One of the most important things every chef should know is how to use a knife properly.
Using a knife for the first time can be pretty scary. I remember learning to use my mother’s kitchen knives when I was a child—I was so nervous!
Using a knife isn’t just scary for your kids, you may also feel a little hesitant about letting your little ones handle sharp objects. Now, if your kids are still very small, I would not recommend letting them use a knife or any sharp kitchen utensil just yet.
If they’re old enough and you are confident in them, however, now is the time to teach them some knife safety with these tips!
Always pay attention!
Remember, knives are not toys.
The most important thing you should tell your children to do when using a knife is to always pay attention. They need to keep their eyes on the knife, their hands, and their fingers at all times. Kids tend to be distracted easily and this can lead directly to knife cuts.
Make sure there’s nothing in the kitchen that can distract your little ones while they are using a knife. If you have a kitchen TV, make sure you keep it turned off.
Always keep a close eye on your kids when they are using knives in the kitchen (especially early on in their cooking journey).
Use a cutting board
Never let your little ones use kitchen knives without a cutting board. It provides a stable surface to work on, while also avoiding any damage to your kitchen counter.
I like to place a towel under the cutting board so there’s no chance of the board slipping and causing an accident.
Use the right grip and cutting technique
A very important thing to remember is to show your kids how to properly hold the knife.
Teach them to wrap their hand around the handle and place their forefinger on the knife bolster. This is a safe and stable way to hold a knife.
Next, show your kids the right way to cut. Place the tip of the knife on the board, and then carefully bring it down on what your kids are cutting.
Avoid letting your kids cut rounded items for now since those could roll. Instead, give them something with a flat surface to cut, or cut off a slice of an item and lay it down on its cut side to keep it stable. You can even start them off by cutting soft food items, like dough or bananas, for now.
The safest way to handle a knife is with a steady claw grip. Make sure your little one’s fingers form a claw on the item they need to cut. This will keep their fingertips safely away from the blade while cutting.
Keep the knife away safely after use
Once your kids have finished cutting with a knife, teach them how to properly and safely keep it away.
One thing I’ve noticed is that once kids become more confident in their knife skills (as they should) they start traveling around the kitchen with the knife—do not let them do this! When my kids took to doing this, I’d call out, “Knife walking!”, to stop them in their tracks.
The phrase makes me chuckle, but walking around the kitchen with knives can be dangerous for both your kids and anyone else present in that space. It’s important that you nip any “knife walking” in the bud.
Teach your kids to store their knives or place them down safely, somewhere where they are visible and accessible, once they’re done using them.
Finally, clean up! Show your kids how to properly clean a knife without cutting themselves in the process. Also, remind them to never leave knives in a sink full of soapy water. If someone reaches into the water when there’s a knife in there, they could get a nasty cut.
Practice knife safety for happier memories in the kitchen
Every cooking adventure starts with taking some precautions. While you can use a knife guard for your kids, I’ve found that proper knife safety is much safer and more necessary than a knife guard.
When you teach your kids to cook, you get the chance to make precious memories with them—memories you and your kids will always remember. So, make sure your kids learn how to use a knife safely while cooking and get ready for some amazing cooking adventures:)
Before founding Bake Austin, Pascal Simon earned her degree as a Pastry Chef from the prestigious Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. A mother of two, Pascal is passionate about cultivating the next generation of bakers and welcomes children from all schooling backgrounds, whether public, private or homeschooled.