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Knife suitable for Children

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  • lcole Jan 16, 2010 02:30 PM
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My 4 year old loves to help cook, but I can't let him near any of my knives. Does anyone have suggestions for suitable kids knives. There are some on Amazon, but I'm not sure which to choose.

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  1. Kid knives which actually cut or not? There are plenty knives which do not really cut at all. If you want knives which can cut something, then plastic knives are the best. You can get a lettuce knife:

    http://www.amazon.com/Zyliss-31612-Le...

    or cheaper yet:

    http://img.alibaba.com/photo/51180904...

    Ha ha ha

    On the other hand, I feel like the best is to just tell him: no no no, even if he get upset. If you give him a fake knife, then he may get the impression that knives are safe and he may have more reasons to go for your real knives (or someone's) when no one is around.

    1. I think one of the plastic knives that are intended for use on non-stick baking pans would probably be fine. I used to let my children cut with a table knife. They can do mushrooms or hard-boiled eggs just fine, even if they can't cut broccoli or carrots. You can also find good plastic knives, i.e. at Dunkin Donuts.
      It's great that you're including him in kitchen fun! He'll be a much more adventurous eater that way. Plus many skills develop in the kitchen; fine motor skills, math skills (I still ask my kids to multiply fractions for me), reading recipes, etc. Good for you!

      1. I guess one of those ones that's meant for cutting romaine might work (plastic, not too sharp).

        I'm holding out to get my Chowpup (same age, roughly) one of these some day:

        http://korin.com/Shop/Childs-Mini-Knife

        1. Thanks for the suggestions. He has been helping me with baking for quite a while and loves to be in the kitchen. I want to encourage him to continue to do that and having a safe knife is all part of that.

          1 Reply
          1. re: lcole

            I bought the Zylliss knife shown from Amazon for my 4 year old granddaughter. It cuts better than a table knife and works on many foods. Even carrots can be cut with it. I had tried plastic picnic knives, etc. but I am really impressed with this knife....not at all useless. We've had a lot of fun making things together, and she can chop many salad things with this knife.

          2. At four, I'd stick with a table knife. In a few years, there's this--

            http://korin.com/Childs-Mini-Knife_2?...

            I've seen this knife in the shop, and I suspect it would be suitable for a child of around seven or so.

            1. I'd start him off with a paring knife. That's what I did with my cooking son, now 8, when he started helping in the kitchen. I hate the plastic knife suggestion. Any reasonably intelligent 4 yo is going to realize he's been giving a useless implement and resent it. Give him the chance to use a real tool and, of course, monitor closely so that you can verify he

              I am assuming your son has shown that he able to be responsible; violations--such as jabbing the knife in the direction of an annoying brother--grounds for demotion to a dreaded plastic "knife." BTDT

              1 Reply
              1. re: tcamp

                I'd also suggest a paring kinife. Somthing like a 3.5" Forschner with the plastic handle that would be easy for a child to hold.

                You could also use a steak knife.

              2. This is a CHILD we're talking about here. He doesn't need a specially designed (KORIN!!!) knife! Give him an ordinary table knife and easy things to cut. Sorry if my reaction could be perceived as shrill but I am a cookbook writer who has raised two children and taught cooking classes to kids. No child needs a special knife. Seriously, folks, am I the only one who thinks this?

                8 Replies
                1. re: Nyleve

                  Nyleve,

                  Some kids play with sand and ants. Others ride a >$2000 designer mini-motorcycle. Certainly KORIN the company made a special knife specifically for children and have done marketing research to decide it is profitable, so certainly there are people who are willing to pay for one.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I know. I know. I can't imagine. Just can't.

                  2. re: Nyleve

                    I may sound even more shrill than you when I ask this: Are you freaking kidding me? A knife for a four year old to help cook? There are numerous sayings and lines of wisdom out there in many languages about sharp objects and children, and my experience as a mother supports this. Maybe at six or eight, but FOUR? (Now that was shrill!!)

                    1. re: RGC1982

                      RGC,

                      Some four year old are smarter than some six years old.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        This is not about intelligence. It is about motor skills and manual dexterity. I don't care if your four year old is a Baby Einstein, it does not matter. A four year old is a preschooler, barely out of toddler age, and they do not have well developed fine motor skills in their hands. Most of them can only draw poorly and can barely write decent letters when they practice their alphabet. Kindergarten children bring home very unsophisticated drawings for Mommy to put on the fridge, and that has quite a lot to do with motor skill development. And they are usually five years old. Now, if your precocious genius also happens to be the one in ten million who is also a concert pianist at three or four years old, I'll encourage you to give him or her more credit. (But I'll bet you would be even more worried about the possible injury).

                        That said, it's your kid (or the OP's). Knock yourself out, but I sincerely hope you rethink this idea for safety's sake. You can get kids doing other things in the kitchen besides prep.

                        1. re: RGC1982

                          Actually, my objection isn't so much to the idea of giving a small child a knife as it is to the absolutely bizarre 21st-century notion that we need to spend special money to purchase a special tool for a kid who - come on, let's get real here - will not know the difference between a $50 Korin knife or a recycled plastic utensil (ok, a silver-coloured plastic utensil, if you must) unless the overindulgent parent tells him. Of course I also can't really imagine letting a 4 year old child cut anything that would require anything sharper than a butter knife, but it is true that some kids are more manually dextrous than others, so it's hard to set a precise age limit. There are so many valuable and relatively safe cooking procedures that can be shared with kids - things they can do without injury like stirring, mashing, kneading, cracking an egg, etc., etc., etc. - that it seems only reasonable to tell a child that one kind of job is for adults and another kind of job can be done by kids. Honestly. Has the world gone totally mad?

                          1. re: Nyleve

                            Nyleve

                            My view too. Now, if the parents want to, fine, but does it warrant the need? Probably not. My thinking is less of "will the kid not know the difference between a $50 Misono knife from Korin vs a used knife at home." but more about "Is a $50 Misono knife really going to be safer in the first place?" "Is the kid really going to be a better cook later in his life because he used a $50 Misono kid knife than otherwise?"

                            The world has not gone mad. Most people do not buy a Misono knife for their children. But I think the percentage of people willing do so has increased.

                            1. re: Nyleve

                              I agree that the idea of "children's knives" is ridiculous. There is no reason to buy a knife for children.

                              OTOH, if you want to buy them special cookie cutters, or their own little apron, that is fine, but no need to waste money here.

                              Hey, I once ordered the "childrens'" mixing bowl set from WS because they actually come in smaller sizes than the regular set, and prettier colors too. The smaller sizes were more useful to me for some things. Other than that, I can't imagine me ever buying special children's equipment, an Easy Bake Oven the notable exception :)

                    2. No, Nyleve, you're not.

                      Butter knife or none at all. A child's not ready to grasp the potential of a (sharp) knife to cause disaster until they're about 9 or 10.

                      The most horrible accidents I've heard of children getting into have one thing in common: mom/dad/guardian "looked away for one second."

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: shaogo

                        Maybe you are even more right in setting the age limit higher. Their motor skills definitely improve as they get older. Some four year olds can't even hold a pen or pencil correctly, and most are unable to cut their own food. I say wait until the are much older, and your suggestion of 9 or 10 is probably right. I do think you may be able to give a child a little younger a plastic knife.

                        And, BTW, it wouldn't really matter if you were hovering or if you look away for a second. The accident will happen really fast.

                        1. re: RGC1982

                          I totally disagree with this blanket prohibition on anything remotely sharp. Are you aware that by 9, many cub scouts have earned their whittling chip, indicating that they have demonstrated their knowledge of knife safety and handling?

                          Sure, there are 15 years olds I wouldn't trust with a knife but some kids have both the interest in cooking and the ability to perform simple tasks with a knife with supervision. The main challenge is ensuring the child understands how to keep the non-cutting hand well clear of the knife. Yes, their motor skills may not equal to (some) adults but I maintain that a mature 4 year old can slice carrots with a paring knife. How do you think motor skills are developed? By sidelining the kid until they are pre-teens?

                          As for horrific kitchen accidents, I am way more worried about a child, even a pre-teen, mishandling pots of boiling water. My kids have been helping in the kitchen since they were quite young and managed to remain unscathed using a knife at age 4 with supervision for *certain* food prep duties. And I assure you they are hardly geniuses.

                          Hey, if your kid can't handle it, don't do it. A parent probably recognizes their kid's abilities best. But the notion of restricting all 9 year olds to plastic knifes, that just makes no sense to me.

                          1. re: tcamp

                            At least I don't have to ask you if you have children, because when I started to read your post, I was wondering if you did. Since you do, you know that nine year olds are much more developed than four year olds. Between those ages, you, the parent, need to use judgment -- hopefully good judgment. As for whittling badges, cool -- but most four year olds are way too immature to work with a sharp paring knife. Agreed also that burning themselves with water, sauce, or Lord forbid, an open flame is much more dangerous.

                      2. We have one of these. They are a bargain, safe and our son, 6, loves to use it and I don't have to worry too much about his fingers!! While he's using this I can talk to him about other knives in the kitchen and how this one can teach him to use those safely when he's older.

                        http://www.pamperedchef.co.uk/orderin...

                        1. I just found these knives designed specifically for children. If you haven't found any by now, here's the link. They look completely safe and claim to deliver clean cuts! They're also very inexpensive. They come in three sizes and can be purchased separately for $3.79/ea or $8.54 for the set.

                          http://www.mysecretpantry.com/prodinf...

                          I think I'll order them for my 4 year old who's been asking for a "safety knife". He assumed such a thing existed since they make "safety scissors" which he loves to use. I googled "kids safety knives" and found a few products, but these look the best!

                          1. Kuhn Rikon has a kinderkitchen line that has a series of cooking tools for kids that are safe. I bought the dog knife that is serrated for my almost six-year-old, but they also have a non-serrated knife in the form of an orange dog. I also like the duck clippers for cutting up vegetables.

                            Here is the link.
                            http://www.kuhnrikon.com/products/kin...

                            1. When my son was about 4 and loved to help me in the kitchen, I bought him a 6" chef's knife - a real knife, really sharp - and then we talked about safety and supervision. Then we got out a cutting board and a carrot: one for him and one for me. I showed him technique, then stood behind him and guided his hand so he could do the work himself the first few times.

                              He did great, there were no problems at all. He certainly had respect for the knife, but he also had pride that I trusted him with such an important and dangerous tool, self confidence that he could handle said tool, and responsibility to only use it when he was helping mommy (a good respect for the rules doesn't hurt either).

                              Long story short: this child is now 29 and a trauma nurse in the emergency room of a level 1 trauma center. He's an amazing cook, too, better than his fiancee, who reveres Alton Brown and competes with his younger brother (also an excellent chef) for the best dry rub.

                              Both my daughters also cook :)

                              1. A couple things come to mind.

                                The first is comprehension of what a knife can do. Children have vastly different concepts about injury than adults. This factors highly into why so many children are struck by cars. The words die and kill have lost a lot of impact with video games, tv and movies. In real life there isn't a restart or play again option.

                                The second is how people react to being cut. Generally there are four reactions. The preferable reaction is to acknowledge the cut, remain calm, administer first aid or seek medical attention. The second is be oblivious that the cut has occurred, which isn't good, as blood loss can affect thinking. The third is to panic and become hysterical and lose the ability to think clearly and rationally. The fourth is to clam up and not say or do anything.

                                Children tend to clam up. They may try to hide the injury. Embarrassment, fear of being scolded or the realization that something bad has happened and they don't know what to do all can race through their minds. Some may flee the area where the injury occurred and run to a "safe" area. Others may run to the bathroom and lock the door. Shock can quickly become a problem too.

                                Parents need to grasp what their children are capable of physically and mentally, not what they would like their children to be able to master. There are plenty of things children can do in a kitchen without touching a knife. Some children will be able to use a knife earlier than others. Parents can never play keeping up with Joneses when it comes to knives. The kitchen can be dangerous and filled with the unexpected. Better to err on the side of caution. If anyone has ever received stitches in a finger they will attest that it is one of the least comfortable areas to receive stitches.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: SanityRemoved

                                  I don't know if you have kids or not - and I really don't mean to assume anything - but honestly, I can't imagine a kid who is bleeding from a cut running off to hide this injury. I understand your sense that they may not really grasp that you can't "un-injure" yourself by getting a new life (aka Mario etc.) but the reality of pain and blood does surely cause a pretty instantaneous reaction: screaming, crying, freaking out. Yes, cats hide an injury so as not to become prey to some larger creature; dogs may do the same; but kids - not so much. I've never seen it unless you're talking about a kid who has much deeper problems than just the cut.

                                  Would I give a 3-year-old a chef's knife to use without supervision? No. Would I allow a reasonably sensible child (that I know well) to use a sharp knife in my presence with close supervision? Yes, I would.

                                  1. re: Nyleve

                                    Yes I have children, all grown. I have seen on a number of occasions where children have displayed the exact actions I have described with no psychological or abuse issues.

                                    1. re: SanityRemoved

                                      In which case I retract my comments. Clearly there are things that are beyond my experience. I'm just glad my kids are all grown and that they probably worry about me cutting myself these days more than I worry about them anymore.

                                2. Montessori schools are great at having children do "real work" with real scaled down tools, so i did a little googling on how they approach children with knives. They start at toddler ages with butter knives to spread jam on breads. Then I found this article which shows a "knife" which takes two hands to use and thus is safer for preschoolers:

                                  http://howwemontessori.typepad.com/ho...

                                  There's just a comment that this is available at Montessori suppliers.

                                  Then there's this blunt tipped serrated knife that says for ages 5 & up:

                                  http://howwemontessori.typepad.com/ho...

                                  Hope this helps.

                                  1. I'm sure you can find this stuff at a website that specializes in guns for children - those folks love to sell knives and explosives too

                                    1. I am very late to this discussion, but one thing I will tell you is to let teh kid use a sharp knife, they are more likely to hurt themselves with a dull one, but insist that they always, always, always use kevlar gloves. they are not very expensive and they can save your kid's fingers.

                                      http://www.amazon.com/Chefwear-2330-C...

                                      1. Starting at around 8 I let my daughter use a sharp knife, but only when very closely supervised. She's an exceptionally calm and coordinated child (not perfect by any means, but those are two of her good qualities), some kids I'd wait a lot longer before giving them a knife they could actually chop with.

                                        I have a little 4.25" chef's knife (who knew they even made them that small?) in my knife block which I'd always thought was pretty useless, but it is the perfect size for a child's hand. Mine is an ancient Chicago Cutlery that I received in box of odds and ends years 25 years ago from my grandma when I first moved out on my own and needed to set up a kitchen. I assume it was some gift with purchase kind of thing.

                                        My daughter is 12 now and I'm thinking of moving her up to a 6" knife.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: electricfish

                                          I've refined my views somewhat on this topic over time. When my daughter was six she used under very controlled circumstances a 270mm yanagiba to cut sushi and had her own special knife. At the same age she was also helping me sharpen paring knives on water stones.

                                          All kids have different skills, and parents with different knife skills will raise their kids differently. I would never recommend a parent with poor knife skills to give their kids knives at a young age. But a capable parent can do it. You just have to be smart about it: know your kid and establish rules that adapt to your kid's ability -- and most of all be accomplished with knives yourself.

                                          Also, the idea of a plastic knife being the same as a real knife is not that legitimate IMO. Let a kid who is really interested in cooking work with a plastic butter knife for a week and see what happens. BUT giving kids their own gear that lets them have some ownership in the kitchen is very valuable; can excite them to cook more; and teaches them responsibility. A plastic knife will never accomplish that. One would never give a boy scout a plastic knife, and a kid chef probably uses a knife more than a boy scout.

                                          Just to challenge your ideas a bit here. Here is J. M. Hirsch, the AP food editor talking about his two-year-old using a real knife. I applaud him.

                                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0h3GCa...

                                          And the reason Misono makes kids knives is because Japanese kids start using knives earlier than in the US and this product has a market. When I asked a Masahiro rep about their kids knives (another Japanese knifemaker), he told me they were only for the Japanese market and would not ship them to the US because of legal and safety concerns here in the US.

                                          Maybe he was right and we don't have the knife skill culture here in the US to support knives for the young, but any skilled parent who knows their child and can properly handle knives can break the rules IMO ;)

                                          1. re: smkit

                                            "Japanese kids start using knives earlier than in the US and this product has a market"

                                            That is only because many modern American families do not cook at all. Some time ago I remember a report that we are the country which people eat out the most.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              True, but there is also the legal issues that complicate importing these types of products. Recently I talked with Dutch and Swiss makers of let's say -- 'sharp products' -- and both were scared silly at the mention of a kid using the tool. After 20 or so minutes, the Swiss lady finally admitted that kids use the product in Switzerland, but she wasn't allowed to promote it as such in the US.

                                              Wonderful.

                                              And just yesterday I bought a big yellow rubber ball for my one-year-old and it had printed on it 3+ years. If a rubber ball is 3+ years, knives must be 20+ years ;)

                                              1. re: smkit

                                                Do you mean like people can sue the knife companies if the kids get hurt? This is silly.

                                                I love these two warning signs from a plastic bag.
                                                a) Do not put it over your head
                                                b) Do not put it over a baby's head.

                                                You have to really wonder (a) are people really that stupid, (b) are we really that scared of lawsuits.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  I think they are afraid of lawsuits against them, but there is also the retailer issue. The manufacturer might worry how their retailers will handle the product and promote it, then the retailers are also afraid of lawsuits. I bought the KAI kids knife from Williams-Sonoma and the saleslady gave so many caveats and warnings that it felt as if she really didn't want to sell it to me. I had to reassure her that it was going to be used properly by my kid.

                                                  1. re: smkit

                                                    "saleslady gave so many caveats and warnings that it felt as if she really didn't want to sell it to me"

                                                    Man, I can total see that too.

                                                    Anyway, good to hear from you. I haven't talked to you for awhile. Hope all is well. :)

                                        2. I do agree with others that 4 may be a bit young to use a sharp knife to cut hard items for prep. Softer foods with a table knife were how many people that started young began their knife skills. There are indeed many things that a young child can do in the kitchen with your help after prep of ingredients is over with.

                                          Have said that I think that for any parent using a knife for cooking should be based on skills at the dinner table. When your child has clearly mastered using a dinner knife to cut their own food at the table then that would show they are ready to move onto a knife at the cutting board. that would be a very good test for knowing if they were ready.

                                          1. I stumbled on this looking for a real chefs knife that has a reasonably sized blade and handle that is comfortable in their grip. My twin 5 year olds have hit the point where their cutting, though inelegant, is helpful, and they do not worry me. They are not interested in learning how to dice the last inch, they just set them aside because that is "daddies work."
                                            This all started with them being interested in everything I do, so I quickly had to teach them all the "parts that bite." While playing with their toy kitchen (16mo - 30mo) I would treat their knives as if they were sharp, and their stove as if it was hot, they were all ready watching me in the kitchen. When a plastic knife was doing the job, we used those, butter knife, sure, steak knife as they proved able, yep. We have hit the point where a duller knife requires to much force, and thus is too dangerous.
                                            I plan on teaching them better technique across the next year, so tools that are sized properly would be ideal. I have also ordered cut resistant xs gloves. Just like with the power tools we will cover what the safety equipment can and can't do, and as always we will continue to talk about the dangers and severity. Carrots make for great circular saw demos!

                                            As with all parenting, don't feel the need to extend or restrict yourself based on the parents around you. You know your skills, tolerance, and most of all your kids.

                                            1. I'm a preschool teacher and we cook with the kids all the time.
                                              Depends on what you want them doing in the kitchen. When we do cooking projects we use this
                                              http://www.forsmallhands.com/vegetabl...
                                              it actually works quite well on even carrots.

                                              At home with my daughter, I would let her use a sharper knife for certain things that are easily cut, like mushrooms.

                                              1. This is a 2-year thread, and I was one of the first persons who replied this. After two years, it has been bought back alive. It got me thinking about this question again. Instead of focusing on "Knife Suitable for Children" maybe the more interesting question is "Children Suitable for Knives"

                                                Really. Isn't this the real question? Children who are ready to use a kitchen knife, and children who are not.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  Yes, that is the real question. I'm sure someone somewhere has developed a diagnostic instrument. Actually, I once had a cookbook called something like "Cooking Time is Family Time" (I know, ick) that discussed progressively more challenging kitchen tasks for kids. If they totally fail at picking the leaves off a basil sprig, they might not be ready for a real knife, and so on.

                                                  1. re: tcamp

                                                    <discussed progressively more challenging kitchen tasks for kids. If they totally fail at picking the leaves off a basil sprig, they might not be ready for a real knife, and so on.>

                                                    Hey, that is such a simple and yet useful thinking. Thanks.