A couple months ago, I realized that I was letting Ellie get behind on her knife-using education (i.e we hadn’t started yet). So we began with chopping rhubarb for rhubarb crisp bars. She is now IN LOVE with using a knife and doesn’t let me get away with chopping vegetables for dinner without her.
We’ve discovered that using a serrated steak knife works best for her. Cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and rhubarb are all good candidates for almost-four-year-olds to cut. I usually prepare the sticks (of cucumber or zucchini for example) and them let her chop them into pieces.
She’s pretty picky about the way she likes things too. The other day, I left the seeds on the cucumbers because they were small pickling cucumbers (with very small seeds). I came back a few minutes later to find Ellie painstakingly slicing off every seed. “We don’t eat the seeds, Mama!”
For Ellie, using a real knife to cut real food for our real meals is a way for her to feel useful and needed in our family. It’s also a pretty great way to feel powerful and in control, something that’s usually in short supply when you’re young. For me, Ellie’s knife adventures are good “letting go” practice. I have to give up my perfectionist tendencies towards perfectly uniform vegetable pieces. I also have to practice trusting her, in this case that she’s not going to slice off her fingers. I figure it’s good practice for all the things that we are eventually going to have to let her do (like drive a car, gasp, faint, fall over.) As a bonus, I don’t have to all the dinner prep by myself anymore! (Plus she’s busy so she’s not pestering her brother while I’m trying to make dinner.)