My kid plays with knives (and I love Jamie Oliver)

It’s not so much a celebrity crush, it’s that Jamie is who I want to be when I grow up. I can’t wait to see “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” next year. In the meantime, they posted a great story and some very tempting recipes in this New York Times article:

I especially liked Oliver’s quote about teaching kids cooking skills:

“Kids can do detailed, technical things, and they can do them well. Have you seen them on skateboards and surfing? It doesn’t have to be a BMX, it can be a pot and a pan and a knife, but we wrap them up in cotton wool and treat them like babies and they’re not.”

My 3-year-old and I were making her snack this afternoon, and we worked on her knife skills. She is completely stoked about getting to hold the knife and do some chopping, but it’s taking awhile to master the safety side.  So, we work with a butter knife and soft, firm foods like bananas and cold butter. Today, we were slicing banana wheels for graham cracker cars. Here are the components of our knife skills tutorial for the preschool set:

  • Start with a cutting board centered in front of you on your workspace. Make sure that everyone is at a height where they can see the board and use it without lifting their arms too high.
  • Hold the food before you get to touch the knife. We call this grip “the claw”.
    The Claw (with a little help from the parent)

    The Claw – with a little help from the parent

    Using this grip keeps fingertips away from the blade. If the knife gets too close to the hand, the harmless part of the blade will graze the knuckles and you can adjust accordingly.

  • Once the food is grasped firmly by the claw, THEN introduce the knife itself.
  • You’re supposed to move the food, not the blade. This can be a challenge with the types of foods that are appropriate for kids to be cutting at first, but keep it in mind for later.
  • We usually take turns – Mommy demonstrates,Parent shows the ropes (most kids don't get quite so close) then helps by guiding the hands,Helping at firstthen tot gets to try by herself for awhile

    Solo chopping (Note: we had to go back and correct her index finger - it's not curved under)

    On her own (NOTE: we had to stop and correct the index finger. That’s a missing fingertip waiting to happen)

  • Depending on the success of the cutting project, the parent may need to step in and guide hands again after the kid’s solo turn. Just remember to give the kid another turn on his/her own after your second (or third or 15th) intervention. Otherwise, it’s not taking turns, so it’s not fair, so it becomes open season on pouting, so everyone is unhappy.
  • Remember to emphasize safety and practice, not results. Your food will not be pretty. It will take MUCH longer to get items chopped when you have this kind of help. Worth it! Plan ahead to determine which foods will be appropriate and considerate of everyone’s time constraints so that your little sous chef knows exactly how much he/she gets to cut and that Dad or Mom will still need to do some chopping on their own.

I’m hoping that by starting in preschool, she will have the skills to save herself the millions of gashes and near-losses of fingertips that her father and I have endured. The bonus (besides fun times in the kitchen together) is that your children can learn the skills necessary to make soft, small bits of food for the days when they are caring for you in your old age.


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