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We Road Test Ten Children's Kitchen & Chef Knives. Here's What We found! For Ages 2-12yrs + Safety Accessories

Children's first safety knives at how we Montessori

My children use knives in the kitchen almost from the moment they can stand unassisted. They typically start with a crinkle cutter and cut soft foods like banana. My toddler (now at 27 months) uses a whole range of knives, none of them sharp enough to cut his skin and all with a rounded tip for safety.

I believe a good knife can inspire children in the kitchen. A good knife can make work like slicing food be it hard squash for soup or a ripe tomato for a sandwich, a whole lot easier. A knife that doesn't cut easily or that is cumbersome can make the work dull, hard and uninteresting. I believe that toddlers and preschoolers should be heavily involved in sourcing and preparing food, they are at the perfect age for gaining these life skills!

Before you go splurging on a new knife or feeling discouraged at these price points, take a look in your kitchen cupboard. Butter knives can be a good starting point for young children and paring knives are small and are often suitable for older children.

This year for Christmas we gave our older children (8 & 12 years) their own children's chef knives. It feels like a good time to open our drawers and share some of the children's kitchen and chef knives we have (we have a lot) and see what our children would recommend.

Pictured above top to bottom: Foost Next Knife, KiddiKutter Knife for Children (AU here), Kuhn Rikon Children's Dog Knife Straight Blade, Kuhn Rikon Children's Dog Knife Serrated, and the WMF Children's Knife.

Montessori toddler with Kuhn Rikon knife at How we Montessori

Foost Next Knife: Foost also have a First Knife which is recommended for children from two years. The knife that Otto is using above is recommended for six years however by the age of six my children are looking for a knife that is sharper. This is a starter knife and my two year old is beyond happy to use it for cutting fruits like banana, apple, strawberries, cucumber and vegetables like carrots. When given the choice Otto will use this Foost knife over the KiddiKutter. I've found Foost products available in Australia only. 

  • Made in: Unkown
  • Manufacturer recommended: 6yrs+
  • I'd suggest: 2yrs+ (my 27 month old toddler uses it safely and easily).
  • Extras: None.

Montessori toddler with Kuhn Rikon knife at How we Montessori

KiddiKutter Knife for Children (AU here): This is also a beginners knife. It has a long blade that requires the child to use an almost exaggerated sawing motion. It was difficult for my children (pictured above and below) to get a clean cut, even the cucumbers looked 'hacked' into. But it is a good safety knife, I'd suggest it would be impossible to cut yourself with this knife.

  • Made in: Unkown
  • Manufacturer recommended: 2 yrs+
  • I'd suggest: 2yrs
  • Extras: None.

Otis at How we Montessori using the Kiddi Kutter knife on cheese

Montessori toddler with Kuhn Rikon knife at How we Montessori

Kuhn Rikon Children's Dog Knife Straight Blade: This is a good little beginner knife with a straight blade. It's easy to use on softer foods. I love the cute dog design!

Montessori toddler with Kuhn Rikon knife at How we Montessori

Kuhn Rikon Children's Dog Knife Serrated: This is my toddler's (at 27 months) preferred knife. I usually give him the choice of knives when working in the kitchen. It is serrated but slightly sharper than the previous beginner knives, so it's easier to use, my toddler gets good results. The blade is quite short so it's easy for his little hands to manoeuvre.

Otis using blue shark children's safety knife at How we Montessori

WMF Children's Knife: This would be an intermediate knife. It is serrated and sharper than the beginner knives. Otis (8yrs) found the blade too short to be useful so it may be best for a slightly younger child or for slicing thinner foods. It is a very cute knife as it is shaped like a shark and sits upright on the table balancing on the shark's fins. 

  • Made in: Germany
  • Manufacturer recommended: 6yrs+
  • I'd suggest: 5-6 yrs.
  • Extras: Comes in a pack with a peeler. 

Children's first safety knives at how we Montessori

Pictured above are intermediate to advanced children's knives. These are real knives not safety knives. It is important that we give our children the skills and time necessary to safely use them and to supervise them at all times.  

Pictured above left to right: Ikea SMÅBIT Knife, Opinel Le Petit Chef Knife, Kai Tim Mälzer Junior Chef's Knife, Robert Herder Young Chef Children's Knife and the Zyliss Mini Santoku.

Children's kitchen and chef knife reviews opinel including finger guard at How we Montessori Otis 8 years

Ikea SMÅBIT Knife: This is an affordable and useful knife from Ikea. Otis found it "hard to use, not a very good grip, it wasn't very comfortable". I've found it functional and practical, my kids have used this knife for years.

Designer Tina Christensen - “I came up with the design for SMÅBIT knife and peeler because I want children to get curious about food and cooking. I believe that being in the kitchen and having their own utensils can spark their interest. The knife and peeler have good solid grips, so that the kids learn to cut and peel in the right way – always with adult supervision. And cooking is so much more fun when you do it together!”

  • Made in: Unknown
  • Manufacturer recommended: 8yrs+
  • I'd suggest: 5yrs+
  • Extras: Comes with a peeler.

How we Montessori opinel children's knife with Otis

Opinel Le Petit Chef Knife: I put off buying this knife as the price is a little high. But it is worth it if your child is going to use it often. I think it's a good intermediate or "next step" knife after the beginner knives and I would recommend for children from five years. It is sharper than the beginner knives and the handle teaches children to hold the knife correctly and keeps their fingers out of the way. It comes with a finger guard but at 8yrs Otis didn't find it necessary. Otis reported, "I thought it was quite easy to use. The grip was very easy to use and there were no problems with it.". This is presented in a lovely box, so would be good for gift giving. 

  • Made in: France
  • Manufacturer recommended: 7yrs+
  • I'd suggest: 5yrs+
  • Extras: Comes with a matching red finger guard. 

Montessori toddler with Kuhn Rikon knife at How we Montessori

Kai Tim Mälzer Junior Chef's Knife: This is my eight year old's preferred knife. It is sharp, serrated and has a round tip. It is good for cutting all foods including hard foods like sweet potato, soft foods like tomato and can be used easily for cutting foods up finely like herbs. It is an excellent children's chef knife. Otis reported "I like the grip and it's really good for cutting tomato, with just a little saw it's all the way through. It's easy to cut herbs really quick. No bad points."

Kai website description includes: "Tim Mälzer has created a special knife for children, to make sure that Kai Shun enthusiasts can pass on their passion to the next generation. He is convinced that, when children can help in the kitchen, they will learn about and be more aware of food. Which is important for the rest of their lives! Of course, they do have to be able to work safely and that's why this knife has a relatively large handle with ridges. The finger protector, dimensions 6.2x5.8 cm, will protect the inexperienced chef from little accidents. The finger protector has a flexible strip, so it can bend with the fingers. Of course, supervision remains prudent, but kids can safely help out in the kitchen with this knife."

The Tim Mälzer Junior Chef's Knife was awarded the Red Dot Design Award in 2012.

  • Made in: Japan.
  • Manufacturer recommended: 6yrs+
  • I'd suggest: 6-8yrs+
  • Extras: Finger guard and all items come in a protective zippered case (pictured far below).

Kids chef knives at How we Montessori

Robert Herder Young Chef Children's Knife: I love the aesthetics of this knife. This one belongs to 12 year old, Caspar. It is beautiful, the handle is made of beech wood. The information brochure that came with the knife is in German. Caspar reports "It is quite good, easy to use, nice and light. It is very sharp with a nice design.".

I love the passion that comes through from the designers. Getting children involved in food and cooking is clearly a priority. From the Windmühlenmesser website: "Cooking has to be learnt -  and here, in particular, cutting, which is done before the actual cooking. A fine cut ensures the correct flavour, for instance by preventing the loss of meat juices. Yet, dealing with normal cooking knives can be difficult for cutting novices and thus, for this very purpose, we have developed the Small Chef, a starter knife for those who a learning to cook. It is finely ground and made of stainless steel, with a round tip and slightly bulbous cutting edge, which is why the Small Chef is excellent adapted to the swaying cutting motions, which might still be somewhat akward with cooking novices. The voluminous, comfortably-angled, handle, made of copper beech, is slip-resistant and lies comfortably in the hand. This ensures a large degree of free movement for the hand and thus also a high degree of safety when cutting on the board. These properties simplify the handling of the knife and also ensure that it is very well suited for small hands."

  • Made in: Germany
  • Manufacturer recommended: Children (ages not specified)
  • I'd suggest: from 8 yrs+
  • Extras: None. 

Otis using children's klitchen and chef knives at How we Montessori

Zyliss Mini Santoku : This is the only knife listed that isn't specifically a children's knife, it's a smaller/mini version of a Santoku knife. It is the only knife without a round tip so it requires additional caution when handling and washing. I would only recommend this knife to a child with exceptional knife skills with a ton of experience. The handle is good ergonomically and it is non slip.

Firstly, what is the difference between a Chef knife and a Santoku knife?

"Although they are both one of the most commonly-used knives in the kitchen, they actually originated in different continents; whereas the chef’s knife comes from Germany and France, the Santoku knife finds its origin in Japan. This might account for the fact that a Santoku knife, generally speaking, has a thinner blade that allows for more refined slicing, is lighter to hold and is usually shorter than a chef’s knife, making it especially well-suited for small hands. Santoku actually means ‘three virtues’ or ‘three uses’, referring to what this knife does best: slicing, dicing and, mincing. So the Santoku knife is best used to cut or mince meat and fish, slice cheese and dice fruits and vegetables." - BergHOFF

So why a mini Santoku? I decided to try this knife after reading a recommendation in The Kitchn 3 Types of Knives for Tiny Chefs.

Otis reported: "Ohhhh, this is very easy to use. It's very nice and comfortable. It looks like it isn't going to feel nice, but it feels really good." .

  • Made in: Unknown
  • Manufacturer recommended: Adults.
  • I'd suggest: 8yrs+ for a child with experience and good knife skills, confidence and coordination. 
  • Extras: Comes with a blade guard for safe storage.

Children's chef knife and accessories at how we montessori

How about some safety accessories? Two of our knives came with a finger guard, the Opinel Le Petit Chef Knife and the Kai Tim Mälzer Junior Chef's Knife, although finger guards can be purchased separately. My children haven't used a finger guard before and Otis didn't really like them (pictured below with the Opinel Le Petit Chef Knife). Perhaps they are best introduced at a younger age. I feel like they are a good idea, and that they may work for some children especially as you introduce sharper knives. 

I was really excited to try the cut resistant gloves with Otis. But they only got in the way and he didn't feel comfortable with them. I will suggest he tries them next time he is whittling. Again I feel like they may work for some children. They could be useful if a child has some issues using a grater or even for an older child using a mandoline.

Children's kitchen and chef knife reviews opinel including finger guard at How we Montessori Otis 8 years

Please use your own judgement. I recommend supervising children of all ages with all knives. It is important to build your children's knife skills. Always start with a beginner or safety knife until they have mastered basic knife skills. If your child isn't ready for the responsibility of using a knife, remove the knife from the children's environment until they are ready. We tested and found these knives equally suitable for left and right handed children.

If you are a teacher I'd love to hear which knives you use in your classrooms. Let me know if there are other knives you would recommend!

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