese, tomatoes) while we are cutting and not 100% eyes on, but it is dull. Dull knives can actually be dangerous because of the extra effort and force you need to get them to cut. Extra force can lead to loss of control and accidents. So it really needs just as much supervision as a sharp knife, so we figure "Why not teach them with a real knife?"

The Real Deal
Only L1 has graduated to the Real Deal knife skills. We stay close, doing our best to stay calm and enforce the rules. He does remarkably well, but don't kids tend to surprise us with how well they can handle things when you are patient, calm, and trusting. I have come to learn that children behave irresponsibly with knives when we make them off limits and don't take the time to teach them how to be responsible with them. Not that we haven't had to make the decision for him that he is not in a responsible mood and needed to switched gears.

He noticed the camera, next words to him were "Watch your knife and fingers."
Other Kitchen Tools
There are plenty of other tools that your child can benefit from learning how to use in the kitchen. Mandolins with good safety features, cheese graters, salad spinners, citrus juicers, you name it. Kids LOVE to try new things, help, and be with their parents! So, go for it!

Do you work with your child in the kitchen? What tools do they like to use?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


  1. These are really superb rules. I personally am phobic about knives, so some easy lessons like this as a kid would have helped a lot! I'm going to adopt your rules and see how that goes with Mikko.

  2. I totally agree! Kiddos need to learn these very important real-life skills! We have allowed our kiddos to come and help in the kitchen, and yes, we have also let them use knives (and other kitchen utensils) appropriately.

    Love all the pictures!

  3. Awesome rules. We used to allow our oldest (now 13) to use knives at L1s age. She did cut herself one time, and of course it was with a dull knife. She lost interest in helping in the kitchen for a long time after that. :-) Interestingly, almost all the kitchen cuts for my kids (and many for me!) have been with "safe" utensils- cheese graters and apple peelers in particular.

    I tend to send my kids out of the kitchen most of the time (bag over my head), but it isn't because I think they are in danger. It's because I'm usually on my own come the witching hour, and I get irritable when I tripping all over everyone trying to get dinner on the table so that I can deal with a fussy baby and start putting kids to bed. I need to start planning ahead better so my kids can be included more often.

  4. We're also of the opinion that kids can learn to use "dangerous" objects earlier than many people give them credit for. Kieran has used a knife with supervision - but I really love the way you have the learning curve set here!

  5. Great post. I completely agree.
    You might enjoy this video, not kitchen related but the concept is the same:


    Incidentally, have you heard about the free range kids movement? Again, not about cooking, but about how we limit our kids based on fears (many of which are unfounded). I posted about it here:


  6. I will say it again, I am SO impressed with your family's kitchen habits - together. You are such an awesome mom (& dad)!

    Thought I'd mention, though, it looks like your header code has a glitch in it. Perhaps an open bracket missing?

  7. We are moving forward with knife skills, too! So glad you posted this. I agree that emphasizing safety with the play knives makes a big difference. Plus, I think what they have to cut gives you a lot of room to find something that they CAN cut and that you do feel safe watching them cut. Dull knives, slippery/too hard objects make me edgy, but other than that I feel like our kitchen relationship is a good one of trust and guidance. I find such joy in her joy of finding herself capable. She loves the kitchen!

  8. Great post! I totally agree that dull knives can be just as dangerous for kids and adults! Whenever I've hurt myself on a knife it's been one that needs sharpening! And heck, if I can share my love of kitchen gadgets with my future kiddos safely it's a win-win!! PS - Your linky in the Carnival list isn't working. I had to come to your blog directly.

  9. Great tips! I've let my 3 yr old use a butter knife to cut soft things like bananas and he has really enjoyed it. At his Montessori school, one of his favorite activities is grating soap - so we let him grate cheese at home (with supervision!).

  10. I started my son on knives (real knives) when he was 19 months old. But I've never given him consistent practice, so at 3yo, he's still not great with them. But at least he understands they are sharp and not to be played with. We've always had the knives in a knife block on the counter...where he could easily get them...he never gets one without permission and we never even made that a rule!

  11. Good rules to have, the same can be said for scissors too. I am also a believer of teaching children how to use these objects with responsibility instead of making them forbidden. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Great rules! One thing you didn't mention is learning how to hold the food relative to the knife. My son has done very well at picking up on that by watching me. But I was a Girl Scout leader for 6 years and had many girls who were not allowed to use sharp knives at home; although they were very careful when I let them use a knife, they tended to line up foods in a way where a finger could get caught under the knife and/or the food could roll away, so I had to teach things like, "Always make a flat side with the first cut, and then set the flat side down." I'm not sure if it's my son's personality or if kids who miss learning good instincts at an early age have more trouble learning them later. At any rate, I turned out a bunch of girls who were proud of their new cutting abilities! :-)

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