Letting kids use knives (and other dangerous implements)

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Letting kids use knives (and other dangerous implements)

Post by antfancier » Fri Sep 18, 14:49 2015

I saw this interesting article on npr : http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/201 ... chen-knife

Basically, they say letting a toddler use real, adult kitchen implements, including knives, to help prepare food will encourage not only their independence but also make them more interested in eating that food (maybe even counteracting the fussy phase many kids go through from 2-6 years old). Obviously it should be supervised and you start them off with easier implements to master before giving them a knife.

Those of you with kids, what do you think about this? Do you include your child in cooking? Are there any tasks you wouldn't let them do? At what age do you think a child can safely use a knife?

I like the idea of this, but I also can imagine not having the patience to deal with the supervision and it's bad enough dealing with my own slow and unskilled chopping let alone the oddly-shaped chunks my child would inevitable create (although maybe if my mum had given me free reign in the kitchen I would be a better cook as an adult?)

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Re: Letting kids use knives (and other dangerous implements)

Post by Aum » Fri Sep 18, 15:05 2015

My parents never let me handle knives that young. I remember when I got to the age when I was given a knife at dinner, it was like some kind of rite of passage that nobody remarked on, lol. My mother would always let me help her cook from when I was a toddler onward, but because I showed such keen interest. She just wouldn't let me handle things like boiling water, or the electric mixer.

I'm thinking that if you give a toddler a real knife with their meals, they might accidentally cut themselves, but then they would learn what a knife is capable of from then on. The problem is if in the injury is life threatening.... you don't get do-overs for those.
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Re: Letting kids use knives (and other dangerous implements)

Post by spacefem » Fri Sep 18, 20:08 2015

Oh gosh yes. I mean, this article says to give them butter knives and starter knives... not the freaking ginsu or whatever. so yup, it's what we do.

I had a friend tell me this story about how her daughter had a schoolmate over. her daughter was always allowed to use knives, and by 8 or 9 years old used basically everything in the kitchen just fine. the school friend was shocked and said she wasn't allowed to use knives at home but wanted to try. so they gave her a knife and guess what she cut herself right away. well hell!

I've also been at engineering/science fests and seen a LOT of diversity in middle school kids' ability to use a pair of scissors to, like, cut a plastic bag into a parachute.

a toddler isn't going to amputate her arm with a butter knife. if you give them a little lightweight knife and show them how to make a play-doh snake they will be entertained for a good hour, too. there might be a scratch here and there but those heal.

as I heard once on an interview about empowering visually impaired kids... "running your bike into a tree sucks. never getting a chance to ride your bike into a tree is a catastrophe."
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Re: Letting kids use knives (and other dangerous implements)

Post by rowan » Fri Sep 18, 20:15 2015

Yeah I think you're more likely to stab yourself with a fork than with a butter knife. though tbh we mostly eat stir fry so it's already all cut up lol.
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Re: Letting kids use knives (and other dangerous implements)

Post by monk » Fri Sep 18, 22:40 2015

If you start them with those plastic knives it's even safer. Plus the handles are smaller and easier to grip. I don't even remember how young I was when I transitioned from having mom or dad cut my food to me cutting my food (with a butter knife) so I would guess around 5? 6? Maybe even younger.

I know my introduction to the sharp knives was around 7 or 8 with my dad teaching me how to sharpen them on a whet stone and yes I tested the newly sharpened knife by cutting my own finger with it. Once. Lesson learned. By 9 or 10 years old I got a little swiss army knife for my birthday or Christmas but I also was riding motorcycles and shooting at varmints then.

To get back to the OP, I think it's a great idea to include children in the cooking process. They can certainly stand on a stool and stir a pot or help wash and prep veggetables. I think I used a potato peeler long before I ever used a knife and I can clearly remember my mom making me snap green beans and open/shuck/whatever you do to peas in pods.

Maybe that's why the only two green vegetables I really like are peas and green beans?
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Re: Letting kids use knives (and other dangerous implements)

Post by Nachos » Sat Sep 19, 12:30 2015

I had a special implement called a pusher when I was little (oh wow, there are even pictures on the internet! http://www.childrens-cutlery.co.uk/imag ... ry-set.jpg) and I eventually was upgraded to a real knife. Except I wasn't very good at using it at that point. I don't remember cutting myself but my baby brother was given a baby knife straight away instead of a pusher.
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Re: Letting kids use knives (and other dangerous implements)

Post by antfancier » Mon Sep 28, 9:45 2015

I'm pretty clueless about child development and can only go on my memories of being a child myself. I can't remember ever not having a knife when eating, but there must have been a time. Also, shucking pees was one of my favorite things to do.

Once I was having dinner at a friend's house (probably 9 or 10 at the time) and her mum served spaghetti. She asked me if I wanted it cut up and I was too confused and polite to say no, so she proceeded to cut the spaghetti into small pieces on the plate before giving it to us. I wonder when they finally learnt to eat spaghetti in the more normal way?

It definitely feels that by trying to eliminate all danger or go the easy route in terms of cleanup afterwards we are holding our kids back.

When I lived in Bolivia, the little daughter of the janitor used to hang out while I set up to teach my evening classes. I think she was 3 or 4. One day she came running in to show me that she'd cut her finger. It was quite a big slice, and she still had tears on her cheeks. I asked what happened and she said she was cutting an apple. I was shocked why no one was there to supervise her, but I'm sure she learnt her lesson about using the sharp knife. I also spent a day at the local nursery in a class of 6-14month olds. Most of the time we just let them crawl and totter around, trying to avoid fights over who wanted which toy. But at lunch time I was really surprised; they actually sat still around a child size table and attempted to feed themselves with spoons (vegetable soup, rice and fried chicken). I had no idea children of that age were coordinated enough to do that (obviously they weren't always successful and there was a lot of mess), but it was born out of necessity. There weren't enough teachers to feed each one, so instead we rotated around the table helping when needed. Also, for a lot of these kids this meal was the only real food they got all day, so I guess they were motivated too (actually, the amount of food they ate astounded me even more).

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Re: Letting kids use knives (and other dangerous implements)

Post by rowan » Mon Sep 28, 10:57 2015

Kids eat an amazing amount of food. heh. Those ages seem normal to me for starting to try to eat/feed themselves. Though it is generally fairly messy at the lower end of that, at the upper end generally pretty good at it.
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Re: Letting kids use knives (and other dangerous implements)

Post by ablotial » Mon Sep 28, 14:51 2015

We didn't have knives at home until I was ... 9 or 10? But they gave us butter knives with school lunch right from the get go, so ... yeah. I never complained about this at home though because I was lazy and liked to be pampered and have my mom cut up my food and spread the butter for me :P

And I did have trouble when they finally gave me real (actually sharp) knives. Steak knives were fine because they were serrated, but I had trouble with paring knives telling which side was the sharp side and often used them upside down trying to saw through something with the dull edge. I finally learned to look closely and learn the difference when my dad got frustrated with how slow it was going for me and slammed his hand down on the knife to push it through (a carrot? celery? can't remember now) and almost cut off his thumb :/

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Re: Letting kids use knives (and other dangerous implements)

Post by lyra211 » Mon Nov 2, 14:20 2015

When I was 7 we moved down the street from a 6-year-old boy whose dad owned a woodworking company. Little boy and I became pals, and his dad taught the two of us how to whittle not long after that -- as 6- and 7-year-olds messing with some pretty sharp Swiss Army-type knives, we retained all our digits and had a great time making whirligigs. His dad also taught us other basic woodworking, like hammering and whatnot, and other than a smashed finger or two we were none the worse for wear and I grew up pretty handy with some basic tools. No life-threatening injuries, and I can't even remember any slicing of fingers, although it seems as though there must have been some. I think kids are way more capable than we give them credit for, as long as they're properly instructed and supervised (obviously taking into account some judgment of the maturity level of the particular kid involved). It's hard to imagine a butter knife being a danger, and I can remember being pretty comfortable using my grandmother's steak knives to slice up a baked potato from an even younger age than the whittling.

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Re: Letting kids use knives (and other dangerous implements)

Post by cytherea » Fri Dec 4, 15:53 2015

This is interesting to me. My son is 3.5yrs old, and I let him help with prepping Thanksgiving food this year -- including using a sharp/real knife to cut maraschino cherries. My husband had a lot of misgivings, but it went well, though I'll admit that I got almost none of my own prep work done while I was supervising him very closely, heh. Eventually (after maybe 10-15 cherries), my son got bored of it and wandered off to go play, but it was great fine motor skills practice for him in the meantime and useful, too.

...Of course, he flatly refused to try the dishes he helped make, but that's a preschooler for you.

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