Should a 2-year-old use a knife? Should a 3-year-old use a knife? What age is appropriate to introduce a knife to your child? Toddlers can absolutely use knives! You can introduce a knife to a child as early as 2 years of age. Maybe even a little younger for some children!
Does this mean you should hand over a steak knife to your toddler? Of course not! There are special knives designed for kids and you have a lot of choices, so pick something you feel comfortable with! We will discuss your options soon! But first…why should you introduce a knife to your toddler?
Why Should Children Use Knives?
Using knives are beneficial for many reasons. Using knives promotes independence, helps to advance motor skills, and encourages interaction with different foods!
Using Knives Promotes Independence
If you have a toddler you are probably no stranger to hearing “me do it”, “my turn”, etc. Toddlers and young children are wired to crave independence. That’s one reason they push back when we ask them to do things and try to frequently assert their will.
These behaviors are normal and should not be discouraged! Of course, it’s absolutely okay to ask them to say things nicely and encourage politeness.
Knives are often forbidden objects and parents often tell their children about the dangers of knives. They tell their children not to touch them and children often learn that they are off limits.
How do young children respond when they are told something is off limits? Ther interest often increases! They may wonder why these super cool tools are only for adults. If my mom does not want to share her knife, it must be very special!
So instead of simply saying “no”, I recommend finding a safe way to teach your child knife skills. Getting the chance to use a knife will make your child feel super grown up and they will probably feel pretty proud of themselves as they begin to learn how to use a knife properly.
Using Knives Promotes Fine Motor Skill Development
Opportunities for fine motor skill activities is very important. Performing novel, unfamiliar tasks challenges the brain and body in new ways and is great for helping children learn and develop.
Using their hands in a variety of ways is important for children. In the digital age we live in, it takes a bit more effort to get kids off the couch, put the tablet down, and to use their hands.
Using a knife helps to develop skills using tools and to develop good hand strength. It also helps develop bilateral coordination skills which involves using both sides of the body together in a coordinated way.
Using Knives Helps to Promote Interaction with Food
If you have a picky eater, this one’s for you! Because children tend to love learning to cut with a knife, it can be a helpful tool to use to encourage interacting with food they usually refuse to eat.
It’s normal for toddlers to be picky to a degree. They tend to like foods within the “beige diet” such as French fries, chicken nuggets, pasta, and processed packaged snacks. These foods are reliable and always taste pretty much the same.
Fruits and veggies vary in taste and texture (at least a little bit) every time we eat them. Sometimes blueberries are sweet and firm and sometimes they are mushy and sour. We cook veggies in different ways and toddlers and young kids may be nervous to eat them since they don’t know exactly what to expect.
Don’t pressure your child to “just take a bite”. This does not work in the long run.
A better solution is to gently encourage interacting with food. When you are cooking dinner, you could have your child participate by helping to cut up some of the ingredients. If you have a toddler tower, this is a great way to get them right up to the counter to help you.
If the ingredients you are using don’t require chopping, you can always give your child something else to cut up. This could even be a pre-dinner snack for them.
Does chopping up a particular food guarantee your child will taste it? No! But it can help to get them one step closer by making them more comfortable with how it feels, smells, and looks.
For info on another one of my favorite strategies to reduce picky eating, read our article on Food Chaining.
Easiest Foods for Toddlers to Cut with a Knife
For round or cylindrical foods, I recommend cutting them in half or in slices first. This will make it safer and easier for your child to cut it without it rolling away or flying off the counter.
- Ripe Pineapple
- Ripe Mango
- Cooked veggies-potato, sweet potato, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower
- Cucumbers (remove the skin to make it easier)
- Hardboiled eggs
- Cooked pasta
What Knives are Best for Toddlers to Use?
This wooden knife is a great first knife for a 2-year-old. In my experience, it is the easiest to use for a young toddler. It’s not sharp at all but it does cut through soft foods well.
Butter knives typically come in a set that includes spoons and forks as well. This 6pc set from Munchkin fits toddler hands great! Butter knives are a good option for 2- and 3-year-olds.
Next time you get fast food or take out, save the plastic knife for later use! Or you can buy a bulk pack to keep at home. You can buy plastic or wood. These are great for 2- and 3-year-olds. They can be a bit sharp (especially the plastic ones). So be sure to supervise your child when using them!
Plastic Kitchen Knife
This 3pc set is highly rated on Amazon and great for kids ages 4+.
Other Kitchen Tools that Build Knife Skills
Small cookie cutters like these are meant for making fun shapes out of fruits and veggies.
Standard size cookie cutters like these work well too!
This small 9-inch-long rolling pin is the perfect size for a child. Let your child practice rolling out dough. This works on using both hands together (bilateral coordination) and develops hand strength!
This lemon squeezer is a super popular on Amazon and makes juicing lemons a breeze. It develops hand strength and bilateral coordination skills. The softer and juicer the lemon, lime, or orange, the easier it will be for your child to squeeze.
Don’t be afraid to introduce your toddler to a knife! Use caution and provide close supervision but give them a chance to be independent! They will enjoy participating in a grown-up task. Have fun!
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