Kitchen knives for children
December 16, 2018 12:08 PM   Subscribe

My child (3) loves to cook and has specifically asked for a knife to cut with. There seems to be quite a few on the market so looking for any recommendations (obvious disclaimer that he is heavily supervised). Also welcome, any suggestions for other cool kitchen stuff so he can 'help'!
posted by threetwentytwo to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you looking for an actual sharp knife that can cut things but is suitable for small (closely supervised) hands, or are you looking for a dull "knife" that he can use to pretend to cut things with little danger of hurting himself?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:11 PM on December 16, 2018

Also, why get a special knife for this? A paring knife is like a chef's knife for tiny people. If you want something less sharp, a butter knife will do. Just designate one of the smaller kitchen knives as his, except it lives with the other knives and you get to borrow it when he's not using it. Maybe wrap the handle with some tape in his favorite color.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:13 PM on December 16, 2018 [6 favorites]

Good clarification: it needs to be more than pretending (we've tried). If it could cut say, a mushroom, then that would be a good start.
posted by threetwentytwo at 12:14 PM on December 16, 2018

Both of my kids got started with this knife.

Pluses: It's sharp enough that you can cut small quantities of fruits and vegetables, bread, etc. but would very hard to injure yourself with.

Minuses: The latter quality makes it challenging to do any quantity of real cutting or any chopping with. The serrated edge lets you overcome some of this with by sawing, however.

My 7 year old has moved on to using real knives and has yet to cut himself, so it seems to have provided some useful practice. It has also held up well to regular use.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:16 PM on December 16, 2018 [10 favorites]

With Anticipation, look for an extra small paring knife. Anything sharp enough to work will, well, work. Start slow on things that don't slip (still get myself on an onion occasionally, it's ok, not a vegetarian)
posted by sammyo at 12:31 PM on December 16, 2018

Would he go for a hand chopper, the kind where the blades are contained inside a jar or barrier? There's the classic kind and OXO makes an updated version.

Another possibility is an ulu. He could use both hands on the handle to rock the blade back and forth. Getting a concave cutting board helps or he can cut in a sturdy bowl.
posted by jamaro at 12:33 PM on December 16, 2018

This Curious Chef knife might work for you. My neice & nephew used to help me cook all the time using a an old blunt paring knife I had. I just made sure to give them easy to chop things so they didn't realize it was blunt. So yes to zucchini cutting & no to carrots.
posted by wwax at 12:41 PM on December 16, 2018

4 yo and the lettuce knife set have worked for a bunch of people.
posted by anya32 at 12:45 PM on December 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Wirecutter just covered this
posted by zachxman at 12:47 PM on December 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

You want a wavy chopper, unless you kid is set on having a knife knife.

My kid has used one since he was 2 (now he is 5). I trained him to use both hand to push down on it, thus eliminating any finger-chopping danger. It cuts mushrooms perfectly fine, and even things like carrots, with enough force.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 1:24 PM on December 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

we used a generic plastic butter knife for our son from 2 years old for mushrooms, watermelon, cantaloupe
posted by noloveforned at 1:40 PM on December 16, 2018

Our kids both started with our mezza luna and the transitioned to our paring knives.
posted by ElizaMain at 1:50 PM on December 16, 2018

It really depends on your kid. I thought mine was really adept and a few minutes with a paring knife and she had cut herself, freaked out, and then didn't want to use a real knife anymore. So I got her a nylon knife set and that definitely is workable for zucchini, potatoes, mushrooms. You can cut carrots with it but requires quite a bit of sawing. I wish I had gone for the cute dog-knife linked earlier. It's metal. It's cute and I think it would maybe work a little better. She's 8 now and might be ready for the paring knife.
posted by amanda at 2:26 PM on December 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

The first knife that I was allowed to use as a kid was a serrated bread knife. It had a round nose, so difficult to stab yourself (or a sibling) with, and the serrations made it possible to actually cut things despite it being not exactly razor sharp.

And entirely possible to cut the crusts off your own sandwiches with it.

However, the trend today seems to be for pointy-nosed bread knives, so maybe this tomato knife would be a good choice.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:37 PM on December 16, 2018

Opinel makes a great kids knife with finger guard, it works great. Our kid is now mushroom prep cook around the house. The finger guard teaches good technique for holding food, and the knife is sharp enough, while not being dangerous. It can be sharpened as skills increase.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:54 PM on December 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

I have three children and four grandchildren and the idea of a three-year-old with an actual sharp knife as in "can cut themselves" sharp, fills me with dread, even allowing for intense supervision. The various "not really sharp plastic knife" options seem good.

I do know that three-year-olds can be adamant about what they want. Sometimes the only answer is "you have a right to want, but you don't have a right to have."

If he gets to cut things, some little working bowls/glasses to put the cut-up items? It is conceivable he could handle helping peel things, but that makes me a trifle nervous too as my wife recently shared with me that she still cuts herself with the peeler sometimes.

The thing that I remember best about helping in the kitchen when I was a child was that whenever my grandmother made bread (which happened every Saturday) I would get a small piece of dough that I was responsible for. I would have to punch it down and knead it and eventually form it into something that would be baked, then that would be my bread for dinner. Unfortunately that doesn't require any tool.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 3:02 PM on December 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

A lot of these things seem to be necessarily dull knives, designed for letting kids cut bananas and the like. That's fine, but if they are going to get into real cookery they need a sharp knife, so I'm nthing the suggestion of using standard paring knives. Keep in mind that a cut from a sharp knife is safer, fast-healing than a cut from a dull knife. Take a little risk, teach respect for tools, supervise well, and good paring knives will work fine.
posted by beagle at 3:52 PM on December 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

My youngest used and uses curious chef. They are great and cut through fruit and veg and do not cut flesh without great effort. She loved having her own knives and enjoys cooking alongside us. Highly recommended and they're cheap.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:03 PM on December 16, 2018

My 4 year old has and really likes the non-serated version of the doggy knife above and it’s perfect; we've had it about a year. She can cut a lot with it but not hurt herself. I think a paring knife is really too sharp for the average three year old. 5 or so seems more appropriate to me. I am wondering how recently some commenters have spent time with an average three year old? There is plenty of time to get into “real cookery” and plenty of cooking and chopping that can be done with a slightly dulled knife.
posted by john_snow at 5:11 PM on December 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

All our kids started out learning knife skills when they were around 3, we used a wavy knife for some things but mostly just used the regular paring knife that we all use. There are some great knife-skills-for-kids things online. I absolutely don't think this is a weird thing to do, and fully encourage you to teach your kids safe knife handling and let them show you how amazing they can be at it.
posted by odinsdream at 6:31 PM on December 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

For small hands is my go-to for this type of thing. We’ve had success with the nylon knives.
posted by this-apoptosis at 6:44 PM on December 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

We just used a butter knife and soft fruits, hot dogs, etc.
posted by gnutron at 7:06 PM on December 16, 2018

We got the Curious Chef knife listed upthread (a whole Curious Chef cooking kit, in fact). It’s fine for soft fruit and veg or partially-broken-down harder things, like cutting a halved and cored apple into slices. He also occasionally used a steak knife or paring knife for projects where we were supervising very closely. At 8 he still uses them, and also has a cutting glove that just fits and so is starting to use real chef’s knives more often; unfortunately I haven’t seen a cutting glove for smaller hands. We still use the Curious Chef gear regularly and have found all but the peeler to be pretty well made.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:07 PM on December 16, 2018

I got my young niece a KiddiKutter which is serrated and saws through things quite easily (but she's never going to quickly chop a few onions with it!).

I bought it after a recommendation on a Montessori website, although they note it is a good introductory knife but won't ultimately get kids proper knife skills.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:48 AM on December 17, 2018

One of my friends teaches kids how to cook, and always says a blunt knife is more dangerous than a sharp one. The blunt knife can slip and even though it can't cut deep, it can do a lot of harm. She doesn't have classes for toddlers, for insurance reasons, but her own kids (and mine, following her lead) have used sharp paring knives from as soon as they showed an interest in helping out. That said, if I am not able to supervise 100% of the time, I give little kids butterknives to cut with and cucumbers or squash to cut into.
That all said, I love the Opinel knife linked to above, and might get one of those for future toddlers.
posted by mumimor at 6:51 AM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

We got these nylon knives for my sons when he was about that age. It cuts pretty well, up to about apple hardness and density.
posted by apricot at 6:58 AM on December 17, 2018

My 5yo has enjoyed using steak knives (with teeth!) and cutting carrots on a cutting board.
posted by jillithd at 7:54 AM on December 17, 2018

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