My kids play with knives.
How to properly handle & use a knife was something I taught my kids pretty early. Good knife skills are very important especially when your little one wants to start helping you in the kitchen. Use these basic knife skills to help build confidence in your kids (& yourself – calm down, mama).
I feel obligated to tell you that I never let my kids use knives without adult permission & supervision. Knives are not toys & can definitely cause injury if not properly used or respected. I also feel obligated to tell you I clearly have never been to culinary school. These are tips I’ve picked up along my many years of cooking & what I’ve seen work best with my kids. I encourage you to experiment with your kiddos & see what works best for them!
7 Tips for Teaching Your Kids How to Use a Knife
Stand at the Right Height
Kitchen counters are built so they are just the right height for most people. You want your kids to stand on a stool or chair that puts the counter at about waist height. They should be able to clearly see what they are cutting.
Hold Your Knife
Some people feel there is only one way you should hold your knife. I feel that holding a knife is kind of like holding a pencil. If someone has something that works for them, I suggest they use what comes naturally to them. My daughter & son both hold their knives differently & I won’t try & encourage either of them to change their hand position. Regardless of whether their hand position is ‘correct’ or not, as long as it is safe they can use it because it’s what is comfortable for them.
You can start your kids out with a smaller knife if an 8 inch chef’s knife seems to cumbersome. See what position your child naturally uses when they hold their knife.
My son feels very comfortable using our 8 inch chef’s knife & his chosen position is ‘The Pointer’.
Rock that Knife
The most common technique your child will be using will have them ‘rocking’ their blade from point to end. Have them start out with the point of the blade on the cutting board.
Then they will push the blade away from them, following the natural curve of the blade.
Move Your Piddies
That’s what we call ‘fingers’ in our house. Make sure that their fingers will try & grip around whatever they are cutting. When holding smaller things like potatoes or smaller pieces of veg, you don’t want them so curled under that they will get caught as the blade goes thru the vegetable. Since my kids have smaller hands than mine I notice their natural tendency is to stick the pinky finger in the air. Just make sure they have a solid hold on their vegetable & as their hands get bigger that pinky should help hold out.
The Chop & Draw
Another fun skill your kids can use is ‘The Chop’. Have them place the palm of their free hand flat on the top of the blade. They can then push the knife away from them while moving the knife in a 45 degree direction & then back again.
Another good skill is ‘The Draw’. This is good for cutting longer vegetables. My son feels more comfortable using a smaller knife so he has more control over his drawing motion. Have them place the tip of the blade on the cutting board & draw the tip back towards them.
Slow & Sharp
I know it might seem frightening but using a sharp knife will actually be more safe than using a dull knife. Dull knives are more likely to slip off of whatever you are cutting, making it more likely for you to cut yourself. You should also encourage your kids to practice cutting as slowly as possible. If you are right in the middle of making dinner in a rush, it may not be the best time to supervise your child cutting. This is not the time you want to be distracted from what they are doing. Try not to have the tv in sight or other siblings rushing around & distracting your child as well. Focus is the word you should be thinking of here.
For the Nervous Nancy
I hear ya, moms. Some of you are saying you’re just not ready for your kids to start handling knives. I saw a great suggestion online to use play-doh & a lettuce knife for practice until you feel confident in your kid’s knife skills. I think this is a brilliant suggestion & gives you an opportunity to teach knife techniques you & your child feel comfortable with!
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