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Knife Skills for Kids

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Knife skills for kids are an important skill to learn and master. This easy guide will help you know what knives are appropriate based on kids ages, and what they can cut!

child cutting vegetables with paring knife

Looking for more information on what each age of kid can do in the kitchen? Check out How to cook and bake with your kids.

Why should my kids know how to use a knife?

Teaching kids how to use knives is an important life skill. Knowing how to use a knife helps them to be more independent, and allows them to help you cook a meal. It also helps them to be more invested in, and curious about the food that you are cooking and eating, which means they will be more likely in wanting to try it.

Important tips for teaching kids to use knives

  • Tools not Toys. Our knives are some of our most important tools in the kitchen. And just like when you are creating anything, you need to pick the right tool (or knife) for the job. We also need to remember that knives are tools, not toys. So set the expectation that we don’t pretend our knife is a sword or an ax, and that we use it appropriately all the time.
  • Show and Remind. Just like any skill that a kid learns, they need to be shown and reminded a lot. Like a billion times. Just keep demonstrating and reminding how we hold a knife and how we use a knife.
  • Stay Calm. 

Knife safety for kids

  • Be at the right height. In order for a child to properly hold and use a knife, they need to be cutting at the right height. The counter or table they are cutting at needs to be at hip height. Use a sturdy step stool like a learning tower to help them.
  • Use a secure cutting board. It’s hard to cut when your cutting board is moving all around! Place a damp towel under the cutting board to help secure it to the counter while they cut.
  • Look at what you are doing. You’ve heard “keep your eyes on the ball”, and that applies to knives, too! If you are holding a knife, your eyes need to be looking at what you are doing with it. If you need to look away, you should put your knife down first. 
  • Out and away saves the day. This is a fun quote my daughter made up when she was first learning knife skills. When you put your knife down, don’t just throw it on the counter anywhere. This could easily lead to accidents! The proper place to put your knife is at the top of the cutting board, with the blade facing away from you. 

Knives should never be used by children without adult assistance and supervision.

How to hold a knife

How we hold and use a knife has a lot to do with how safe that knife is in our hands.

Handle Grip

We hold a knife like we would a wand, with our hand wrapped around. It is NOT safe to put your pointer finger on the top of the blade. 

The Claw and the Saw. 

When you cut food, the hand holding the knife is your “saw”. You use it to gently but firmly cut through the food. 

Your other hand becomes the “claw” to hold your food in place. You don’t want your food to roll all over the cutting board, and you also don’t want to cut your fingers. Make your hand into a  bear claw shape, with your fingers and thumb curled in. This is how you hold the food you are cutting. It keeps your fingertips safe in case your knife slips.

Rock the boat.

Pretend the tip of the knife is stuck to the cutting board. You want to try to keep it down, and just “rock” the blade in a sawing motion. You want to think of a violin bow or a rocking horse. We aren’t chopping wood to hack away at our food, we are using the knife as an extension of our arm, and it should be in a fluid motion.

Knife Skills by Age

What can your kid do with a knife? Here are some tips for different age groups, including what skills they can learn and what knives they should be using based on their age.

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** Please reserve judgement based on your child’s capabilities! The following are simply guidelines! And always first demonstrate and supervise the use of a new tool or technique. 

Age 1-2 years old: 

This is the perfect age to start learning how to use a knife. This is a great time to start teaching safety. I love introducing the Melissa and Doug play kits with knives as a fun and simple way to introduce topics like “don’t run with a knife” and “a kitchen knife isn’t a sword”.

How can my 1-2 year old use a knife?

The best place to start is with a spreader and practicing spreading things on toast and waffles. The spreader can also be used to chop soft things like bananas.

Knives that are great for ages 1-2 year old:

Age 2-3 years old: 

This is a great age to start teaching more independence. Remember that kids need to be standing where the counter is at hip height when cutting, so a step stool like a learning tower is a perfect tool.

How can my 2-3 year old use a knife?

This is a great time to start practicing cutting soft things like bananas and playdough. A wavy chopper is also a great tool to use because they often need two hands to press down. Practice on cucumbers, bananas, and celery, and using their knives to help prepare their own snacks.

Knives that are great for ages 2-3 year old:

Age 3-5 year old: 

This is a great age for starting to practice cutting more items. Reinforce proper ways to cut by using the “claw and the saw”, and how to “rock the boat”. They can start to use tools that actually look like knives, and begin using a paring knife (affiliate link) with close supervision.

What can my 3-5 year old cut?

  • Soft things like bananas, strawberries, mushrooms, and avocado
  • Slightly firmer things like celery.

Knives that are great for ages 3-5 year old:

Age 5-7 year old: 

Kids at this age are able to start cutting harder foods, and be more precise in their cutting abilities. At this age, kids can also start using a “chef’s grip” on their knives. This is where they pinch the end of the blade of the knife with their thumb and pointer finger, and then wrap the rest of their fingers around the handle. This will give them more control to cut through thicker and harder foods. Remember, no pointer fingers on the top of the knife!

What can my 5-7 year old cut?

  • Harder fruits and vegetables like bell peppers.
  • Chopping herbs
  • Slicing bread

Knives that are great for ages 5-7 year old:

Age 8-10 year old: 

At this age, kids are able to learn different cutting techniques like dicing, mincing, and slicing. They are also better able to cut larger and harder food.

What can my 8-10 year old cut?

  • Cut raw proteins
  • cut harder foods like apples, potatoes, onions, etc.

Knives that are great for ages 8-10 year old:

Try these simple recipes to cook with kids!

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