Something that first caught my interest when researching the Montessori Method as a new parent was pictures and videos of toddlers using a knife to slice their own fruit and vegetables.
It made me feel a little uneasy thinking about a child accidentally cutting his/her finger, but at the same time, I was also thinking about how much concentration and fine motor skills those children were showing.
What a lot of people who see a toddler slicing fruit and vegetables don’t realize is that the child most likely spent a lot of hours working their way up to being able to use a knife to slice their food.
Using a real knife is a progression, and in this article, I want to share a great product that we used with our little one to introduce fruit-slicing to her.
The Wavy Chopper Knife
The first progression that you can start your toddler with for food slicing is a Wavy Chopper Knife like this one from Joie that we picked up on Amazon.
These wavy chopper knives were made to make fancy cuts in foods for serving, but they are perfect for toddlers who are learning how to cut food.
As you can see from the image, there is a nice big handle that makes it easy to grip onto with one or two hands (I recommend starting by teaching to use two hands for better control).
Another reason this is a good starter knife for toddlers is that the bottom of the knife isn’t very sharp like a real knife.
But with that said, there is an edge to it, and with some pressure, it can definitely cut your toddler’s fingers, so you need to be careful and supervise!
As long as you are there supervising to make sure their finger doesn’t go under the chopper knife as they are cutting, it should be safe for your toddler.
How We Taught Our Toddler To Slice Her Food
Our daughter, K, started slicing fruit around 15 months old.
She definitely wasn’t an expert at slicing right away, and still doesn’t have it down completely as far as slicing the fruit to a perfect size.
But she does a fairly good job at slicing fruit such as bananas and strawberries to add to her cereal!
Here’s a little step-by-step guide on how I taught her how to use her first knife:
- The first step I took in teaching her how to slice fruit was to just demonstrate it myself. I told her “watch” and sliced a banana in front of her with two hands on the wavy chopper knife.
- Next, I said “watch” again but this time I put the knife in her hands and guided her through the motions. She was cutting the banana, but I was controlling her hands just to show her how it felt. That was it for the first lesson.
- The next time I brought it out I quickly showed her again, and then guided her through a cut or two with my hands before letting her try on her own. I told her “use two hands” which helped her control (although she usually takes one hand off soon after). She was now attempting to cut banana on her own with a big smile on her face
The first few attempts of slicing by herself weren’t great by any means… she sometimes cut the food into extremely small or big slices, but I just let her do her thing (which is the Montessori way) and she enjoyed cutting and eating the fruit on her own.
Now every time she cuts the food I try and give her as little instruction as possible, and I don’t worry much about the size of the food she cuts.
I know that eventually as she gains more control and realizes that she might want her food slices a certain size she will learn to cut them into that size.
What’s The Next Step Before Moving To A Real Knife?
How We Montessori has a good post on Montessori and Knives where she has displayed 7 different knives that toddlers can learn with.
At K’s age, we will stick to the Wavy Chopper for a while until she has mastered it, but from there I think we will go with a toddler safe knife that is more shaped like a real knife.
Of course with the chopper knife, the cutting motion is different than a real knife, so it’s important to move on to a non-sharp knife to teach that type of cutting motion before handing them a real knife to learn with.
I will update this article with the knife that we go with to teach K to cut with a knife, but there are many different knives out there that were created for little ones to learn with.
You can start with a plastic knife that can still cut through foods like bananas, and then move onto something a little sharper before moving onto a real knife.
What Age Can Toddlers Start Using Knives?
As mentioned, K started using the Wavy Chopper knife at 15 months. With supervision, I think toddlers can use that knife as a starting knife whenever they have the hand control to use it. It isn’t overly dangerous with a parent close by.
As far as real knives go… I’ve seen Montessori parents introducing knives as early as 2 years old, but that’s not to say every child is ready for a knife with a sharp edge at that age.
If the child goes through the proper progression and has supervision they could be ready for a real style knife around the 2-3-year-old age.* (I have no experience here, but this is based on what I’ve seen online).
Some common sense is needed here too. If you’ve taught a 2-year-old how to use a knife you probably shouldn’t have them use the sharpest knife you can find!
Like with everything in Montessori, observation is key. Observe your child and see if they are ready for the next step.
I’ve learned that toddlers are capable of more than I thought, and I love providing K with the opportunity for independence in the kitchen.
I will be sure to update our journey in teaching her how to use a knife for her slicing. And if you’re teaching your little one how to slice – good luck!