Hi, and welcome to APSEA’s series on Home Learning. I’m Jen Allaby. Today I’ll share with you some tips and techniques that I find really useful when introducing cutting skills in the kitchen.
To begin, let’s discuss knife choice. A serrated bladed knife is the best option for learning how to cut and the reason is because a serrated blade has a distinct cutting surface that has texture on it, and it is possible without relying on vision to be able to tell the correct way to cut with the serration by pulling the knife/dragging the knife gently across another utensil or along the edge of your cutting board. When you do that it creates a subtly noise, a gentle noise and it also gives some vibrations so you can tell very clearly which is the correct side to be pointed down. If you’re not comfortable using a real knife to begin, it is very plausible to use a plastic picnic knife or even a knife from a child’s tea set; a toy tea set knife. Those could work really well when starting.
The next step is to make sure that you have a clear workspace and gather all the materials that you are going to use on a tray. I have this wooden tray with a gentle, subtle edge on it and the advantage to have your materials on a tray with an edge is that they are contained in one place and they are not going to get moved around or lost so it is very easy to find what you are looking for just by finding the edge of the tray and they you will know that what you need is on the tray. If, at your house, you don’t have a tray you could certainly use a cookie sheet or even a low-sided casserole dish would work for this. SO on my tray I have some fruits and vegetables laid out. I’ve got banana – a peeled banana and an banana with the peel still on, a small cucumber, an apple and some cherry tomatoes. And the recommendation for starting is to use soft food that has a little bit of resistance but not too much. SO we are going to start with a banana, and what I would suggest before you start with anything is you let your child handle the fruit or vegetable in its original form first so that they get a sense of the size, shape, and just what the fruit is as a whole before you begin cutting. And when I start with a banana, I’m going to think about contrast as well. SO for people who have low vision, increasing the contrast between materials and surfaces can be very helpful in aiding vision. So with the banana, because it is a pale colour I’m going to use a darker cutting board that the white.
SO here we have a peeled banana, a whole peeled banana placed on a cutting board, a wooden cutting board and I’ll show you for, for this we just want to make a “C” with our thumb and index finger and so that the other 3 fingers are up next to the index finger and they are kind of forming a “cupping C”. And you will hold one end of the fruit with that cupped position and begin cutting from the other end. Now what I would suggest here is because the banana is kind of long, I might start and have the adult cut it in half to begin with and the reason to do that is because the distance between the cupping hand and the cutting hand is not so great and it can be a bit easier when you’re learning if you don’t have to navigate a long or vast expanse. So, holding the left hand side, in a C grasp, and the right hand side (because the right hand – I am right handed so it is my dominant hand. I’m just going to tap and do a gentle downward motion to slice the banana into pieces, and then I’ll do the other side – so cupping with a C grasp and a gentle downward motion. Now I don’t want to eat that banana right now so I’m going to put some lemon juice on it and put it in a Ziploc bag and keep it in the freezer and it can be used for a smoothie or add a little bit of yogurt to it and make a healthy banana ice cream. Our next choice for cutting is a cherry tomato and the reason I like to use cherry tomatoes is because they’re tiny but they’re not too tiny that they’re hard to manage, so small hands can navigate these, usually. And I’ll use the same grip as we did with the banana and it is a C grip and you’re holding between your thumb and index finger (the fruit) and so I’m going to take the knife in my right hand, because that’s my dominant hand, and I’m going to place the knife on the tomato and I’m just gently going to move it back and forth without touching anything to give an idea of how wide the tomato is and I’m going to find approximately the mid-space and cut it in half. And cutting in half is just a downward gently sawing motion, a back and forth motion and it’s in half. Then, depending on what you were doing with these tomatoes, if you wanted it to be a functional activity, which of course we do, you might consider cutting them in half again. SO it is the same motion with the C grip and finding the centre and a gentle sawing motion downward.
So for cutting a cucumber there are a couple of things that you can do. We could do it in a way that is similar to the way that we did the banana earlier where it is the “C” grasp then starting at one end and pushing gently downwards across or we could cut it in half. Have the adult cut it in half if the length of the cucumber is too big for a child to manage and do the same cutting downward and moving downward. The other option that I like to do is to have the adult slice the cucumber in half lengthwise. SO, to do that I’m using the C grip and I’m cutting downward in a sawing motion to cut the cucumber in half and so I’ve got two long pieces of cucumber. And you will not that when it falls onto the cutting board, the inner flesh of the vegetable is quite pale. It is a very pale green but the outside skin is very dark green, and if I flip it over the contrast between the dark green and the pale cutting board is much better than the light green and the pale cutting board. So I’m going to do that and this has the added bonus of not being roley poley, it is a very stable, flat surface for cutting. And so, with that we can do the “C” cut again and just start from the end.
IN professional kitchens and as a safety measure there’s a particular grasp that is used in cutting foods and it is call the claw grip. And basically what you do for that is you would take your hand and you will bend your fingertips inward as though you were making a “scary bear” claw so your fingertips are pointing inward toward the palm of your hand ever so slightly and then you would move your hand to the item that you need to stabilize with the fingertips inward. And the reason we do that is that they are definitely out of the way of the knife and this is especially important if you’re using a big professional chef’s knife because if the knife comes close it is not going to nick you – it will just brush up against the middle bone in your fingers. So this is a good option for the cucumber and I’ve got my claw grip in place with my non dominant hand and I’m using my dominant hand to do a gentle downward sawing motion and you’ll notice when I get close even if I put the knife up against its not going to cut me because there is nothing sticking underneath the knife; my finger is vertical.
So for a food like an apply, it can be a little bit tricky in comparison to the other things we’ve been cutting because the apple is more firm and it is also round and it kind of wiggles around and it rolls so for early learners in cutting I would suggest to have the adult cut the apple in half first. And so to do that I’m going to be sure that I use my claw grip and I’m just going to cut downward in the middle of the apple. And you’ll note, similar to the cucumber, when the apple releases onto the cutting board the white surface of the apple – of the inside of the apple – is not very noticeable against my white cutting board. And it is very tippy because it’s rounded. SO a tip for this is just to flip it over and then you have a nice solid flat surface from which to work. And so definitely for an apple you want to be using the claw grip because it is a bit trickier a fruit to cut. It is firmer and sometimes the skin can be a little bit slippery. So my claw grip again is just tipping my fingertips inward towards the palm and grasping like a bear might at one side and then on the other side with my knife hand I’m just going to make gentle cuts and this is a downward slightly sawing motion. Here we are: apple slices.
Now this part of the apple has the core still in it. Cut that out and not have a child try to cut around that. So to do that I’ll use my claw hand and I will create some extra pieces that could be placed flat. SO again, the claw grip to make some nice apple slices.
When we finish cutting the best positioning for a knife is placed down, sideways on the cutting board with the cutting blade away from you.
Thanks for watching and I hope you’ll join us again for some more functional life skills in the APSEA home learning series. Take care.