Teach your child how to chop an onion

teach teacher chop an onion how to dice claw bridge safety knife hold grip children cook cookery

How to chop an onion for beginners

Chopping an onion is one of those things that everyone has their own way of doing it.

If you have your own established way of chopping an onion, please carry on. My method below is not the only way to chop an onion, however it is an easy way to teach a child to do so.

Before you begin – please do read my previous blog on teaching your child to use a knife safely and effectively. You can find the link here

When doing this with very young children or those with stiffness of joints or difficulty gripping I recommend the use of a vegetable holder. It looks like an extended comb with a handle. 

Bridge hold

bridge hold claw grip onion teach teacher cookery hold safely safety knife lesson cookery kids

For others I start by teaching them two safe grips for the vegetable: Bridge hold – useful for cutting a larger/round vegetable and keeping it stable. Lay the veg flat side down (if possible) and make an arch over the food with your thumb on one side, fingers on the other. The knife goes under the bridge.

Claw grip

chop claw grip onion teach teacher dice safety vegetable knife chopping board fingers hand children cook cookery lesson

Claw grip – useful for fine dicing and slicing and often useful for long thin items such as carrots/celery.

Make your hand into a claw and grip the item like this using your finger nails as buffers for any possible slipping with the knife. 

To start off with…

Talk your child through the anatomy of the onion. Let them hold it and describe the textures, and shape. Identify the root (the hairy bit) and the shoot (the pointy bit). This is a good chance to teach children where their food comes from. Onions do no grow on trees, they are not made in factories, they grow in the ground.

You could also talk about the papery skin and it’s colour. This could lead into a discussion about different types of onion – how many members of the onion family can your child name?

This is a perfect lead into a bit of gardening – if you so wish. Or maybe a tip to the garden centre to identify other members of the onion family.

A note on how to hold the knife…

One more tip … Children often hold a knife or spoon by the very end of the handle. This gives them weaker/more wobbly control. R

emind them to hold the knife firmly, with the hand along most of the knife handle and as close to the blade as possible.

My safety knife and vegetable holder

* I totally recommend my safety knife, but can’t sell them to you as they are out of production.

Anyone know of someone who can help me with this?

I’d love to get them made, they are so useful…. I pretty much use mine all the time at home!

My cookery teacher job – a peek behind the scenes

private cookery lessons with Kate, Make with Kate cookery teacher kate ferrer behind the scenes job teach teacher

My cookery teacher job – a day in the life

Sometimes the young people I teach, their parents/grandparents/carers comment on how they’d love to do a job like mine. 

It is the best job in the world for many reasons, not least  because it’s creative, I’m my own boss, I’m helping others to be able to do what I love doing and ultimately I’m making a difference. 

This is all the tip of the iceberg; the fun and games you see above the surface. 

If you peer behind the curtain however, there is much more going on in the background that makes all of this possible. 

My Day – It’s not all cupcakes and pasta making you know!

Take today for example. My ‘day off’ as some would call it. 

8.00 am

I dropped the kids at school, loaded up my car with every piece of electric equipment in my store room, unloaded the car and assisted Dave/Bumpa who does our PAT testing to make sure that all of my electrical equipment is safe and fit for purpose. 

10.30 am. Following this; car loaded up and unloaded again, I finalised arrangements for my primary school job on Friday. This involved printing off and sharing risk assessments, planning documents, recipe cards and designing a worksheet. 

12.00  I then took a break to walk the dog and help unload our fish tank into our new home. 

2.00 pm Next I went to the primary school for a pre-event site check, sorted out my DBS check documentation, checked for electrical points discussed timings, allergies, staff and set up. 

3.30 pm Then I collected the kids from school, made and ate dinner.

6.30 pm I’m off out again to take the eldest to Boys brigade then sat in the car and did two hours of marking for school tomorrow. A usual Monday night for us until she’s finished. Sometimes – weather permitting, I squeeze in an evening walk/jog for half an hour around Westgate whilst I wait.  

Do I begrudge any of this?

Would I change a thing? 

A BIG NO.

I love every little bit!

The sad truth is … that despite Food preparation and nutrition being a compulsory part of the KS1, 2 and 3 curriculum in the UK, children and young people still get very little access to hands on cookery and food education.

This is due to heavy pressure on time spent on other ‘more important’ parts of the core curriculum, a lack of funding – it’s not a cheap subject to teach – large class sizes and lack of equipment or facilities.

There is also a shortage of qualified food teachers for secondary schools. This is often a subject taught by non subject specialists as a timetable filler. I don’t have a problem with this if the teacher is on board, keen and enthusiastic about it. Enthusiasm and passion go a long way in getting children started on the road to food discovery and enjoyment.

I hope my ‘day off’ has not put off any budding food teachers out there. I can’t think of a more important job to do than to teach our future generations how to feed themselves and others – properly.

If you have any questions about a job as a cookery teacher in a school or how to set up as a self employed teacher etc, I am very happy to help.  

You can find out more about training to become a teacher here. Training is essential if you want to work in a school and helpful, but not essential if you are setting up as self employed.

I’ll write up some future blog posts based on answers to your questions.

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What did you do today?

Teach your child to use a knife safely in the kitchen

Bridge hold, knife skills, cooking lessons, primary school food lessons, safety, knife, kids, learn, children, teach, cutting, preparation, vegetables, fruit
“How do you teach them to use knives when cooking?”

This is one of the things I get asked most often. Along with “Do you use a special knife?”

I hope to answer some of your questions here, but look out for more knife articles and guides coming here soon.

Which knife do you use?

When using sharp knives, I demonstrate first, I teach safe knife handling techniques and I teach safe hold of vegetables.

Each child receives 1:1 attention until they are fully competent using a sharp knife, and even then they are never left alone, but watched closely.

If cutting soft fruit or veg, or with very young children, we sometimes just use normal cutlery knives – the children have to saw a bit, but I feel happier with them doing that a little more independently which builds their confidence.

However the sawing motion with cutlery knives has been irking me somewhat lately, it seems a bit unnatural to progress from that onto a very sharp knife that can slip through the veg so easily when they are used to the applying more pressure and a  sawing motion. I kind of wanted a happy medium to bridge the gap. (scroll down to the bottom to find the results of my search)

Parental nerves

I’ve also noticed that (as a parent) when I allowed my children to use sharp knives at home, my anxiety (even though I teach hundreds of children sometimes on a 1:26 basis at school to use knives safely) went through the roof and I felt like I wanted to grab the knife from my child and just stop the whole thing.

Kids do pick up on this – and it makes them nervous… which in turn can make things more dangerous. So really it is best to remain outwardly calm and confident, but so much easier said than done!

young person safe knife child family friendly cookery skills looked after children's home cookery lessons 1:1 food hygiene food safety independent living

Teach your child the basics first! 

It’s far more important to cover the following basics first regardless of which knife you use.

  • Start by showing your child around the knife. Teach them how to identify which is the sharp edge and which is the blunt edge.
  • Establish your household knife ground rules. Where are they stored? Who is allowed to get them out? Do they need to ask first? When are they allowed to use a knife in the kitchen?
  • Teach your child how to pass the knife safely to someone else.
  • Show your child how to carry a knife (if they are walking around with one)
  • Demonstrate the safe way to hold a knife.
    Children naturally start by holding kitchen implements at the very top end furthest away from the action. This gives them far less control and a clumsy motion – and we certainly do not want that when handling knives!
    So encourage them to hold the knife as close to where the handle meets the blade as possible with a firm grip using the whole hand and not just fingers.

 

Teach by showing
  • The best way to teach is by showing / demonstrating.
  • Show your child how to cut by placing the point of the knife on the board first and then levering the knife downwards from there.
  • Demonstrate how to hold the fruit or veg safely. I’ll show the main grips I use in more detail in another blog – coming soon in video format.
  • Encourage them to work slowly and methodically and to keep their eye on the job at all times. No talking whilst chopping!
Make it age / ability appropriate
  • Use soft fruit and veg for little children such as banana, cucumber, mushroom etc
  • Do not use very small fruit and veg (e.g. grapes) for young children or beginners – there is not enough for them to hold onto
  • Don’t worry about the pieces being too big, too small or uneven. It’s the technique, not the end result that is important to begin with.
  • Make sure that little children are working at the appropriate height so that the work surface is about waist height – I often use the kitchen table as it is lower and kneeling on a chair is often a good way to start at the right height.
  • Make it fun! If it’s tedious, or you are striving for perfection, your little one will tire of it and possibly not want to do it again. Celebrate successes and reward them for their achievements.

Here is a video my nephew Sam and I made together to show off his culinary skills.

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There is so much more I can talk about on this topic, so watch this space for further articles.

If you’d like to make sure you see new articles as they are published, why not join my mailing list here: cookery craft school summer learn children creative cooking cook recipe healthy activities childcare kent ramsgate margate thanet east kent broadstiars

 

About my favourite Child friendly knife

Although it’s not essential to buy and use a child safety knife, the confidence that owning a good one can bring very quickly is wonderful. ]

If things are a little tense for you when your child ‘helps’ in the kitchen, this could bring you a bit of  reprieve whilst still allowing your child to help and teaching them all the good tips, skills and advice above.

The knife that I recommend is my favourite because it cuts anything and everything that you could possibly wish to cut in the kitchen (but not fingers) easily and effortlessly. Yet it is blunt and cannot easily cut your child’s fingers. In fact, it is so easy to use (even for onions!) I use it more often than not now at home… and my mum (who helps at my cookery classes) has asked to buy one too!

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Here it is.

If you’d like to see this fab knife in action – take a look at this video of me trying it out. You can watch the video by clicking on the photo.

Whilst I am able to use my own stock of these when teaching, I don’t currently have a supplier and therefore unfortunately these knives are no longer for sale. I’m working on an alternative supply for these, so please do sign up to my newsletter for updates if you are interested and would like to know as soon as they become available.