Knife for a kid...?

foodonastumpOctober 6, 2012

As I've mentioned on several occassions, my 8 year old son is a very picky eater and it's darn near impossible to get him to try even a bite of anything new. But for some reason, he has taken on a fascination with cooking competition shows.

The other day while I was in the kitchen he turned on the TV and tuned into the Food Network, where Chopped was on. A few minutes later he came to the kitchen and asked to help prepare dinner. The only thing I had left to do was slice mushrooms for my chicken marsala, so I handed him my longer paring knife and taught him the principals of drag rather than push down, etc. I was mentally prepared for blood to be shed, but there wasn't. He was very proud, as was I.

Point of this post: Cooking is near and dear to my heart, so I'd like to encourage him buy buying him his own knife. I'm thinking it's easier to control a taller blade, so my thought is a smaller - say four or five inch - santoku. Of course it would always be used under close supervision.

Does anyone who has little helpers have different recommendation for an appropriate knife? I know most kids start by helping with baking, but that's simply not done in my house. The choice is prep or hot pans.

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I'd rather have a curved blade so he can learn technique, rather than a flat-bladed knife.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 2:17PM
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That's cool, FOAS! I think his own santoku would be perfect.

You might also consider a finger guard since he's so young. Actually, if I'm going to be doing mucho slicing I will use a guard because I usually listen to music while I cook and get distracted. :)

A special trip to the store with Dad to get his own knife might also be a little extra incentive and give you a chance to chat about prep/cooking.

Have fun! I have 1 son and 2 daughters. Our son is the only one who showed an interest in cooking. His wife loves her MIL and even after nearly 14 years of marriage still calls me to say, "Thanks, Mom. I have time to call you 'cause Jim is out fixing dinner for the kids!" lol


Here is a link that might be useful: Amazon - Finger Guard

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 2:22PM
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I also think you should take him along to buy his knife. I have small hands and many knives just aren't comfortable, the handles are too thick or too long or just too big. I'm assuming 8 year old hands are the same.

So take him along to "try out" his own knife and find one that is comfortable to his hand.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 2:37PM
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Small chef's, like 6", would be my first choice. He can learn to rock the blade, which I think is a bit easier to control than lifting the whole blade off the board as you do with a straight-edged blade. Not too heavy or thick. Handle material should be something that you can thin with a rasp if needed, wood or softish plastic.

Alton Brown did a great knife skills episode which will be entertaining and educational. I'm sure it is available online.

Careful attention to knife technique and finger position notwithstanding, he will cut himself eventually, maybe pretty deep. That's okay, you're not raising a mamma's boy here.

We were turned loose in the woods with jackknives, homemade bows, machetes, throwing knives, ninja stars, air rifles, and my hatchet was the envy of all. We cut ourselves, never had bandaids, came home with grubby open wounds, and despite all that we are all fully fingered, no yakuza atonement or anything. ***

*** As far as I know. It is hard to count my imaginary friends' fingers when they're holding them behind their backs.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 3:16PM
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Maybe Stephen King will weigh in...he's had quite a few kids wield knives in his books, IIRC

Get him one of those protective no-cut gloves?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 3:33PM
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I think you are exactly on the right track. You have good fatherly instincts.

I agree with John's reasoning for choosing a chef's knife. The rocking technique definitely gives the most control. To me, it is the most versatile knife.

You and your son are in for good times together. And I predict the cooking will interest him more in eating.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 3:46PM
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You might ask the young chef to choose an ingredient from Chopped that he'd like to work into dinner?? Could be fun for you both and encourage him to try new things. Might also lead to some unusual dinners! :)

/tricia (I also like Chopped)

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 4:37PM
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Scrolling like mad to weigh in on a short chef's knife. I have a 6 inch el-cheap-o Chicago cutlery one...but it is carbon steel and sharpens nicely.
I also have small hands and if feels very comfortable. 8 years old he will grow...rather don't spend a lot because in a short time he will be ready for a REAL knife.
As for finger guards....I suspect that if he is groovin' on the Chef- Shows he won't want a sissy guard!...If if he does perhaps a glove will seem cooler.

Interesting my son was a very very picky eater and was 9 when we moved to a house close to the school so he could run home for lunch. When I was o0ut and about, I would let him fend for himself, the usual choices were a peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese on the sandwich grill. Soon he took to being more creative...said he split a hot dog, filled it with blue cheese and stuck in into the broiler until it melted!! ( he didn't burn himself nor did he leave the broiler on, so I didn't worry) then he took to putting stuff on a slice of bread, adding cheese and melting that in the broiler. Now he is a very very good cook. ya have to start somewhere and a knife is a great beginning!

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 5:02PM
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Very cool! Good knife skills, to me, are about safety and efficiency. Speaking of knife skills, we have 2 stores that offer workshops for Basic Knife Skills. Maybe you have something similar in your area and you could take it together.

My grands love to get involved in their own food prep and of course, that leads to opening their minds to try more foods. Beau especially (8 years old this week) is very picky, but if I challenge him, he is a little more willing. He literally threw up a link sausage yesterday because he likes sausage patties not links. Lily on the other hand ate hers so I gave her a peanut butter cup. Beau whined about not getting a PB cup to the point were he ate half the sausage in order to get one.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 6:32PM
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I think it is Great!
I had a knife as a kid on the farm & learned a lot the hard way.
When my children came along, I got a knife safety book from the Boy Scout store (in the phone book), I even taught the class a few years. My 18 year old Eagle Scout, still carries a knife & works as a prep chef.
I agree that a small paring or 6" chef knife would be a good start & that he should go with you to buy it.
He will be tell the story to his grandkids.
I still talk about when I was 8 & got up early & made pancakes for the whole family of eight on the kitchen stove.
That was over 40 years ago & my kid can all cook.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 7:16PM
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I don't believe serious cutting accidents happen that often. Burning and falling accidents are much more common.

Before I talk about knives, FOAS, get a step platform so that your son can reach the cutting board at a proper height, otherwise he surely will cut himself.

Cutting accidents mostly happen if you are:

1. Trying to be fancy and do those meaningless fast chops. Fast cutting knife skill is only important for a busy restaurant.
2. Trying to cut strange things like a bagel or a frozen block of beef.
3. Watching TV when you are handling a knife.

They don't make kitchen knives for children, I don't know if you need to go shopping for a special knife for him. A smaller normal knife will generally work for him. In any case, you are not going shopping for new knives with him because the size of his hand changes every few months.

Just show him what to do if he happens to cut him self and where in the kitchen is your first-aid kit.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 9:49AM
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Seems half my cuts come when I am trying to mince that last half inch of whatever. Nowadays I just sweep that last bit into the trash. Throwing away an extra 1/4" of scallion is not going to break my bank and it eliminates some self-wounding.

The other half come from cutting fast or getting distracted. Those are the really bad cuts. Doing the bulk of the drinking after the prep helps there.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 6:16PM
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I agree, dcarch, the size of his hand will change, but if it's his first knife and his first experience with cutting, then the chance for injury is greater. A well fitting knife to start out will give him a bit of time to gain the expertise and then he can adjust to knives that are less than perfect fits.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 7:28PM
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Just remember, FOAS, more people are cut by dull knives,
than they are by sharp ones. Theory being that they
have to force the dull knife, and it slips.
I raised 3 boys to adulthood and they were using knives
when they were about your son's age, and never got cut.
And I keep my knives razor sharp at all times, (I'm kinda
anal about that).

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 1:48PM
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One of the best bang-for-the-buck knives is the Forschner chef knife made by Victorinox. Cooks Illustrated rated the 8" version (around $25-30) to be one of their favorites, over some that cost five times more than that. I have one, and it's a great value. A little lighter than a forged chef knife, and I like that for repetitive work.

It also comes in a 5" version (see the link for reviews). For a youngster, that might be a little less unwieldly than a big chef knife--but it's still a very good quality knife for only about $16. (Available at Tundra Specialties, ( for $15--etundra also has all sorts of professional kitchen stuff like cut resistant gloves, etc.)

BTW, Victorinox is dropping the Forschner name and now manufacturing them under just the Victorinox label. Same knives, tho.

Here is a link that might be useful: forschner victorinox 5

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 3:44AM
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Arley, are the Victorinox knives still made in Switzerland (or Germany)?

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 6:06AM
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I would NOT buy any of my 8 year old Grandchildren a knife. I would get them some other kitchen gadgets. If parents want him to have a knife then they can buy it. If and when he has his first cutting accident that will be bad enough but doing it with a knife I bought would make me feel terrible!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 8:49AM
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Thanks for all the suggestions. As I was watching my son slice the mushrooms with that longer paring knife, he looked like a scaled down version of me trying to do prep work with my carving knife. While the carving knife is fine for its intended purpose, I find it awkward to use for regular chopping and slicing. That's what got me thinking about a satoku, but you've changed my mind and I'll be looking at chef's knives. I, too, consider the chef's knife to be my most versatile knife. But I think the one I've got is a bit big for him, and he should get several years out of say a 6" or so.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 8:57AM
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I have a couple of the Forschner knives and I love 'em. Highly recommended!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 10:08AM
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John, I believe all the Victorinox knives are made in Switzerland. They used to have 'Forschner" on them, but now they don't. That's the only difference, AFAIK.

They're available from several online merchants: Amazon, Knives Plus, Tundra Specialties. I've had good results with all of those merchants.

I have a few of them, and I find them to be the best stainless steel knives around, certainly for the $$$. I have a couple of their forged knives, and they're great. Even the stamped ones like the one I linked to are very good. The steel holds an edge quite well.

As lbpod noted, a sharp knife is safer than a dull one; less pressure to do a task means better control.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 10:16AM
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ghoghunter, I agree that the father or mother should buy a child their first knife. My son had to take a knife class at 7 years old to get his knife. At 18 he had to take a handgun class, just in case he wanted to buy a gun later.
lbpod you are so right about dull knife & keeping a knife sharp teach a child to respect his tools & him/herself.
These small lesson can carry them though they intire life.
I can remember the first time my father let me use a tool by myself.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 11:10PM
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Grog, do you realize that the knife is for Foodona's son, not his grandson?

Foodona, I agree that a 6" or so would be best. You want him to feel in control of it so I think the smaller one is best. You'll both know when he needs/wants a bigger knife. You want it to be easy so he can concentrate on technique and having fun. I love cooking with kids. Sad that there aren't any around me any more. Darn kids grow up.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 1:47AM
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Darn kids grow up.
But Grog has Grandkids.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:11AM
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I just so happen to have a Santoku that I really like, except for being so darn small. It even comes in bright colors!

Here is a link that might be useful: Kuhn Rikon

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 4:08AM
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