One of the first cooking skills kids learn under the Montessori theory of education is how to use a knife. Scary, right? That’s what I thought when we toured Eva’s Montessori preschool (which we only did for a year) and saw the cutting activity sitting on one of the shelves, complete with a small selection of knives. This mom definitely did a double take!
To be fair, there are lots of good reasons for teaching toddlers how to use knives. For one, we expect them to learn how to properly use forks and spoons. Two, knives require a lot of hand coordination that will come in handy for other tasks. Three, teaching them how to use a knife the right way also teaches them about knife safety (eventually) and could keep them from doing dangerous things later on. So, yay knives!
Well, almost. I’m still not on board with giving my toddler a sharp paring knife (or my preschooler if we’re being completely honest), but learning how to cut soft things with a spreader knife is a good step toward Calvin being able to help his sister and me in the kitchen. So, we’re working on it.
Bananas seem to be the classic first choice. They’re easy to cut and Calvin is always interested in eating what he’s “cooking”.
Start by showing your toddler how to slice piece of banana up. Then, let him hold the knife while you guide his hand. It’s inevitable that he’ll try to come up with a whole new way to cut fruit as soon as you let go (Calvin’s involved repeated stabbing) so let him explore for a bit and then gently guide his hand through another slice. Eventually, he’ll be interested enough to parrot you.
If you don’t want to try bananas or your toddler graduates from the banana stage quickly, try tofu, melon, steamed carrots, avocado, or pieces of meatloaf. Avoid things that are a little too squishy like slices of bread, mandarin oranges, Jello cubes, or anything else that’s likely to get easily crushed when manipulated with tiny fingers. That can be confusing or frustrating because clean slices are pretty tough!