Hi there! Thanks for stopping in to see what’s rattling around my brain today. Teaching my kids kitchen skills is something I (we, Dan too!) work on all the time with my kids. I realize it might not be intuitive to know how to teach various kitchen skills, so today I’d like to share what I’ve done to teach my kids to chop. Also I’ll mention my top kitchen knives for kids in case you are in the market!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links which just means if you purchase from the links provided, I may get a small commission at no additional cost to you! At Flawed yet Functional, I only reference products that have real value that I actually use.
My kids are 3 and 5, and they’ve been in the kitchen cooking with me since they were born. I have a vivid memory of wearing my oldest in the baby carrier and bouncing up and down to calm the tears while stirring soup. He was just a newborn! If you are in that stage right now, it gets so much better! Keep them in the kitchen and press on!
Not only do I want my kids to be able to cook a decent meal (from whole, fresh food) by the time they leave the nest, I want them to have an appreciation for good, real food. I want them to know what it takes to put a proper meal on the table so they will be truly grateful for meals placed in front of them (and so they’ll get up off the couch and help their spouses later in life!)
To that end, my husband and I have been systematically teaching cooking skills and today I’d like to highlight knives.
Now there are two ways to teach knife skills, one requiring the purchase of special knives and one that’s free. I show both of my lists so you know there’s no reason to spend money to teach your kids how to chop unless you want to do so.
Stage 1 – Serrated Plastic Knife
First up, use a large serrated plastic knife. A tall blade is best to allow a proper hold on the knife. The cutting edge on these knives is decidedly dull, but the serrated teeth allow it to cut just about any vegetable.
We found the best way to use the knife was on strips of vegetables. For example, if we were dicing potatoes for soup, I would cut a one inch lengthwise slice of potato for the boys to cut into chunks.
While the knives are not sharp enough for a child to cut a whole apple or potato in half, still insist on good knife safety. My kids have cut themselves with these! Cut might not be the right word, but a severe pinch.
Purchase free option: a disposable plastic knife (too thin for a proper hold, but would work in a pinch!)
Product Review: We own and have used the above linked knives for years. They are a good intro knife to cutting and chopping. However, they do require some force to get through firm veggies. If the child is old enough to hold the knife properly and is struggling to push hard enough to get through the knife, I would go to the next level. It is the excessive pushing that lead to our “cut”/severe pinch episode. I would highly recommend these knives for any young kid looking to learn knife skills (and the set of 3 is only $8!).
Stage 2 – Metal Blade Knife with Finger Guard
Once my kids were frustrated by the force needed to chop with the plastic knives above AND they had proper knife form, we purchased these knives. The set comes with a metal knife, finger guard, and peeler.
Now this knife actually feels like a knife and is sharp (for a kid’s knife, not by adult standards). My kids have drawn blood from this one, so always be present when your kid is using this knife.
The great thing about these is
- The knife really cuts well so it is very rewarding for the kids to use.
- It comes with a finger guard! In our house, it is required that the finger guard be used every time, and yes, my son did cut himself while wearing the finger guard. The guard must actually cover the fingers to protect from the knife blade! We’re always learning over here!
Purchase free option: butter knife!
Product Review: We have been using these knives for 3 months now, and they are wonderful. The size of the knife is perfect for our kids (ages 3 and 5), and the handles/finger holes do a great job reinforcing correct form. Even with only 3 months of use, I would highly recommend this product.
Stage 3 – Paring or Steak Knife
My kids are not to this stage yet, but the next step in my mind will be a real knife. One that they are able to mange in size and weight. I think a paring knife or a steak knife will be my first choice. I also have a fairly small chef’s knife that I might try too. The height of all three of those blades is not ideal (There’s not enough room under the handle to curl the fingers around properly), but I’m doubting my child will be able to handle the weight of my favorite Santoku…maybe!
The key here is once they’ve mastered the metal kid’s knife, there’s no reason to hold them back from the real thing. Always be present when teaching your child knife skills. These are knives that cut things, after all! Teach them the proper way to hold a knife and use proper cutting technique.
Why is it my kids always want to cut toward their hand??? Ah!!!
Purchase free option: I envision this step not needing a special knife (subject to change when we get to this stage!). Just use the knives you have on hand!
Cooking is a life-long skill of incredible value to your child. Set him or her off on the right track by teaching kitchen skills like chopping, slicing, and dicing from a young age. These 3 steps of knives (plastic, beginner metal, and the real thing) will help you instruct your child how to safely use kitchen knives. Go forth and chop!