Provide your toddler with safe, age-appropriate cutlery.

Fork and Knife Rules for Children

by Jaimie Zinski

Your tot is adept at shoving peas and pudding into his mouth with a spoon, and you’re wondering if he’s ready to transition to using knives and forks. Plastic forks and knives designed for children are the safest options, but you’re still worried about the potential danger of your toddler stabbing himself, or his big sister, in the eye. Watch for signs your tot is ready before introducing age-appropriate cutlery to your growing toddler.

1. Is My Child Ready?

If your child begins pulling the fork out of your hand or tries to stab or cut his chicken with a spoon, these are signs your tot is ready to try out a knife and fork. Choose molded plastic forks featuring rounded tips and plastic knives without a sharp edge. Aside from the potential dangers of adult knives and forks, the larger size is often too difficult for your child to grasp and use. If you hand your child a plastic fork and knife and he quickly becomes frustrated or loses interest, he might not be ready. Instead of pushing, put the fork and knife away for a later day.

2. Introducing Forks

Once your child has mastered scooping his ice cream and carrots with a spoon, it’s time to move on to a fork. Start by providing your child a single layer of foods that he can stab at and won’t slip off the fork, such as cooked carrot cubes or bite-sized chunks of chicken. Show your child how to grasp the fork and if he’s having trouble, help guide his hand toward the food. It might take several weeks of stabbing and making a massive mess, but eventually your child will successfully get a piece of turkey to his mouth with the fork.

3. Introducing Knives

It’s acceptable to either introduce knives once your child has mastered the fork, or hand over both utensils at the same time. Whatever your option, avoid trying to teach him the fine art of securing the food with a fork in one hand while attempting to cut it with the other, as this is often too complex for your toddler to handle. Instead, teach him how to slice through soft foods, such as bananas or cooked carrots, with either you or he holding the treat steady with a hand. As the child progresses, introduce the idea of using a knife and fork in tandem. Start by teaching him to position the food, such as a slice of bread, to make it easier to cut. It might take a few weeks, and a lot of frustration, but eventually your tot will slice through that chunk of bread like a pro.

4. Knife and Fork Rules

Along with teaching your child how to properly use a fork and knife, you must explain these utensils are for eating, not playing. Only provide your child the utensils at the dinner table and promptly remove them once the meal is finished. If you notice your child using his plastic knife and fork as makeshift swords during a game of knights and dragons, calmly take them away and explain that they’re only intended for eating and not as a way to defend his castle against the fire-breathing dragon, otherwise known as Dad.

About the Author

Residing in Chippewa Falls, Wis., Jaimie Zinski has been writing since 2009. Specializing in pop culture, film and television, her work appears on Star Reviews and various other websites. Zinski is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in history at the University of Wisconsin.

Photo Credits

  • James Woodson/Digital Vision/Getty Images