Age and Manual DexterityBefore learning to use kitchen knives, children need to reach a certain level of manual dexterity. Of course, different children develop skills at different rates. For this reason, there is no recommended age for introducing children to knife-handling.
As a rough guide, a child should already be confident with cutlery, writing implements and scissors before graduating to knives. Additionally, there is the factor of maturity. This is particularly important when it comes to handling sharp objects. Parents are the best judges of their children's maturity level and ability to recognize risks.
Involving Younger Children in CookingKnife skills are something to build up to. Younger children who cannot yet handle knives can still enjoy assisting with other kitchen tasks. Baking is a particularly good way to foster a love of cooking, as even toddlers can help mix and weigh cake ingredients. You should expect a little messiness, however!
Children's KnivesFor older children who are ready to start using knives, the key is to start with soft ingredients which will not move when being cut, e.g banana, snow peas/mangetout, herbs, strawberries, soft cheeses or cake.
To reduce the chance of injuries, consider starting with a children's knife such as this:
These multipurpose knives feature relatively short blades (130mm/5.1") and comfortable resin grips designed especially for younger hands. At 55g, they are less than half the weight of many santoku-style knives. For added safety, these knives have no sharp point at the tip or heel.
You will notice that this range of knives is made of stainless steel. While plastic knives for children do exist, they have very limited cutting power and may encourage a more forceful style of use. It is generally a bad idea to use strong pressure or sawing motions when handling a knife, as this increases the risk of slips and injuries.
Knife Safety Tips for Children and ParentsTo practise cutting an ingredient which may roll, such as potatoes or tomatoes, remove a slice from the bottom to stabilize it on the chopping board.
We recommend that you teach good knife habits from the beginning. For example, when chopping:
- Never hold an ingredient steady with outstretched fingers
- Always keep fingertips curled out of the way and planted on top of the food
- Guide the blade using the knuckles closest to it, lifting the cutting edge no higher than these knuckles
With good discipline, chopping in this manner should never result in an injury. However, for young cooks, we still recommend close parental supervision at all times. Always make sure they follow the golden rules:
- Keep fingers out the way at all times
- Never walk around with a knife or gesture with it
- Put the knife down flat, not propped up by something else
- Never cut something while holding it in your hand
- Never ever try to catch a falling knife