The kitchen is a welcoming place for kids. With so much magic happening there: parents rushing around, prepping meals, pulling colourful items from the shelves and refrigerator, creating irresistible smells. Cooking and baking can be a very enjoyable time for the family, so naturally knives play a big part of kitchen activities. With everything going on, (your divided attention, and your kids’ excitement), it’s important to make sure you have good knife habits, but also to store knives safely. Therefore, we prepared a quick list of tips that will help you reduce the risks of accidents and problems:
- Never keep your knife close to the edge of counters or appliances where little hands can reach them. It is important to remind yourself and others in the kitchen of this every day.
- Installing a wall magnetic knife hanger high enough so it’s inaccessible for your children is a good idea. Another way is to keep your knives in a child-proof drawer with secured locks or covering knives in the kitchen roll.
- Never let your knives roam free in a drawer. If the knives are left free in the drawer, the kids, or you, could end up cutting yourselves. Not only that, but, rattling around in a drawer will damage the blades. For that reason keeping cooking knives in the drawer is not recommended, especially those of high quality and value.
- Never keep your knives in a wet sink, especially overnight. And never ever do so if you have high carbon knives which rust easily when in wet for too long (so dishwasher is also a no go). Wet, slippery sinks are where rust can easily form, damaging the blade of the knife. It’s always best to wash your knives (and dry them) once you’re done using them. Or, at least, wash your knives first when doing the dishes. This keeps kids from accidentally hurting themselves when putting hands in a murky or bubbly sink of water.
At what age should a child be able to use a knife?
Some determined toddlers will try to cut their own food from the age of about 18 months. More dependent children will still ask their parents to cut their food when they’re 5 or 6 years old, or older. The majority are somewhere between those extremes. All kids are different and so their curiosity towards using knives. A child will be able to cut soft foods like cooked potatoes before they can cut more difficult food such as meat. And some children who are able to cut, prefer parents to do it because it’s neater – particularly for things like toast. If a child wants to cut their own food, they should be encouraged and help should be offered but never pushed.
One of the first things kids should learn in the kitchen is how to play in the kitchen. By using a plastic knife early to cut soft foods or desserts is appropriate you can ignite your kid’s curiosity towards exploring different textures and shapes, a movement so much praised by Montessori advocates. By 5 years a child should be learning to spread and cut with a knife. It is often not until they are around 7 years of age that a child can use a knife and fork together to cut up food and are truly independent with self-feeding.
What should parents avoid when teaching kids to use knives?
Although supervision is of the utmost importance for knife safety, you shouldn’t hover your child’s efforts. When you stand over kids while they’re cutting, nervously saying, ‘Careful!’ or, ‘Oh, watch out!’ it takes away from the child’s feeling of independence. You want this to be fun. Cooking with kids should be about making them feel like they can do it. Safety and supervision always come first, but make sure kids can feel calm and set up for success.