If you want to instill healthy eating habits in your kids, there’s hardly any better way than letting them be part of creating a meal. Picky eaters may become curious when they are involved in food preparation. Knife skills are a valuable competence to have - and if these are learned at a young age, it's a skill they will always have and are going to be able to apply throughout their lifetime.
Of course, handling knives or any sharp objects should only be done with adult permission and supervision.
THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
Make sure your child reaches the worktop easily. A sturdy stepping stool might help, or sitting them down on their chair at the kitchen table.
Choose a non-slip cutting board that is bigger than the knife and the food that needs to be cut. If your board slides on the worktop, dampen a microfiber cloth (wring out all excess water) and place evenly in a single layer under the board to create traction between the board and the worktop.
As for the right knife, smaller children need slightly smaller knives. Larger knives tend to be heavier and can be hard to maneuver with. We love the special kids set Le Petit Chef by OPINEL that comes with a 4-inch knife.
It might seem counterintuitive, but sharp knives are safer than dull ones. Dull knives require more force to be applied and can slip off whatever you are cutting more easily, making it more likely to cut yourself.
Make sure there are no distractions while you are practicing your knife skills. Turn off the TV and take your time - cutting slowly is the way to go.
Let your child hold the knife and observe how they would hold it naturally. Work from here, making sure all fingers are safely tucked away from the blade.
Prepare veg or other produce in a way that keeps it from rolling around on the chopping board. For example, slice a cucumber lengthwise in half and place the cut surface on the board.
Fingers need to be holding on firmly to the material you are cutting, but with a safe distance to the blade. We recommend vegetables, to begin with. Make sure the fingertips are slightly curled under with the nails digging into the vegetable - no flat fingers! Look for the position of the thumb before each cut.
Rocking the knife: let your child start with the front end of the blade on the chopping board, rocking it towards the bolster while pushing the knife away from themselves.
Chopping: place the freehand on top of the blade while pushing the knife down and away from you, starting at a 45-degree angle. Keep the fingers up!
Drawing: perfect for cutting longer vegetables such as cucumber. Draw the tip of the knife away from you as you are cutting your veg lengthways.