On Sunday mornings we wake up and after cuddling in bed for a little while, my husband, two daughters and I head downstairs for breakfast. We usually have eggs, toast and some sliced up veggies.
My three year old grabs a few tomatoes from the fridge, stands on her little stool, grabs the cutting board and asks for a knife. I give her one and she starts slicing the tomatoes while asking me with excitement to look how she’s carefully cutting the tomato. She’s very proud that she can use a knife safely and on her own.
Some of you might think it’s dangerous to let a three year old handle a knife but we think it’s actually an important skill to learn and in my opinion, the sooner a kid learns knives have to be used with care, the better. It is more dangerous for a child not to know how to use a knife than to teach a child how to PROPERLY use a knife.
We didn’t wake up one day and decide we would let our daughter use a knife. No.
This process started around the time she was two. She would see us use a knife and she was very curious.
We started showing her how we use the knife and we told her it’s really sharp. We explained to her that the knife can cut anything — even a finger if you’re not careful. We touched the knife gently and emphasized the word “sharp”. We repeated many times that knives should be kept away from bodies. A few months went by where we emphasized that knives are a tool, but have be used very carefully.
Several months later she was holding a knife while my husband or I would slice vegetables or cut a piece a cheese. She was not allowed to do it by herself but she would hold the knife and we would put our hand on top of hers to guide the movements.
Eventually, after about a year of introducing her to knives, she started using the knife by herself (always with either me or my husband watching her) and has been using it ever since. She’s very careful when she uses the knife and is very aware of how dangerous it can be. She’s not allowed to use it alone and we don’t keep the knives within reach, but when we’re cooking, she can help us by slicing.
Why did we teach her to use a knife?
Knives are dangerous
This is the main reason why we teach our kids how to use a knife. Accidents happens when kids get curious and try things without proper supervision or when they don’t understand how to properly use certain gadgets.
Humans are curious by nature and by saying no, curiosity peaks. We didn’t want our kids to think knives were forbidden and then go behind our back and try to use a knife.
We believe it’s better to teach her our kids about knives so they understand how powerful this tool is and because knives are dangerous, we wanted her to learn how to use it. If she ever came across a knife we wanted her to know how to handle it safely and with care. We wanted her to know how to keep it away from her body and anyone else’s body to avoid any accidents.
I remember one day we were at a friends house with many kids. Someone left a knife within reach and my youngest almost grabbed it, but my oldest saw it and immediately took the knife and came to me so I could put it away.
I think we all have that friend that went to live by themselves and didn’t even know how to cook. The sooner we involve our kids in daily tasks, the more independent and capable they will become.
Growing up means you can do things by yourself, responsibly. Learning this skill makes my daughter feel proud, and it also makes her feel like we trust her with important tasks. Giving her this sense of independence from a young age sets her up for successful tasks in the future.
This also means our daughter is learning from a young age that some things are tools but they can also be dangerous and we have to be careful around them. Teaching her this has come very useful, now we can tell her things like we don’t touch fire because it can burn (hurt you) and she understands what we mean.
She trusts us because we trust her.
Gives a sense of accomplishment
The look on my daughter’s face when she’s done slicing a vegetable, fruit or cheese is priceless. She is so proud that she has mastered this skill so well. It makes her want to try and master new skills and we love that.
It teaches her that learning a skill doesn’t happen overnight. In a world where tablets and TV’s give instant results, it’s important that our kids feel accomplished after mastering a skill that takes practice.
It took our daughter over a year to be allowed to cut a piece of cheese or fruit by herself but once she did it, she was so proud. This sense of accomplishment keeps her going when she tries to do other activities that might be hard for her. She doesn’t give up easily.
Helps reinforce healthy eating habits
Involving kids during food prep and meal time makes them better eaters. They learn about the foods we use and are more interested in eating a meal they helped create.
My daughter is not a big eater but every time she helps us make a meal, she will eat it. So, this is a great way to start healthy eating habits and a love for cooking.
This is also a great way for them to learn that the most healthy and nutritious foods have to be prepared at home. If they are used to prepping and cooking meals, they will be less likely to turn to fast processed meals when they’re adults.
It’s a necessary life skill
Let’s face it, we all need to learn how to cut things. Does a 3 year old need to know how to slice vegetables for survival? Absolutely not, but it doesn’t hurt to learn now and perfect this skill throughout the years.
As she gets older she can learn more and more skills. We want her to be prepared for life and it starts with the little things they can do daily.
It is fairly recently that kids aren’t involved in the day-to-day tasks and I understand where this is coming from – we want to protect our kids. However, the best way to protect our children is by teaching them what to do in certain situations, how to handle dangerous objects and giving them the freedom to explore and learn this on their own (under supervision).
A great TED talk
After writing this post and talking about this topic with my husband, he shared with me this powerful TED talk. I encourage you to watch it!
My daughter is still not allowed to use a knife without an adult present and probably won’t be for a while even though I am pretty sure she would be careful. But this is how parenting looks in our family: not too “free range” and not too “helicopter”.
As you can see, teaching our kids how to use a knife is about safety. It’s about learning to control the environment they’re in and learning how to properly use the tools around them. Learning this simple skill has given my daughter a boost in her own confidence, has helped her become more independent, a better eater and has taught her not to give up too soon.
What about you? Do you let your child handle a knife?