Knives aren't toys. But to a child, they sure look like toys. Intriguing toys.
Plus, adults use knives daily for a wide array of functions, and kids soak that stuff up like little sponges.
Knives aren't complicated, so children naturally think, "Heck, I can do that."
Problem is, knives can cause severe injury and death if not handled properly and safely. So, how do parents teach their kids to be safe and responsible with knives? And how do they do that while not sheltering them to the point that they develop an irrational fear of knives?
If that's the case, then they'll never really learn how to take advantage of one of the most versatile and functional tools ever invented.
Here are a few suggestions to help you teach your children how to handle knives:
Built Respect, Not Fear
I have a large collection of knives. I wanted my two boys to appreciate them as much as I do, but I didn't want any blood spilled in the process.
Once they got past the "See-shiny-thing. Must-grab" phase, I allowed them to hold whichever knife they wanted. But I did not let them play or use the knives at all.
Instead, I allowed them to satisfy their curiosity by feeling the weight and looking closely at the knife. I would then take the knife from them and demonstrate its functionality. Little by little I would allow them to use the knives for various purposes.
I also taught them how to feel the edge to determine if the blade was shaving sharp, skinning sharp, or time-to-sharpen sharp. By being patient, meticulous and passionate, they both gained respect for knives, not fear.
Dull Knives are More Dangerous Than Sharp Knives
"Don't worry, that knife is dull," said the guy with a gnarly wrist scar (me).
Teach your kids to assume EVERY knife is razor sharp. As a visual aid, I showed them the large scar on my wrist that was the result of me thinking, stupidly, that I could flip a "dull" knife in the air and catch it.
Size Doesn't Matter
Tiny pocket knives cut skin just the same as machetes. Make sure your children understand this basic point.
Cut Away from Your Body
It's common sense, yet this rule is broken more than any other knife safety rule - even by us "smart" adults.
When cutting anything, make sure your kids are cutting away from themselves. Also, make sure they are conscious of what might happen if the blade slips from its cutting angle.
Never Look Away
If you allow your children to use a knife, and you look away for even a spilt second, dude, you kind of deserve to get cut.
Just kidding, but once the knife is in their young little hands, your only responsibility in the world is to WATCH.
Beware the Folding Blade
Small non-locking pocket knives are usually the first knives parents allow their kids to own and carry. But these are probably the most dangerous types of knives for young kids.
Those blades are spring-loaded to stay shut, so if the child cuts at a bad angle, the blade will fold closed right onto his or her fingers.
Too many adults were coddled as children and never learned how to handle knives themselves. Don't let that happen to your kids.
They may have to cut up your food for you someday when you're old.