Why I Let My Three-Year-Old Use a Knife | Seventh Generation
Skip to Content
  • Pin It

Why I Let My Three-Year-Old Use a Knife

Author: Alexandra Pecci

I often let my three-year-old daughter use a knife.


No, not a giant meat cleaver, but a butter knife under close supervision while we make dinner together. I believe that doing so teaches her to be careful and conscientious, helps develop her fine motor skills, and generally keeps her out of shenanigans while I’m cooking.


The butter knife she uses to cut with is barely serrated; I think she'd be more likely to injure herself with a fork, to be honest. But she's able to use the knife to cut up soft fruits and veggies, like strawberries and mushrooms, and she loves every minute of it. She's not only pretty good at it; she also takes the responsibility of using the knife very seriously.


Chloe often helps me with cooking and baking, which is great in so many ways. By being in the kitchen with me, she's not glued to the TV or running amok while I’m busy making dinner. When we're cooking, I'm teaching by doing; Chloe learns about different foods, numbers and measuring, and cooking techniques. And most importantly, being in the kitchen together gives us a chance to just hang out and chat. We both wear ridiculously bright-colored aprons, eat as many strawberries as we cut, and lick the beaters when we’re done making the frosting.


In short, we have fun.


When we cook together, I try to give Chloe real, functional jobs, in addition to just letting her pour or mix ingredients. Here are a few ideas:


  • Cutting up soft fruits and veggies with a butter knife
  • Ripping up lettuce, spinach, or other greens
  • Snapping the stems off the ends of green beans
  • Sprinkling cheese on pizza
  • Breaking the florets off a head of broccoli
  • Shucking corn
  • Arranging food on a platter for serving, like slices of tomatoes and mozzarella with basil leaves


How do your kids help you in the kitchen?


Photo: christaface


MotherLodeBeth picture
Like my family and friends in France we made sure our toddlers knew how to use a fork, knife and spoon, and we had small knives that they could use at the small counter where they had a chair, to slice up things like bananas, peeled lemons, oranges, and other softer foods. Am always perplexed with how over protective American parents in general tend to be. Most European schools make sure students get a fork, knife and spoon with their meal which is served on a real plate. Jamie Oliver was shocked when he came here to the states to help reform school lunches and discovered schools didn't allow real silverware for eating.
sabreechelon picture
oh gush. no matter how used the child to handle the knife, we must remember that the world child means a small human beings that needs guidance. and don't be over confident that no matter how you watch the child or even within your reach, as accidents may arise anytime. so be safe, don't allow your child to handle or use knife.
Bubsdubs picture
My two year old loves the kitchen. She's been helping her grandmother make salad for nearly a year by being in charge of putting all the cut ingredients into the salad bowl. She often sneaks veggies as she's filling the bowl which she thinks is so funny and we love that she loves tomatoes enough to do it! I think being active in the kitchen is so important so that she grows up knowing that food doesn't just appear, ok, sometimes a pizza does just appear. But usually, work goes into it.
CherylDaniels picture
The way you explain it, it certainly seems like not such a big deal. Close supervision is a must but. For the kid this must be an educating experience. It really helps develop fine skills. In my opinion, a rule of a thumb is that children should not have access to knifes, as well as to many other things. A very nice post and an even cuter helper you got there. Greetings from the whole house cleaners London team
mtj7 picture
We've had Ikea's KALAS plastic flatware since our daughter was wee. She loves the colors and they go with other plastic plates, cups, etc. in the same family by Ikea, as well as those made by others like Munchkin. She loves to pick her set for the meal - the knives are barely serrated but do cut (safely). Now that she's 4, she loves to cut (soft) things herself. Highly recommended, and dirt cheap - $1.99 for set of 18 (knife, fork, spoon in each of 6 colors) - http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/90192962/
nathrach2 picture
My husband and I started our granddaughter snapping green beans when she was 3 months old! We have pix of her doing it with Papa each year thereafter! As she grew, we added jobs that she was capable of and, like Chloe, at 3 she was helping him cut up veggies that she had just helped him pick from our garden, that she had also helped him to plant, hoe and weed! She LOVED being outdoors, working in the garden (as well as helping with planting flowers) and cooking with us as well. As she's grown, her opportunities have increased and she has told us that she'd like to be a chef someday! Of course, at almost 7, I'm sure there will be a ton of other things she'll also want to be before she actually BECOMES something. While she's waiting, though, we've given her a strong appreciation of where food comes from and how it's prepared that she can take with her all of her adult life.
OrganicCherry picture
That's great! My eight year old daughter loves to help me with cooking too. She is learning to cook with me sometimes. She loves to bake, chop, mix and cut with me. I should call her to the kitchen even more often.
Jude113 picture
I too let my girls use knives to help in the kitchen. After extensive research, I found great dog shaped kid's kitchen knives on Amazon (Kuhn Rikon Kinderkitchen Dog Knife)that actually cut. I got the flat one for my 3 year old and the serrated one for my 5 year old. While the knives are helpful in prepping dinner, they also get my girls to eat more fruits and veggies just for the sheer fun of cutting them up before eating. Both of my girls started cooking with me before they were 3. They love measuring, dumping, whisking, stirring, cutting out cookies, and even helping to wash dishes. Some of their favorites things to make include pizza, tacos, be bim bop, and baked goods. Whenever my daughter sees a new recipe in a book or segment of a PBS cooking show, she says, "we could make that". My girls especially love trying recipes we find in kid's picture books at the library. It's how we discovered be bim bop.
townelin picture
Bravo! A soon as O could hang out at the counter I started giving him little tasks. He loves to be involved and help Mama. His 5-year old cousin isn't allowed to use a knife to spread peanut butter, but O is already chopping lettuce @ 3. There's a lot to be learned when kids are given responsibility.
RealMomofNJ picture
Totally agree! I also involve my daughter in the cooking, and she really gets into it. It is way better than plopping her down in front of the TV while I do everything. When we "cook" together, we're not only bonding, but she is learning that my job isn't to serve her and we can all contribute to our daily needs.