How do you know when kids are ready to use knives? What is the best approach to introducing knife skills? This blog helps you to introduce your kids to using knives safely and at the right time.
Understandably letting kids loose with a sharp blade is a scary thought! So many of us stick to baking recipes where no chopping is required. These are just much easier and less stressful to manage than slicing up vegetables. At Compass Cooks, we believe in nutrition and eating well. For this, knife skills are imperative to preparing healthy food. All of our recipes will include some chopping where your little ones can watch and learn, and when they are ready, have a supervised go on their own.
It’s difficult to ascertain when your child will be ready, as there are no guidelines that are set in stone. They have picked up pouring, mixing and measuring well, so when is the time to handle a knife safely? Kids both develop and have varied experiences, so age is less important. The focus should be on physical and emotional readiness. Watch out for the following features…
Eager to learn, not afraid and good at listening
We’ve all met that 4-year-old who is incredibly attentive and we all know about the lively 10-year-old, who doesn’t listen! We recognise each kid / young adult is different and must be considered individually. As a guardian, you will know when the time is right to start introducing kids to slicing, dicing and all other knife-ly activities!
There are no hard and fast rules, however what is key is the ability for kids to listen and follow detailed instructions. If they are observant, relaxed and show a keenness to understand how to use a knife, they are likely ready to try. It is important that kids appreciate that knives need to be handled carefully, however they should also be relaxed in the kitchen and not jittery!
The fact they are already able to use a fork, spoon and scissors at this stage will help you to make the decision.
What are the basic safety skills?
Carrying knives: kids shouldn’t be moving with knives until you are confident that they can do so safely. When you know they are ready, teach your little ones to grasp the handle with the point down and the blade facing backwards. Closed toes shoes are also best, just in case of an accident.
Use a chopping board and ensure the space is clean: Ensuring the space is clear, means that kids can move around the board without holding the knife or food items awkwardly.
Start small and blunt: As with anything, it is important that they start small and then work their way up. Plain old safe butter knives from your regular utensils should do the trick, or you can buy kids starter knives with serrated edges, which also work fine. The use of sharper knives should be 100% supervised at all times.
Which foods should I pick?
Generally, the rule is to start soft and straight. When choosing great foods for kids to cut, you should follow these rules as they learn:
· Simple: Get more complicated only as skills improve
· Texture: Softer to more firm
· Shape: Straight to round
· Size: Medium sized to small, then to large
· Coordinate: The food should fit the knife
Why not start with bananas? They are long enough for a beginner to grasp, while still leaving plenty of room to cut the fruit into slices. Choose anything that is easy for a knife to go through, with plenty of room for error. To build confidence in the kitchen, think low risk - high success.
Now I’m ready. Where do I start?
There are a few techniques to holding knives dependent on the shape and structure of the food!
Holding the knife: Make sure all knuckles are under the knife handle. It feels more natural to put the forefinger along the top of the blade, but this makes it unstable to hold and exposes the fingers.
The bridge position: For round foods… like a lemon or tomato, you should grip both sides of the food, between your thumb and fingers so that it can’t roll or slip.
The claw position: This is the best way to grip food as you slice it, keeping finger tips tucked away from the blade, sitting under the knuckles. Once using a metal blade, spring onions and sticks of celery are good ingredients to start out with.
We hope that you found this intro useful! Please do provide your comments and pictures – we’d love to hear from you.