Step 3) Toddler Knife - A nylon knife like this is still very safe but it can cut through harder vegetables, like a potato, if handled correctly. This one is larger in size so it will take practice.
Step 3. Set them up for success.
Before getting into chopping, make sure all the prep steps are done so your child can focus exclusively on this new skill:
have your child wash their hands and put on an apron
wash the fruits or veggies and place them in a bowl
setup their work area with everything they need - fruit or veggies in a bowl, cutting board, knife, bowl to put the chopped pieces, and bowl for the discarded parts.
Montessori teaches work in a natural, left to right movement, like reading, so place the uncut fruits and veggies to the left of the cutting board and the bowl for chopped pieces and discards on the right.
Also, ensure your child has a safe place to work. A Learning Tower is a great option to allow the child to work at the counter. They can also work at a low, sturdy table.
Step 4. Trust
You don't need to push knife skills on a child that's not interested.
Wait until they show signs of interest and readiness before beginning this skill. It will make it much easier and safer.
You can introduce knives when you observe that:
Your child may be interested in this type of activity, i.e. wanting to help or showing a lot of interest when adults prep food in the kitchen
Your child may be ready for this type of activity - they have good hand control, they're not putting as many things in their mouth, and they can follow and imitate demonstrations.
When your child shows these signs, you can trust they are ready.
Step 5. Don't Interfere.
Toddlers are more capable than we realize.
If you've given the demonstration, the work area is setup properly, and you're supervising, then avoid interfering unless your child is doing something unsafe, like chopping too quickly or getting too close to their fingers.
What language should you use to emphasize safety?
During the toddler years, no language is best.
Like I mentioned above, when demonstrating, use minimal language so your child can focus on your movements.
Draw attention to your fingers holding the fruit steady and starting to chop at the opposite end.
When it is their turn, do not narrate what they are doing or make comments/praise. Sit quietly and observe so they can focus.
If you want to use language, use it minimally and be specific, i.e. “Stop cutting now. The knife is getting too close to your fingers.”
Saying words like “be careful” or “watch your fingers” does not provide them with enough information on what to look out for.
Also, saying things like “be careful or you might cut your fingers” is setting them up for something that hasn’t happened yet and could create fear.
You can talk about safety and proper handling of knives when an opportunity presents itself but initially, after you demonstrate, you want to trust and give your child a chance.
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