I am one of those neurotic moms who baby proofed our home about a month before our first child was born. Before Katie had even thought about rolling over, much less walking to the knife drawer and helping herself, I had every sharp object in our house hidden high above the stratosphere. I regularly scolded my husband if he so much as left a butter knife close to the edge of a counter and I dreaded the day when my kids would learn to climb up onto a chair in order to reach the previously safe “stratosphere”.
So now the time has finally come. Not only is Katie old enough to climb up onto a chair, she actually knows how to ski down a mountain, multiply by 9’s and conceal sugar packets in her room without her mother’s knowledge (and I only know how to do 2 out of 3 of those things!) My daughter is ready to move on from simply measuring, pouring and stirring. She is ready to chop, slice and peel. Sigh.
So this is how I am teaching her to use knives safely in the kitchen and as with almost everything else on this parenting journey, it is a slow, gradual process. I still look over her shoulder nervously and hover as she chops…but we are getting there…one carrot at a time. And hopefully I will instill good habits that she will always carry with her as she navigates all of the “sharp objects” to come in life.
Ten Steps To Teaching Your Child to Use a Kitchen Knife Safely:
1. Make sure that your knives are sharp and in good condition. A dull knife is actually more dangerous to use than a sharp one.
2. Start easy. We began by cutting peeled bananas or pieces of watermelon with no rind using a butter knife. Teach them to use the butter knife as if it were a sharp knife to start creating safe habits.
3. When your child is ready to move on to a sharp knife, a paring knife might be easier to use than a larger chef’s knife that an adult would use to chop with.
4. Always use a non slip cutting board.
5. On the hand that is holding the food item, keep your fingertips curled under so that your fingers are not sticking out.
6. Cut in the direction that points the blade away from you.
7. Work slowly and carefully and focus on the task at hand.
8. Whenever possible, do all of your cutting prep work before you start cooking, so that you are not distracted by things on the burner.
9. When you are finished using a knife, put it directly in the dishwasher, blade down, or wash it by hand and put it away. Don’t leave knives lying on the counter or in the sink.
10. Remember that like everything else your child gets good at, they need lots and lots of practice and they need to do it themselves…with you, of course, nervously hovering and hyperventilating right next to them!