Cheese spreader lets independent preschoolers safely make their own sandwiches

At Amazon: Oneida Cheese Spreader Set, It's a wonderful thing when a kid lets you know he's ready for more independence. Safety can be tricky, though, but Melissa found a happy medium:

My 3-year old son is SO independent, he has begun insisting on making his own lunch for preschool! I didn't want him using a regular butter knife to spread his peanut butter and jelly, so I got my little cream cheese spreader from the drawer. Worked like a charm.

It has a chunky little handle for him to hold onto, a blade that is just long enough for him to maneuver, and is just sharp enough to cut his sandwich after making it. It also worked great when he wanted to cut his banana "all by myself" !

Now I'll never get him out of the kitchen, but at least we found a tool that works for both of us :)

Brava, Michelle, for giving your son room to flex his curiosity! It's so easy to let the hassle of it get in the way (and sometimes, it must), so I applaud you for finding a way to make it work.

Does anyone have recommendations for kid-friendly knives for when it's time to move beyond the cheese spreader or butter knife? Specifically, knives that can chop and slice, but are slightly more forgiving than a regular paring knife?

More: Hacks about promoting independence


  1. Joy says

    My son started making his own sandwiches last winter, at age 5. One Saturday he was asking for lunch at 10:30, so I told him to go make himself a sandwich. He was all “really, can I do that?”, so I talked him through it. He makes ham and cheese, and uses a regular table knife to spread the mayo. He also likes to make fruit salad, and he can use the regular table knife to cut strawberries, banana, and apple (I peal and core the apple) to bit sized pieces.

  2. Viscouse says

    I was just thinking about this the other day! I will agree that these little butter knives are a nice size, what we ended up finding in our drawer was an icing spreader. It works great! It has the long “blade” so it can get into the 1/2 jar or the almost-finished jar, still has the nice fat handle, and has no edge. it’s just a rounded shape at the bottom. We just happened to have 2 since we find them so darn handy, which works out great for doing multiple things at once (can you say peanut-butter nutella jam sandwich?).

    So, I’ll see your butter knife & raise you an icing spreader!

  3. Asha Dornfest says

    Joy: What a great story. Viscouse: an icing spreader! I never bake, so I don’t have one, but I’ve seen them in bakeries, and you’re right…that would be perfect!

  4. says

    An icing spreader, or a regular old-fashioned plastic, disposable knife seems to do the job for our daughter, who is 5. She can also handle the veg peeler, for cucumbers or carrots.

  5. Kelly says

    It’s not a hack, but Ikea sells sets of chunky plastic children’s silverware that includes knives. The knives are perfect for our 3-year-old – they cut cooked potatoes, bananas, canteloupe, bread, etc. but aren’t a problem if his 1-year-old sister catches hold of one.

  6. jasi says

    definitely. been using butter knives for cooking with the kids for awhile now. and when my 6 y/o cuts broccoli or potatoes i slide a thick oven mitten for her hold hand, wash again after.

  7. says

    I’m aware that this might be controversial, BUT, I permit my 3 1/2 year old to cut soft vegetables with a sharp knife when I am right there with him. He stands on a step ladder and I stand behind him or to the side and I help him hold the veggie (usually a red pepper that I’ve already cut into strips) and he cuts them in half. I make sure he’s being safe and holding the item and the knife correctly. We also work on knife safety like how to hold a knife, how to pick up a knife, how to walk while holding a knife, how to hand a knife to someone else, to never never never put a knife in a sink, etc.

    He also helps me put ingredients into a bowl for baking, crack open eggs, roll balls of cookie dough into sugar/coatings before putting them on a tray, etc.

    I wouldn’t recommend knife skills for every 3 1/2 year old, but I think mine is dextrous enough, pays attention enough, etc that it’s acceptable for him. It also makes him way less interested in PLAYING with knives.

  8. June says

    My son takes after my husband in all ways. Since hubby just mauled his thumb with a veggie peeler I am seeing multiple safety talks and extremely close monitoring when it comes time to introduce sharp objects.

  9. Michelle says

    I second what Kelly said: Those plastic colored IKEA knives work really well (and they’re durable). My daughter has been using them to spread peanut butter and make sandwiches since she was 3.

  10. DC Elizabeth says

    My 5 year old daughter uses a pumpkin knife to cut all kinds of things in the kitchen – you know, those little orange plastic ones, with serrated blades? Impossible to cut your self, but with a sawing motion she can cut anything. We learned it from her awesome preschool last year.

    hadn’t thought of the lettuce knives – that is great!

  11. Asha Dornfest says

    Brigid: I think that’s EXACTLY the right approach. You know your kid. Fact is, some kids just have more dexterity and self-control and it makes absolute sense. My example is less dramatic, but it has to do with coloring markers. I didn’t let my son use markers (even the washable kind) until he was about 7 or 8 because he had no sense of restraint. I would be washing markers off of everything, everywhere. I gave my daughter markers at 2. She’s just a different, quieter, more focussed person.