Monday, March 4, 2013

Someone's in the Kitchen with Momma

Someone's in the kitchen, I kno-o-ow.  Someone's in the kitchen with Mom-ma, chopping and he's 5 years old!

Okay, he will be 6 year's old this month, but still I know that many reading this are thinking, "Eek, you are letting your little kid use a knife!"

Cooking is a fundamental life skill that so many adults kids lack these days.  My husband came to me with VERY little cooking skills and no knowledge of proper nutrition, and I am determined that my son will leave my nest knowing how to make a healthy and nutritious meal for himself and others.

Marcus's has been in the kitchen stirring things with me for quite a while (literally years).  When daddy is feeling particularly patient, he let's Marcus crack the eggs for Saturday breakfast.  He uses a butter knife to cut the softer items on his plate.  So, as far as I was concerned starting to chop was naturally the next skill for him to learn.

We started a few weeks ago with mushrooms.  I have him cut them in to quarters (think pie cut in to 4 pieces).  This week I decided that since he has been doing such a good job of cutting the mushrooms, I would let him move on to some tougher veggies.  Squash, zucchini, and peppers were the order of the day.

Showing him how to put the tip of the knife on the board and use the knife like a lever.

Chopping on his own.  He chopped all the veggies on the sheet pan.  The knife sitting on the counter is the paring knife he used to chop the mushrooms, and the knife in his hand is the small chef's knife that I refer to.

He has been doing great with chopping.  So far, all of his fingers are cut free, and I have enjoyed having an extra hand in the kitchen.  He is also eating his veggies even better than before, because he is invested in them.  He can take pride in them.

If/when you are brave enough to allow your child to start using a real knife I offer these tips:

1.  A sharp knife is a safe knife.  I know that this is hard for some of you to understand, but your child will have to push harder with a dull knife, making it more likely for an accident to happen because the knife slips.

2.  Use the appropriate knife for the job.  If you are chopping something softer, let your child use a small paring knife.  It will be more than sufficient.  If you decide to let them chop more resilient veggies and fruits, invest in a small/short chef's knife.  It is important that they learn which knives to use for what jobs and why.  And, they get a science lesson when you explain how leverage works as you are using the knife.

3.  Make sure that your child is at the proper height for chopping.  Marcus stands on a very stable step stool as he chops, and he has to have shoes on. Not something you would necessarily think about, but knowing that a knife could fall off the counter and pierce his foot (something my dear hubby experienced as a young boy) it makes me feel better.  Plus, I would hate for him to slip off of the stool in socked feet with a sharp knife in hand.

4.  Last, but not least.  You have to establish some ground rules.  Marcus knows that he is not allowed to handle a knife without a parent in the kitchen with him.  He knows that we don't run with knives in our hands, and that there is a proper way to walk with a knife.  He knows that when we are not chopping, the knife sits on the counter instead of the cutting board so that we don't pick up the cutting board and send the knife flying.  You have to decide what the rules in your kitchen are.  These are just mine.  I am sure that there are others that I am forgetting, but like I have to establish your own rules.

One other word of advice, save your glass of wine until after the chopping is done! ;)

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