Cooking and meal preparation can be a busy and messy time for parents and heads of households. It may seem daunting to let a little one in the kitchen to assist as a sous chef. She may need to be reminded to stop eating the extra ingredients or to not lick any utensils or touch dirty surfaces while handling food.
That said, cooking with kids can give them self-assurance and a feeling of independence that they unknowingly crave. This confidence can be greatly increased by introducing the safe use of knives while preparing and cooking meals.
The benefits of allowing children to cut with a knife
Kids love to play with scissors under the watchful eye of an adult. The same can be said for utilizing a knife to cut up a variety of food items. It can make for a happy bonding session while getting dinner ready for the evening or a snack made in the afternoon.
Letting kids cut certain types of food with a knife could also help them foster independence, according to an NPR article, by Sujata Gupta, titled “Go Ahead, Give Your Toddler A Kitchen Knife.” The segment highlighted Montessori education and how some schools let little ones spread relishes with a knife and work towards the of goal of cutting up their own fruits and vegetables.
“As part of the practical skills curriculum at Montessori schools, children as young as 18 months old are given a butter or jam knife for spreading condiments. Then they move on to chopping soft fruits like bananas. Eventually the child graduates to a serrated knife. (Super sharp chef knives are not part of the program),” explained Gupta in her article.
Using a knife could result in better eating habits
Allowing toddlers and young students to interact with their food more directly via knife cutting could lead to less resistance when it comes to avoiding their much-needed share of vegetables and fruits. Gupta’s article further stated, “Both the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association suggest that getting kids involved with grocery shopping and food prep can reduce picky eating.”
Kids really do seem to enjoy having a say in what is on their plate and how it is presented. Inviting them to cut, cook, and really contribute during meal preparation offers kids a bit more control of a situation that typically does not include them.
If a parent, guardian, or teacher feels leery of handing out sharp metal devices, it’s okay to start out on more basic cutting terms. Plastic knives generally do not cut through or break the skin and are therefore a good choice for a preschooler’s first cooking lesson. Plastic eating utensils can be just as effective when it comes to slicing, dicing, or chopping up softer types of food.
What should kids be allowed to cut?
Young children must always remain under constant adult supervision while helping out in the kitchen. Just as arts and crafts require some sort of governance by a grown-up, so too does meal preparation.
In the beginning, try cutting soft cheeses, loose spinach leaves, or mushy bananas. For the second and third cooking lessons, deli meats, berries, and small cherry tomatoes are excellent cutting choices.
Once a child achieves a certain comfort level, he will be able to truly assist in prepping ingredients for main dishes and sides, like homemade pizza, chef salads, vegetables, soups, and tacos.
Children will continually gain confidence and enjoy feeling involved as they experience cooking on a more independent level via cutting with a knife.
You can purchase this perfectly kid-friendly knife through our Amazon affiliate. A few of our kids have one and it’s cut dinner prep time in half.*
(*ok, maybe not half yet…)