Children and their Ability to Use Cutlery

Jodi - posted on 01/14/2011 ( 52 moms have responded )

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My son is 13, and he had a friend over for a couple of days. We sat down to a nice veal scalloppine and veggies last night, and I noticed his friend struggling to cut the meat with his knife. Now the meat was actually very tender because of how it was cooked, so it wasn't like he was struggling to cut a tough piece of steak or something.

I didn't say anything, and he managed to get there eventually, but I was actually quite surprised that at 13, he struggled so much to eat a meal with both knife and fork, and it certainly didn't get any points in the elegance stakes.

My husband also noticed it, and later in the evening, we discussed it, and recalled reading, quite some time ago, something about some astranomical number of teenagers who still can't use their cutlery properly because more and more families are cooking fork dinners to eat in front of the TV, rather than having family mealtimes at the table. I have also read reports that about 20% (or thereabouts) children are starting school not knowing how to use cutlery, and that this is having effect on their fine motor skills (which includes handwriting).

So I am curious, how many of you are teaching your children to properly use their cutlery (knife & fork). What are your thoughts about this?

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Veronica - posted on 11/24/2011

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I think we all need to be a bit careful about judging people here. I have a son who turns 13 in a couple of weeks who despite very significant efforts can not use a knife and fork properly and still eats with his hands if he can get away with it. He has dispraxia and Asperger's syndrome but to outside eyes may appear relatively normal and cutlery depite occupational therapy is still a struggle.
It can be very painful to watch people judging him in restaurants. My six year eats well with cutley.
Just bear in mind that lots of people struggle with disabililites that are not obvious at first sight.

[deleted account]

I don't judge children at all and i certainly don't expect a level of elegance/etiquette from them either.



I teach my children to eat there food how they can.For the first stage its with there hands,second stage its just with a spoon as the grow its a fork and then a knife.My oldest makes her lunch and loves to show us she can butter for bread with a knife lol.Shes 7.Children learn at there own pace and i would not push it on them.



Veronica i agree 100%.Many children struggle for a reason and its got nothing to do with not being just thought about etiquette..also it those take time for children without disabilities also.

Jodi - posted on 01/16/2011

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The things you learn.....I honestly never realised there were so many different ways to use a knife and fork. in our family, we ALL use it the European way, and that was how I was taught. I don't know too many people who don't.

Sharon - posted on 01/14/2011

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He's probably got a pair of parents like my husband. He thinks our knives are to sharp for the 11yr old to handle safely.

My opinion is if he botches it and nicks himself, it'll hurt but he'll be more careful. Instead my husband cuts all their meat before he serves it. I love him because he is JUST that caring but honestly, he's not doing them any favors.

When "I" cook and serve meat he gets all kerflustered that I didn't cut the meat for them. The kids are looking on, waiting to see how this plays out. I'll remark, "they aren't babies anymore. they're perfectly able and SMART enough to cut their own meat."

Now they fight him to be able to cut their own meat. The younger two, 11 yrs & 8 years aren't as adept as their 15 yr old brother. Who eats european, btw (due to his grandmother). And THAT is another argument. Honestly.

My oldest can eat with chopsticks, uses his knife & fork the way europeans do and it annoys my husband. He can't stand seeing someone holding their knife while they eat.

He's used to the VERY old English/American where you cut three pieces of meat, laid down your utensils, then picked up your fork in your right hand and then eat, one piece at a time.

I can't believe we argue over kids and their utensils.

::: sigh ::: but I'm winning!!

Meghan - posted on 01/14/2011

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I will admit that my mom cut my food for me for a long time...I don't remember what age, but until we started getting our own food she would just put the plate down and the meat was cut. Not cause I didn't know how to...and actually now if I am busy with J and ask her to get me a plate ready she still does it for me :)
I have never really thought about it for my own son. He is only 2 so obviously I don't let him have a steak knife, but he has gotten a hold of a butter knife of plastic one and attempted to cut his own food. Half the time he eats with his fingers anyway...it's just cutlery and I don't think he is going to dinner with the Queen anytime soon, so I will let him figure it out at his own pace-as I do with pretty much everything.

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52 Comments

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Hope - posted on 11/24/2011

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My two eldest boys have a knife and fork every night. My 3 year old attempts to cut his food and my 8 year old cuts his own food even steak. I can not image having a 13 year old unable to cut his own food.

Corinne - posted on 11/24/2011

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My kids are 3&5yrs old and both of them can use cutlery properly. Yes, the younger one has difficulty sometimes but he's 3 not 13. I always let them try to feed themselves with a spoon when they were tiny, it wasn't something I really thought about until I read this. Why wouldn't you teach your kid to use cutlery? Baffled.

[deleted account]

All of mine know how to use a knife, fork, spoon, etc. from the age of 3. Ok. we start teaching them a lot younger than that but by 3 they are really good with it all. Did you know that there are kids graduating high school that can't read, or do simple addition/subtraction? You are supposed to learn all of that in elementary school. Mine can do that all now. Even the 3 yr old.

Joanna - posted on 01/16/2011

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My 3 year old had used a plastic knife only a handful of times, heck she still won't use her fork all the time.

And when I eat, I cut the whole thing thing up right away before sitting down. I don't know why, I guess it's never dawned on me that I do it that way.

Fiona - posted on 01/15/2011

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Oh my, I had never thought about "us Europeans' eating differently, Yes you are right we do hold both pieces of cutlery whilst eating!

Just to head on into this debate, my 4 year old can use a knife and fork (simultaneously) and my 16 month old handles them and tries (toddler cutlery obviously) .

Children should be taught this, whether it is to cut and place down and swap or to eat the european way...:D

Iris - posted on 01/15/2011

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I would be lost without my knife! Every meal I cut one piece at a time and hold my knife in my right hand. I use it also to scoop other things on to my fork like beans, potatoes ect.

It's what I was brought up to do in Iceland. Here in US, I get teased about it a lot (all in good manner....I think). People often say I'm being posh, but it's just the way we do it where I come from, and I'm teaching my daughters the same.



Edit: Posh said in a joking manner :)

[deleted account]

I know my daughter can cut with a knife very well. She is 4 and i still cut her meat up for her because i don't feel that her 2 yr old brother is ready and i also don't think he will understand if she gets one and he doesn't. With in the next year i imagine i will start letting her do it alone as he gets older i should eb able to explain it to him better.

Stifler's - posted on 01/15/2011

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How do you NOT cut one bit at a time? Lol never heard of it. Wouldn't the rest get cold?

Jodi - posted on 01/15/2011

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I have also read somewhere that the way we use our cutlery has impact on many weight issues. Using a knife and fork, cutting one piece at a time, and eating slowly contribute towards NOT overeating. Apparently when you eat foods which only require a fork or spoon, or you are not required to take the time to cut your food up, you are more likely to be able to overeat before the signal from your stomach gets to your brain to tell you that you are full. So in some ways, it is interesting to see that the decline in dining etiquette correlates with the rise in obesity too.

Vegemite - posted on 01/15/2011

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wow i didn't know american's ate so strangely. Good etiquette everywhere is to always have fork on the left and knife on the right and only cut one piece at a time. You crazy Americans :)

Ellen - posted on 01/15/2011

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Good posting. I'm guilty of this as I still cut my sons food. He's 8, and I've recently started giving him a knife, and have been letting him cut his own. It's just easier to get him to eat, if it's all cut up already. Now I know that I've wronged him for not learning earlier.

Lucy - posted on 01/15/2011

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I find the idea that a parent would be nervous about a little one using a table knife a bit strange.

Sure, I wouldn't hand one of the kids a kitchen knife and ask them to carve, but they have both used a proper knife and fork since they were about 20 months and neither of them has managed to maim themselves!

I think it may partly be a cultural difference. In the UK it is considered good table manners to cut each mouthful as you are about to eat it, so you keep your knife in your right hand and your fork in your left throughout the meal. It is expected that kids will be able to do this at school, so from 4 years of age. To me, it is a pretty basic social skill to be able to sit at the table, chat and eat properly- The earlier the better.

Vegemite - posted on 01/14/2011

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i now think it's normal for small toddlers to use cutlery. When my son, 22months at the time, first went to kinda they reprimanded me because he couldn't use a fork and spoon. It hadn't occurred to me he should be able to do this and was told to teach him before he could move to the next class. He learnt very quickly as he was old enough to have the skill and now sometimes uses a butter knife. My 18 month old has been using a spoon for some months but they both still mainly use their fingers because forks and spoons are good to make food into projectiles.

[deleted account]

My oldest is the only one of my kids using a knife so far at 7. The others will learn soon. I do think people in general have changed what types of meals are prepared and a family eating at a table is not near as common as it used to be. Dinner time is a time I look forward to because there is no distraction by a tv or anything else electronic and its the only time of the day where my family all sits together and shares

Bonnie - posted on 01/14/2011

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I only cut one piece at a time as well. My husband on the other hand, well he prefers that everything is cut at once. I never asked him why, but my guess is either he is lazy or he can stuff his face faster hahaha.

Jodi - posted on 01/14/2011

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With regard to the different styles of eating, I must eat the European way, because I keep my knife in my right hand while I eat and only cut one cut at a time - the cut I am about to eat :D

Jodi - posted on 01/14/2011

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"The loss of family meal times is a tragedy. That's my favourite part of the day. "

I agree Heather. I like it because some days, it is the only time we are all together to catch up on the day.

Stifler's - posted on 01/14/2011

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ANd I'm left handed too and use the fork in the left and knife in the right. My husbands cousin is left handed and tells me that this is wrong and I should use my knife in my left. Last I checked everyone was meant to use the fork on the left regardless.

Stifler's - posted on 01/14/2011

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We just sit at the table and eat our food with our knives and forks. I give Logan a plastic fork or spoon but he just mucks around with it and eats with his fingers. Hopefully he watches us and learns lol

Lady Heather - posted on 01/14/2011

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Weird. My daughter is 19 months old and while she doesn't always use her fork and spoon, she is quite good with them and is at least always holding one or the other. She likes to pretending she is cutting by holding her spoon like a knife. So I'm sure soon enough she'll be cutting up her food just fine.

The loss of family meal times is a tragedy. That's my favourite part of the day.

[deleted account]

I never read any replies, but when my daughter first started eating, i handed her a spoon, she used it to help herself chew. She can use a spoon properly now. I just started giving her a baby fork, which she can use properly sometimes, but shes no expert. My MIL was shocked that i gave her such a thing. As for other fine motor skills, she colors, but just scribbles all over the page. I think its important to allow children to dive right in to their environment in that sense. I didn't baby proof either, i figured eventually we are going to remove the baby proofing, and she will get into everything then, why not just teach her right from the beginning. I have had more than my fair share of comments about her using utensils though. Same with cups, she drinks from a regular cup for water. I skipped the sippy/bottle all together, if you dont let them practice, how will they learn. Its extremely messy, but totally worth it.

Jodi - posted on 01/14/2011

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I havn't read the replies yet, but here's my 2 cents:

My daughter was given a spoon to hold/play with from the first time we introduced solids and everytime after. By a year, she could spear food chunks with a fork (not very gracefully, but she could do it). When she was 15 months, we went to a birthday party, I gave her a fork to eat her cake with (by this time I considered ratehr proficient, a bit messy, but she got the job done and could feed herself.) I was chatting with another mother next to me and the mother on the other side of Jaelyn kept taking her fork away! She told me forks are dangerous for babies and why am I not feeding her? I laughed at her and told her my daughter could use a fork and feed herself! Meanwhile, her son, who was obviously older, could barely *hold* a fork, much less get the food into his mouth and she kept doing it for him.

At nearly 2, my daughter uses a fork and spoon and is allowed a peanut butter knife to cut up things like soft carrots (more for fun and practice, not because we give her such huge pieces), she does not need a bib, wipes her own mouth and ALWAYS gets praised and complimented when eating in public. I never occured to me to not let her learn to use cutlery, she needs to eat and one day needs to feed herself...it's basic isn't it? Maybe I'm just looney though! lol

[deleted account]

Jenn Jamie Oliver is right we do have to use both a knife and a fork in school, unless we take packed lunch (by we I mean the kids lol). My 3 yo nephew uses a knife although he still gets help with cutting sometimes. After thinking about it I find it amazing that there are children of 5 and older that do not use kinves and/or don't know how to use a knife.

Amy - posted on 01/14/2011

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Well, I know I was shocked when my sister in law asked for baby plastic silverware for her two year old since she thought she could trust him with a plastic fork. My son isn't two and has been using regular table wear for a while. Granted, he doesn't use knives yet, but his sister can use a butter knife and put butter on her own toast [4 yrs].

we do can and freeze and my husband has stood there with our daughter with his hand right over hers helping her cut corn off the cob to freeze. She felt like such a big girl. You have to teach them all kinds of things in life. Although, I do know a couple that has nearly no money and they only have one knife that's sharp and she just cuts everyone's stuff up before she serves. maybe some parents just have it done, but i still think you should know how to cut meat with a knife by age 13. I hope handwriting never goes "out" due to computers. i think if you do stuff WITH them, they just learn naturally.

Jenn - posted on 01/14/2011

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Oh, just made me think of a girl I knew who wasn't allowed to use a knife at age 11. And I'm talking a butter knife, not a steak knife or anything. Over protective much? LOL!!

Jenn - posted on 01/14/2011

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This makes me think of Jamie Oliver when he was shocked that kids were not allowed to have a knife in the cafeteria (yeah, as if a fork is any "safer"), and how where he was from, kids had to use a knife and fork at school. My Mum even said that when she started school in England, that she had to know how to properly use a knife and fork. I do teach my kids how to use their cutlery, but for the most part I will still cut my son's meat ahead of time. Maybe it's time to stop, after reading this.

[deleted account]

Sharon I wasn't aware that we used our cutlery differently, no I'll rephrase that I am aware I use mine wrong people always stare at me when I'm eating - I apparently eat left-handed so I hold my fork in my right hand and my knife in my left when I eat and after I have cut up anything that needs cutting I put my knife down because I don't see the point in holding it just for the sake of it, I was not aware that American's and Europeans used cutlery differently...

Rosie - posted on 01/14/2011

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i admit that my oldest CAN use a knife, but i usually do it for him. i've never let him use a steak knife though, except for once when he was helping me cut up veggies for dinner. he did good, but he's very spacey so it kindof worries me, lol!
my 6 year old hasn't been taught yet either. he isn't spacey like his older brother so soon he'll be learning how as well. meh, i guess it's not that big of a deal to me at this moment. he'll learn before to long, hehe!

[deleted account]

My girls started cutting bananas and avocados w/ a plastic knife at 2. My son hasn't ever really used a knife yet.

We don't do much meat that requires cutting though cuz I suck at picking out and cooking a good steak.

Jocelyn - posted on 01/14/2011

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Wow, that's surprising. My son is 4 and he can use a fork and knife (although I don't let him use a knife very often--he's too spazzy with his movments--he's ASD)
My daughter who is 15 months can use a fork and is learning to use a knife.

Tara - posted on 01/14/2011

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We started early with a wooden knife. It's not sharp but is sturdier than a plastic one.
They were allowed to cut up cooked broccoli and asparagus etc. from early, probably 2ish.
They moved up to table knives at age 7 or so and my 10 year old can use a steak knife very capably.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 01/14/2011

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Come to think of it, he would never learn to hold a pencil properly until he started pre-school this year. I have tried, but he just wouldn't do it. Now he does though.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 01/14/2011

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Wow! This was a real eye opener for me. I am embarrassed to say my son is almost 5, and does not know how to use a knife. He can use a fork and spoon....but I still do alot of finger foods......steamed broccoli, carrots, celery...chick peas...I guess I am just used to giving him easy stuff...all healthy though. I do make regular meals...but I tend to cut up his meat. To tell you honestly, I never even thought about teaching him to cut food. Like tonight, I am making baked potatoes, corn...and some chicken. Guess I will have to start teaching him.

Krista - posted on 01/14/2011

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Soon we'll all just be eating yogurt with our hands. Lovely.

Sam did this the other day, due to getting frustrated with his spoon. It's cute when you're 16 months old. As an adult, though? Not so much.

Bonnie - posted on 01/14/2011

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My boys have been using a spoon and fork by themselves since they were around 8 months. Haven't tried a knife yet though.

[deleted account]

I find that horrific, maybe that is a sign of our society and the fact that more parents are coddling their children, it doesn't help them at all...in fact it actually holds them back. We should all allow our kids to have independance. 20% is too high for the small number of children who medically have issues!

Jodi - posted on 01/14/2011

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But isn't it disturbing that there is a statistic out there that 20% of kids who start school can't use cutlery? I find this really sad......

[deleted account]

That was my thought Jodi, I wonder if his mum cuts up his meat for him.

At 16 months Ethan is using a spoon to feed himself, and he's doing really well, we are still working on scooping food. He already has his first proper cutlery set with a knife, fork and both sized spoons, when he has mastered the spoon I'll introduce the fork, I think he may stab himself in the gum at the moment, although he does eat off our forks small amounts of food.

Jodi - posted on 01/14/2011

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You know, I was thinking about it this evening a bit (while I was doing some mindless work, LOL) and I know this boys parents. I don't think they eat food that you could just eat with a fork, or junk you just eat with your hands......



His mum comes across as pretty protective, does everything for the family type of person. I wonder if she still cuts his meat up for him? I still do that for Taylah sometimes, because I won't let her have a really sharp knife, but a 13 year old? Heck, I refused to continue chopping up meat for our boys years ago.....



So I just wonder if this is another case of parents doing everything for their kids because it makes life easier? Or something?

Jodi - posted on 01/14/2011

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"But then, she can also hold a pencil properly and has been able to for months. So is there evidence that says the two things are linked? Because it would make sense."

Apparently so, Erin. I read it once somewhere that the two are linked (I can't recall where). Apparently they use the same muscles, therefore are developing the same fine motor skills. It is interesting, because my kids both have great cutlery skills (heck, we've been able to take them fine dining!!!), and they both hold pens and pencils beautifully. In fact, Taylah's teacher complimented her on her pencil holding skills when she started school. So it made sense to me too.

Ez - posted on 01/14/2011

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That is definitely strange. Milla is 23 months and has been competent with a fork and spoon for a long time. I don't trust her with a knife yet lol, but it won't be long and she will be allowed to experiment with her children's knife from her cutlery set and I have no concerns about her ability to use it.

But then, she can also hold a pencil properly and has been able to for months. So is there evidence that says the two things are linked? Because it would make sense.

Katherine - posted on 01/14/2011

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Sydney and Alyce both know how to use a knife. Like Carol Alyce has gotten a hold of one (dull) and mimicked cutting. I allow Syd to use one, she has her own set of silverware and her knife is very dull. I can't imagine at 13 not knowing how to use a knife.

[deleted account]

My kids are 7 and 4, we eat all our evening meals at the table and both my kids are given a knife and fork to use. My 4 year old is very dexterous and does a good job with his cutlery but my 7 year old seems a little bit ham-handed when it comes to using her knife. I also read that many children start school not knowing how to use a knife and fork. I think it is sad that many basic skills are not being taught at home any more. I also saw a program on TV that showed many Mums didn't know how to cook a proper meal for their families, most lived on take away and convienience food. Perhaps it is to do with many families having two working parents? Too busy working to teach the basic skills to their kids or just lazy? I don't know... My Mum taught me basic cooking skills as a young girl (11/12 or so) and we always had our meals at the table with full cutlery.

Johnny - posted on 01/14/2011

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I am a little shocked by this. A 13 year old who can not handle cutlery? Weird. And disappointing. Soon we'll all just be eating yogurt with our hands. Lovely.

My daughter is only 2 1/2 but knows how to use a fork and spoon. A couple times, by my negligence, she's gotten a hold of a knife. And promptly attempted to cut her food with it like she's seen us do. So I'm not too concerned that she won't learn how to cut her steak.

Kylie - posted on 01/14/2011

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That's baffling. My 2 year old uses a knife and fork (plastic) i never even thought about it..he wanted to try cutting his veggies like the rest of us so i let him. My daughter was eating with chop sticks at 3 my husband learned to eat with them at 22 haha.

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