He’s ready for Top Chef Junior! A video of a 2-and-a-half-year-old boy slicing cucumbers with a sharp knife, shared by popular parenting blogger Janet Lansbury, has parents divided on whether it’s admirable or alarming.
The 37-second Facebook clip was submitted to Lansbury via a fan named Kathleen, who did not reveal her last name. “I’ve been working on giving my 2.5-year-old meaningful helper roles during our household tasks, not just to ‘occupy’ him while I get things done, but ways he can really contribute,” Kathleen wrote. She added that her son also pairs socks, wipes down kitchen counters and unloads the dishwasher.
“Tonight he chopped all the cucumbers for the salad while I prepared the rest of dinner,” Kathleen revealed. “Then he dressed it and mixed it. I really enjoyed making dinner together tonight.” (At one point in the video, her child proudly exclaims, “Mommy, I’m mixing it up!”)
Some people responded with photos of their little ones dicing vegetables. “LOVE! My 2 girls age 2 and 4 help me cook every day. I give them chopping boards, sharp Japanese knives (which I have taught them to use) and they chop all the veggies,” wrote one parent in the comments. Added another: “Amazing things can happen when we trust that they are capable.”
But the footage had many viewers cringing. As one critic wrote: “Am I the only one freaking out about a 2-year-old with a knife?!? Yes, it’s absolutely a great idea to have them help with meaningful jobs, but a 2-year-old with a knife?!? No thanks.” A second person called out the way the boy pressed down on the top of the knife.
Clinical psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore sees no problem with a 2-and-half-year-old handling sharp cutting tools as long as he is supervised and properly trained.
“In addition to the benefits to themselves of feeling capable, encouraging children to help others contributes to the development of empathy,” the author of “What’s My Child Thinking?” told TODAY Parents. “It also fosters a sense of belonging when children see themselves as contributing in meaningful ways to their families.”
According to Kennedy-Moore, preschoolers prefer playing with real objects rather than pretend toys. “Kids are intrigued by trying out adult activities,” the New Jersey-based psychologist told TODAY. “With young children, it’s important to keep chores brief and enjoyable. Express gratitude for their help, even if you could do it faster yourself.”
Lansbury, who runs the Facebook page Elevating Child Care, is an advocate for RIE parenting, a style that was founded by infant specialist Magda Gerber in 1978. The method, pronounced “rye,” is based on the idea that infants and children should be respected and treated like fully-formed people. Tobey Maguire, Felicity Huffman and Helen Hunt have praised the approach that shuns baby talk.
“We invite babies to actively participate in caregiving activities like diapering, bathing, meals and bedtime rituals and give them our full attention during these activities,” Lansbury wrote on her blog in 2013. “This inclusion and focused attention nurtures our parent-child relationship, providing children the sense of security they need to be able to separate and engaged in self-directed play.”