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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?