Children love to help out in the kitchen. My kids are always excited when it is time to mix something, roll out dough, or blend something up. However, especially with young children, the kitchen can be a very dangerous place, and is not very accessible to their abilities. There are simple ways you can make them feel like they are a part of the action while still helping them to acquire valuable life skills.
From time to time I will be reviewing products that I use and love. Today is one of those days. While we know that you can't just give your child a steak knife and say "Have at it!", they still can learn the fine motor skills of cutting and chopping safely. This wooden fruit cutting set by Melissa & Doug is a great way to introduce the skill before letting them try out the real thing. The child must use coordination to learn to hold the rounded fruit pieces with one hand, while manipulating the (safe) wooden knife to "cut" open the fruit with the other.
What I love about this set besides that the colored fruit that doesn't seem to ever chip, the velcro is incredibly durable, and the little box it comes with is great for carrying around the fruit from place to place, is that it never seems to get boring. My children use this in so many ways. Sometimes they simply cut the fruit. Other times they practice serving skills by making "meals" for each other. We have even incorporated math skills and visual discrimination practice by discussing how many parts there are for each fruit, and by visually determining how the fruit sticks back together to have another go at cutting (some of the fruit only fits back together in a specific pattern). As a bonus, there is a great "fresh" fruit cutting sound made when the wooden knife slices through the velcro, separating out the pieces.
This is a popular activity at our house, and has been a great precursor to giving them a real knife to try it out in the kitchen. My son had no problems slicing up his banana for himself at breakfast the other morning thanks to his practice with this activity. If you are interested in buying this kit, you can see it here.
You don't have to purchase this product to give them slicing and cutting practice at home. Collect a few of the plastic, safe disposable knives or use a butter knife and give your child some homemade or store bought play dough to roll up and slice. Bananas are a great fruit to begin slicing practice with because they are so soft and easy to hold on to. Watermelon is another good fruit to begin with-give them a pie shaped slice and let them cut it into smaller triangles. Discuss the shapes of the fruit slices and see if they can develop their fine motor skills by trying to cut out shapes that you name. I'm always trying to get in those other curriculum areas, too!!! Now go eat some fruit!