Want to super duper kitchen helper? Give them a cutting tool of some sort and watch them go to town! Wait, what?? A cutting tool for my kiddo? Yes! There is a safe way to introduce cutting for any age child. Not only that, they will love it and you’ll have so much help, maybe even more than you were hoping for!
It truly doesn’t matter how old your child is, hand them a crinkle cutter and see what they can do. A crinkle cutter is a great place to start, they will be able to get a feel of how cutting works. Maybe more importantly, you’ll be able to see how they work with cutting in the kitchen. You’ll get comfortable with them cutting – this is the most important step toward their cutting success!
A crinkle cutter is nice and chunky, allowing them to get a good grip and be able to push down easily with a lot of force. It’s great for soft foods (cucumbers, melon, banana, etc) and it works well with hard foods, too (apples, carrots, cheese).
Once you feel like they have a good understanding of cutting and are proficient with the crinkle cutter, have them step up to the nylon knife. There are a variety of different “soft” knives out there, we prefer the reusable camping knife or the lettuce knife. It’s okay to not have kids spend a lot of time with these tools. Because they aren’t sharp they can cause frustration. Because that is never our intention, be sure you practice first with the tool before sending kids on their merry way. My kids skipped this tool and went right to the not-so-sharp kitchen knives.
Next step, not-so-sharp knives. These are different than dull knives. Dull knives can hurt. What I am talking about here are knives with a metal blade but it’s not highly polished and sharpened. It is sturdy and cuts well, but does take some extra force. This is when kids can really fine tune their cutting techniques and learn good cutting habits. They will be absolutely thrilled to “graduate” to a metal knife.
The final step is the actual kitchen knife. There is no need to hurry to this step. There is a need for your kids to tell you and show you they are ready for a tool like this. I watched my kids for years to gauge their knife skills. One day I realized it had all clicked with my littlest, and with no further thought, she graduated to the kitchen knife! She was ecstatic.
A little note, age has NOTHING to do with knife usage. If you child is very young and has incredible body control and is emotionally and mentally ready for a knife, do it. If you have a teenager who can’t remember to keep their fingers out of the way and safety is a major concern keep them on a crinkle cutter or nylon knife. It’s about when the time is right, not about the rush.