Kids in the kitchen: Using a knife at 4 years old

One of my favourite aspects of Montessori is the emphasis on practical life activities and learning. I really enjoy being able to teach Y basic skills that he will need the rest of his life. I truly believe that learning to do simple tasks for himself helps to build up Y’s confidence and self esteem. 

Today, I want to give a peak into how he can use a kitchen knife. I know that this can be very scary to teach our children, so please make sure that if you do teach such things, that you do so under very direct supervision and only if you feel your child is ready for this. Every child’s skills and development is different so please only prepare such activities at your own discretion.

Montessori activities (practical life): teaching a four year old to use a kitchen knife by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori, #montessorikids, #montessorihome, #practicallife
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Practical life: teaching a four year old to use a kitchen knife

Age: Y is four and a half years old. 

Cooking and using kitchen tools is very important to teach our children. Seeing all those adulting memes on facebook, make me feel a bit sad that there are so many children and youth that lack basic skills. 

I take a lot of time to make sure that I can prepare my son for the real world. Not only is this a very practical thing to do – I know that once he lives alone, he will be able to prepare a meal for himself and do his own wash. He can already do these things really at 4 years old. 

The other side of this is that teaching basic self care tasks to children truly helps to build up their confidence, self worth, self esteem, and impacts how they see themselves. I want to teach my son (and daughter, but she is only 4 months old) that he is capable and can accomplish difficult or scary things. 

If you would like more insight into this, please read my article – How we accidentally do our children a disservice. I wrote this after my own experiences having to relearn how to care for myself after I was very seriously injured. These experiences have given me so much more patience and have shown me the real importance of ‘allowing’ my son to care for himself and accomplish tasks himself rather than me doing them for him. 

Here is the set up we use. I store all of the materials we need in our kitchen. I’m not able to show you this because we don’t really have a kitchen yet. Well, we have something that functions as one, but the kitchen will be the last part of our home to be renovated, and right now consists of a few wooden boards holding up a few gas plates for cooking. Not ideal, but functional until we finish up the new one. 

Because our home is still under construction so to say, I sometimes leave provocations for Y to get involved in kitchen tasks on his table. 

Montessori activities (practical life): teaching a four year old to use a kitchen knife by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori, #montessorikids, #montessorihome, #practicallife
Other times, I ask him to gather the materials he needs for completing a particular task. Or, my absolute favourite, he simply gets the materials he needs to prepare a snack for himself. Yesterday, he asked me if he could have a carrot for snack and gathered all of the items he needed, peeled the carrot, cleaned up, ate it, and then went about his business. Meanwhile, I was nursing baby Natasha. Those moments just melt my heart. 
Now, back to knife skills. When you are teaching children to use a sharp knife, as we have here, I think it is best that the child sit. My son sometimes likes to dance a bit when he is cooking, so I wanted him to be still with his body and concentrate on the placement of his hands for this. 
Here, he is using a knife from the set of ceramic kitchen knives my husband and I own. This knife is small and easy for him to use. However, it is very, very sharp and he needs to be careful and attentive to the task he is completing. He did like very much though to be able to use the Mama and Heitie’s (daddy in Frisian) good knives. I think he felt very special! 
Montessori activities (practical life): teaching a four year old to use a kitchen knife by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori, #montessorikids, #montessorihome, #practicallife

Here, he had to be very, very careful. I explained to him that he really needed to make sure his fingers were not near the blade to avoid being injured. 

I have always been very clear about this with him. At four and a half, he understands this. I say to him that if his finger goes under the blade, he will cut himself and it will hurt and bleed. He doesn’t want to cut himself so he pays attention as he works and avoids placing his fingers underneath the knife. 

I like using a spring onion with a sharp knife. It is very long and gives plenty of space for keeping fingers away from the knife. Alternatively, zucchini or cucumber may be nice vegetables to use. 

Montessori activities (practical life): teaching a four year old to use a kitchen knife by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori, #montessorikids, #montessorihome, #practicallife

It is important to go slow and explain. I explain the steps that one takes when using a knife. Of course you can use softer vegetables such as mushrooms when first starting to teach knife skills. 

When teaching Y how to use a knife, I have also previously guided his hands. Also, you can read about the progression of kitchen knives you can use before ending up on sharp, normal knives. 

Clean up is also a very important step. After carefully cutting the onion, he places the cut pieces into the bowl. 

Montessori activities (practical life): teaching a four year old to use a kitchen knife by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori, #montessorikids, #montessorihome, #practicallife

Next, he took the water in the pitcher and poured it into the cup. Then he placed the spring onion in the cup. It regrows! Isn’t that absolutely nifty? Y was very amused to see that his spring onion was already regrowing in the evening, a few hours after he had cut it! 

Montessori activities (practical life): teaching a four year old to use a kitchen knife by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori, #montessorikids, #montessorihome, #practicallife

Checkout Y in action! Here is a short video I filmed demonstrating how he carefully cut the spring onion. 

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By | 2017-03-31T07:47:09+00:00 March 2nd, 2017|3-6 years old, Montessori, Parenting, Practical Life|0 Comments

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