A Kid with a Kitchen Knife.





From garden to table, this girl is my culinary sidekick. Every day she takes her harvest basket out to the garden to see what has ripened and brings in food for our dinner. Often I hear "Mama! Come quick! Come quick!" (I call this my garden alarm.) I dash out in to the yard and she shows me that the beets have come up or there is a giant cucumber that we missed or the broccoli is ready to harvest or a squirrel is lunching in our compost bin.

She knows well the birds that frequent our garden and what their preferred meals are – the grey catbird, the goldfinches, and "friend blue jay".

This day her harvest basket so inspired her that she set to work making her own salad without a word of coaching from me. She got her stool, her sharp knife, the salad bowl, and her harvest and set to work. I didn't say a word. I just watched her work, smiling.




Yes, I let my kids use sharp knives. It never occurred to me not to. My mom told me that she never would have thought to allow my sister and I to use sharp knives when we were so small. But she remembers with amusement one visit to my home when Sage was two (and naked) helping in the kitchen, cutting vegetables with a small kitchen knife. She heard Pete's calm voice sing out (as he searched for a small apron) "Remember, buddy – keep your penis below the cutting board."

As the pictures above will attest, my kids are comfortable with knives. They are safe. In fact, I don't believe either child has ever cut themselves working with a knife. Lupine has been using our two small kitchen knives since before she turned three, and Sage – more cautious and slow in his body – started at an early two. I don't view kids with knives as dangerous, rather to me the opposite is dangerous. In most of Western society children are growing up in a padded and protective world. As one grandma at the park put it last week (while discussing that balls are no longer allowed at the school where she works – too dangerous), "How else can you learn about gravity unless you fall?"

I encourage you to do "dangerous" things with your kids. Let them use real knives (and real scissors). Sew with sharp needles. Get scratched by berry brambles. Start fires. (Especially start fires.) Gently lead them, teach the basics, stay close, and then let them explore their world. They will learn, and they will flourish. Despite everything they (and we) are led to believe, the world is not a dangerous place. It is a wonderful place full of wonderful experiences. We just need to silence our "be careful" voice and watch them soar.

Need more encouragement? Watch this.

28 thoughts on “A Kid with a Kitchen Knife.

  1. Roxy says:

    Amen. When my son was just tiny, a shocked friend commented to me that she could not believe I did not have my knives in a locked drawer. (A locked drawer? How does one cook, exactly?) I was stunned – it had not even occurred to me. My son was already using a small knife at the age of 2ish. I mulled that one over for about 5 minutes and agreed with myself. At five he has amazing eye/hand coordination and is very safe around all sharp tools of all variety. Great post!

  2. Brooke says:

    Love this! Our kids haven’t used the sharp knives yet, but scissors and butter knives have been a go for awhile. We will have a knife lesson today, I believe. It amazes me how protective people are of their kids… In my humble opinion, I think it leads to all sorts of problms later in life, including excessive recklessness. Thanks for this post.. The penis line made me chuckle!

  3. Karlamcurry.wordpress.com says:

    HA! Pete’s advice gave me a chuckle, too. I can totally see my husband saying that to my little guy.

    We never baby-proofed our house, don’t jump up to intervene every second, feeling that kids learn by doing. Sometimes I feel like such an oddity, not using hand-sanitizer every time the kiddos touch something, letting them roam ahead of me (without a leash or calling them back) at the grocery store or the zoo. It’s funny when I interact with other mothers at the park, library, wherever – they’re so cautious and I’m wondering if they’re just being polite or if that’s how they are all the time.

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who gives her children freedom!

  4. Em says:

    Love this post- couldn’t agree more. I’ve always believed that starting with dull knives or scissors allows children to learn to be careless with them and makes them more likely to cut themselves when they finally do transition to sharp utensils. Teaching and modeling respect for sharp utensils, fire, etc. starts before most of us even realize. The penis reminder had me cracking up 🙂

  5. Jayna says:

    we use knives in these parts too. but the rule is, when stepping off the stool from helping the knife stays at its home, on the counter:)

  6. Mel says:

    Absolutely! Don’t know how I could possibly get all the veggies and fruit ready for preserving and baking if I didn’t have 2 lil kitchen helpers (age 4 and 3) chopping it all up! They did last year too! 🙂

  7. Casey says:

    My big kid is a little too…energetic…to be safe with knives yet. He’s still not yet 4, so I’m confident that he’ll learn. For now, however…just not an option for him to concentrate on what he’s doing.

  8. Diana says:

    Oh I so agree and this is just a wonderful post. It encourages me to give my son a knife and to try. I wasn’t so sure about it. My mom never never never let me discover my world in my way. For example, I just learned sewing with a machine some years ago on my own because she (as a former sewer) never allowed me to sew with the machine because I would sew in my fingers. She actually told me that. Scary and really crazy. Well, I sew now a lot and never sewed in my finger. Ha.

  9. susan says:

    We checked out Pelle’s New Suit from the library a few weeks ago, and I noticed that on several pages the tailor’s daughter is carrying around/playing with scissors. And not child safety scissors. BIG HUGE sewing scissors. It made me chuckle when I first noticed it because things have obviously changed so much.

    I tend to be on the overprotective side. It’s like it’s ingrained in my subconscious and I’m always blurting out “that’s not safe!” or “watch out!” or “please be careful!” before I can even stop myself. It’s taking time, but I’m slowly relaxing. Thanks for the reminder – it’s good for me to read this. And I think my 3-year-old daughter would love to start wielding a knife in the kitchen 🙂

  10. Kim M says:

    The penis below the cutting board story made me laugh. My little boy likes to be nude too. I like to cook with the kids. Relatives were always amazed when the kids would confidently grab an egg and crack it into a bowl. Your post got me thinking though that they should do more with knives. Usually they are off playing when I making dinner.

    I remember another mom being amazed one day that my middle daughter was at the park playing in a sparkly “nice” dress. I told her it washes and when was the last time a bit of fabric made you so happy?

  11. Rachel Wolf says:

    A neighbor came over once and said she couldnt really PLAY because shed get her clothes dirty. Broke my heart. What is more important – your fancy dress or the joy of this day? Kudos on keeping your priorities straight, Kim.

  12. Cook Love Eat says:

    Couldn’t agree more – Waldorf education does this too – along with correct tools for woodwork, metalwork etc – it’s fantastic to see real results from kids in their cooking – plus a skill for life!!!

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