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The Cutting Edge

Step-by-step ways to teach your child to use a knife, from Kim Gomez, an occupational therapist at Children's Medical Center, in Dallas:

Age 4

Explain to your child that he should never walk or run with a knife or touch its blade. Then let him use a toddler knife to spread peanut butter on toast (harder to rip than fresh bread).

Age 4 1/2

Teach sawing skills with Play-Doh: Have your child roll up and slice "worms" with a plastic knife, holding the worm steady with his nondominant hand (his left, if he's right-handed, or vice versa).

Age 5

Most kids are coordinated enough by now to use a toddler fork and knife.

  • Put a soft food like scrambled eggs or pancakes on a nonbreakable plate atop a plastic place mat (to help keep the dish from sliding).

  • Have him stand beside you while you cut and take a bite of food.

  • Switch places. Have him hold his fork in his nondominant hand, his knife in the other. Place your hands on his; show him how to pierce the food with the fork while cutting with the knife, then lay down the knife and transfer the fork to his dominant hand so he can take a bite. Repeat several times, then let him give it a try on his own.