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.