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Making Kimchi with a young one  RSS feed

 
master steward
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After watching this video with my friend's kid, he has decided that he is going to make kimchi with us next week.  I think it's going to be a lot of fun and a lot of mess, but mostly fun.

I'm also a bit worried about the best way to approach this.  I'm not confident with his knife skills (he's five) as he will sometimes forget a knife is sharp and try to reach under where I'm chopping.  I'm definitely not confident with him using a knife, but I also don't want to make it into a negative experience by constantly telling him 'no', 'be careful' and knife safety lectures.  Is there some sort of 'starter' knife one can get for a kid to use?  I think knife safety skills are really important - most adults don't seem to understand them - but I don't know what age or level a kid could start learning them.  Are there any clues for when they are ready?  Watching him with mum, she still cuts up his food but by that age, I was learning how to use a knife.

Perhaps it would be better to tear up the cabbage by hand and pre-chop the chillies, garlic, &c. 

What kind of approach would you use when making kimchi with young kids?  What other things should I be aware of?
 
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I'm teaching my six year old to cook, and knife skills are part of that.  After an understanding of knife safety:  how to hold a knife, how to carry a knife (point down, held next to the leg, no swinging), I let my son have at it.  The knife should be very sharp, as a dull knife is harder to use and is more likely to cause accidents (a sharp knife cuts right away, but a dull knife needs more pressure and may slip).  A child might find it easier and more fun to chop something soft but not too small (mine loves chopping mushrooms, for instance, but has a hard time with garlic). 

One other thing to think of:  if the child is used to eating spicy food, go crazy, but if not, I would go very easy on the chilis and other "hot" ingredients.  My son is sensitive to spices, and even has a hard time with black pepper.
 
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Ours sons were using pocket knives to whittle at 4yrs...they didn't have possession of the knives except for that and always had to be sitting and push the knife away from themselves.  I think it depends so much on the child and probably the atmosphere.  I think one at a time would do fine.  Anymore they might pay more attention to each other than the knife.
  All of our grandkids were introduced to Steve's sharp drawknife fairly young and learned to make a spoon...only one decided to touch the blade out of curiosity and it was never good to have more than one of them working at a time.

I like the idea of tearing the cabbage leaves and/or maybe cutting with scissors?  I suppose scissors could still do some damage if the child wasn't paying attention  ...maybe a pizza cutter would be fun?
 
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How about a plastic lettuce knife?  This one is even shaped like an alligator

Lettuce Knife - Amazon
 
raven ranson
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You bring up the idea of a sharp knife.  Personally, I like a very sharp knife, I find dull knives very dangerous.  However, when friends come to my house and they want to help with food prep, they very quickly need first aid.  I'm starting to think that I need to keep some dull knives on hand for guests to use. 

Somewhere in my mind I have an idea that there is a knife that is suppose to cut through veggies but not through skin?  Is this a real thing?  Made from ceramic I think.
- then again, would a knife like that lead the kid to have a false sense of security in regards to knives.  I would rather he had a healthy respect.

Edit: and the post that snuck in above me has just that sort of thing.  Any parents out there have an opinion on it?
 
Judith Browning
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I think I would try a real knife of appropriate size for the child's hand and the right blade for the job.  I always found that 'what to do with the non knife holding hand' was more of a problem...that is the one you might want to guide and focus on so that they don't hold it too close to the cutting edge of the blade or just mindlessly put it under the blade.
  ...and beware of short attention spans, even if they start out perfectly mindful, many kids just don't focus for long on a project like that until they are older.  I think I would be ready to switch then to tearing the leaves, which sounds like a lot of fun.
 
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You could use a butter knife to make kimchi.  Yes, I know professional chefs go on at length about how nice it is to have a sharp knife, but I also know that you can make kimchi by tearing it into pieces with your hands.  Some of the recipes where you use whole radishes or a quartered napa cabbage make it less about cutting and more about rubbing your garlic/chili paste into all the nooks and crannies of your vegetables.  That's probably going to be more interesting to a 5-year old -- spread pasty red goo all over everything before you pack it into a tub.
 
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That video was....amazing.

Just in case the kiddo thinks that smearing it on his face is a fun part of the activity, remind him that he's got chili pepper on his hands which will make his eyeballs sting, LOL.

Great project!  

P.S.  When I was four, I nearly cut off my finger trying to slice an orange unsupervised.  The knife was sharp! I think I'd leave knife-handing skills to mom or dad.
 
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Not your place to instruct in knife safety skills. You need to be thinking about this from a homeowner's insurance point of view in regard to liability.

Besides where is the fun in that. If there is something that must be chopped do it before hand. When he's there throw on some music (OK - I think there should always be music in the kitchen to liven it up). I really like the suggestion of tearing and ripping up the ingredients. I think he'll really enjoy that.
 
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I am sure the child thought that was a "fun" video and thinks making kimchi will be fun.  Like Kay said, do all the cutting beforehand and just let the kid put the ingredients together.  I use a potato peeler to shred carrots so you might give him a carrot and potato peeler to try that out with instruction on how to do it. 

His mother should be teaching him knife skills when she thinks the time is appropriate.  If she is cutting up his food then this is not the appropriate time.
 
raven ranson
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I have a really good relationship with this kid and his mum that I know she's fine with me teaching him safety skills (but I always check with mum beforehand - she is, after all, The Mum and we follow her wishes as to how the kid is raised).  We're close enough to be like family; but also distant enough that it's easy for this kid to listen to us and lessons we teach him, sink in.  Two weeks ago, the lesson was how to get adults to listen to you so you can get what you want (aka, how to ask for something so politely that it shocks the adult and of course they have trouble saying no) and he's taken that lesson to heart.  The theory is that it takes a community to raise a child, so we do our part to help him have the skills he needs to be a productive member of the community. 

As for knife skills, the last few weeks he's been very keen to help chop and not aware enough of his fingers and the blade - he reaches under the knife when I'm cutting.  Instead of telling him no all the time, I think he's ready to understand why this behaviour is so bad.  He responds really well to explanations of why something is dangerious.  He seems to want someone to take the time and treat him like an adult and walk him through how and why things are the way they are. 

His normal attention span is about 10 minutes, but on the farm with us, it's about two hours (four times longer then my attention span).  I think if we can do the prep work, put him 'in charge' of the kimchi making,  then somehow shred the cabbage with him, it should be the right balance of tasks that he can see kimchi through to the end.  The more I think about it, the more I want to have some sort of a knife he can use, but I rebel against bringing plastic into the house.  Maybe there are other knife options? 
 
Judith Browning
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Maybe there are other knife options? 



I like a small 'old hickory' knife for many things, what is called a 'paring' knife.
I think it's a good size knife for a child to learn to use. 

Now I'm thinking that cutting up cabbage means cutting into the head which would take a larger knife, so maybe you're cutting up the head into manageable pieces and then he's cutting the leaves to size?



 
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