Wait, why do the kids need to cut the apples? Isn’t it easier and faster just to do it yourself? Yes, but letting kids share in the prep has oodles of benefits. It’s quality family-time, it creates anticipation, it’s fun, and it becomes a personal reference point to a holiday that kids will remember and can build upon. Still, I wouldn’t attempt this or any parent/child exploration/task/activity if I wasn’t in a decent mood at the moment. Common sense dictates when to chirpily invite a preschooler to assist in the kitchen and when to beg him to find something quiet to do in another room.
And second: the quickie version of this task is already covered in my earlier post about why and how to make an Edible Honey Bowl from an Apple with Kids (here and at Kveller.com). But if you are excruciatingly detail-oriented and/or concerned with safety (and legal action) about letting kids in a group setting cut their own apples, read on.
This addendum is motivated by my observations at a Rosh Hashanah for Tots program yesterday, in which I had organized all the activities, including an apple slicing station. The tool was the classic slicer/corer combo with two handles. It isn’t a tool to let a kid play with. The circle with its 8 segments is sharp. But by following the procedure below, even toddlers can successfully slice apples for Rosh Hashanah celebrations and feel fabulously proud and responsible.
Table Height: the perfect height is low enough for a child to stand up and work at about waist level. A preschool table is good, or even the seat of a level, hard-bottomed chair. Must be very stable, though. A child could also kneel in an ordinary kitchen chair and work on an ordinary table, but again, make sure all is stable. If a child is pushing the tool from a height too far up, the tendency is for the apple to slide. The goal is to press straight down through an apple.
Apple: Smaller is better. Find an apple with a flattish bottom for stability. Put it on a cutting board that does not slip easily. Save those massive, steroid-y, supermarket apples for hollowing out to become Edible Honey Bowls. The best apples are the small, crisp ones you pick yourself at a local orchard before Rosh Hashanah…
Tool: Keep it away from a child until everything is ready to go.
Adult: Position the center hole over the apple stem and press down just enough to make an indentation. This is like a “pilot hole” so that the next step is easier for the child.
With child: Ask child to put one hand on each handle. Put one of your hands over hers. This prevents her hands from ending up underneath the sharp part of the tool.
Press straight down. You may have to do a slight rocking motion.
Once the tool has gone all the way through the apple, keep it there (hold the tool down) and let child wiggle each segment free. Do not let him pull the slices out from the bottom, because that’s where the sharp edges are.
Now the child can put the slices in a bowl of lemon-water and arrange on a plate.
All this detail makes the task seem daunting, but it’s much easier in real life, and so worth it. Yesterday nearly 30 kids got a chance to slice an apple with one-on-one assistance from a patient, veteran teacher (thank you, Ms. E). They were proud to have done it “themselves,” and to have created what became two platters for group snack. Plus, they unknowingly exercised some practical life skills and other developmental goodies.
Where to buy an apple slicer/corer:
My nearest Target sells three brands, Walmart and Ikea both have one for under three bucks, and fancy stores sell fancier versions, but all are basically a sharp circle divided into 8 segments with a small circle in the middle for the stem/core.
Need a copy of the blessings for Rosh Hashanah Apples and Honey? See this post for my printable template plus ideas on how kids can turn it into a holiday placemat. For a paint-free version of the same, see this quick version here.