The Melissa & Doug Cutting Food Box surely deserves a spot in the toy hall of fame. I've lost count of the number of "meals" my daughter Iris, 3, has prepared for me with this thing. The best feature is the sound: when the wooden knife lops off a chunk of toy carrot, cucumber, or watermelon, the Velcro gives way with a crunch much like the sound of a real knife through celery.
Trouble is, Iris has had the toy for almost two years, and she's getting bored with it. What's the next step? I have just the thing.
Recently Iris and I went over to a friend's house and helped prepare lunch. We were making the Sichuanese noodle dish called Ants on a Tree, which gets its poetic name because the bits of ground pork (the ants) cling to the sticky cellophane noodles (the tree). Normally when I let Iris help in the kitchen, we're making cookies, and I let her measure the flour and sugar, maybe crack an egg, and do the sprinkles.
But when I saw our friend's red Kuhn Rikon paring knife I knew I wouldn't be able to keep it out of Iris's hands. So I didn't bother trying. I handed her the knife, which comes with a handy sheath, and let her chop the scallions and red chile.
"I wonder if this comes in other colors," I mused while Iris chopped.
"Like pink?" she asked.
When we got home, all ten fingers intact, I looked it up. It comes in pink. And it costs nine whole bucks. This is going to be the best stocking stuffer ever.
How old were your kids when you first let them play with knives?
About the author: Matthew Amster-Burton lives in Seattle. His work appears frequently in the Seattle Times and Seattle magazine. He also maintains the blog Roots and Grubs. His favorite food is pad Thai.