A baker’s dozen ™: Teach a child to use a knife

By Nathan Barton

Along with clinging to guns and our Bibles, many American lovers of liberty have a lifetime love of, and use of, knives.

Image result for pocket knife line art

Almost certainly the first tool to come after the rock, knives are both important hand tools and an essential part of living in freedom. (Yes, even in urban America.) Like firearms, many parts of the world want to ban knives, or at least anything more than a butter knife. There are many thousands of types, but the standard Euro-American pocket knife (folding knife) and the standard fixed-blade belt knife are ubiquitous (yes, even still in England’s modern nanny-state).

Children (girls AND boys) should be introduced to knives, and own one of their own, at a very early age. Suitable for their gross and fine motor skills, of course, and suitable for their temperament and ability to understand.

A knife is a tool, a tool which can be easily used as a weapon. But one which makes life both better and easier. We find that children are fascinated by knives, whether it is older siblings or neighbors, or their own parents, who use them. Even without television and other media, it is natural to use fingers and sticks as play knives (and swords).

It is therefore important to teach them early and well, that like ALL good tools, knives can be dangerous and must be mastered. Starting with plastic play knives (and forks and spoons) at age one or two, the child may be able to have at least a pocketknife as early as age three or four. And earn the right to have a fixed-blade knife as young as seven or eight.

But each step up must include careful and constant teaching by word, exercise, and example. It is an important responsibility of parenthood and adulthood in general.

Here are some very good rules for a child, especially with a fixed-blade knife.

  1. Be careful with your knife at all times. Put it away if others are close to you, especially children (younger in thought if not time).
  2. Always keep a firm grip on your knife. If necessary, secure your knife with a cord to yourself: belt or wrist.
  3. Always use your knife in a safe place, as free from distractions and interference by others as you can be.
  4. When asking for a knife from someone, always ASK and do not tell, even if it is a bad situation. Ask please.
  5. When accepting a knife from someone, always thank them for handing it to you.
  6. Always cut away from any and all body parts (yours and others!). Ask yourself, if my knife slips, where will it go? What could it cut?
  7. Remember that a knife is a tool, not a toy. If properly cared for, it is dangerous.
  8. Don’t use your knife for anything but its intended purpose. Knives can be as general or as specific in their use as any other tool. Don’t drop or throw a pocket knife.
  9. If you do drop your knife, step away from it. Do not try and catch it or let someone else.
  10. When closing a pocket knife, keep your fingers out of the way. When removing a knife from its sheath or pouch, hold that sheath firmly.
  11. After using your knife, clean it up. Don’t put it away dirty. Remember that steel rusts, and rust can quickly ruin a knife.
  12. Keep your knife sharp. A dull knife is a danger to everyone, especially the person using it.
  13. Keep your knife in a safe place, even if you are carrying it or wearing it on you. Don’t make it easy for someone to take it from you.

Their first knife (and most every one after that) is a treasured moment for a youngster, boy or girl.

In teaching, remember that children learn more from our example than what we say or what we demonstrate as “training.” An important part of teaching how to use a knife properly is to show them what a knife can do – that indeed, knives can kill animals and people. Children can be cruel and unthinking, and you do not want to have a child live with the bitter memory of accidentally badly wounding or even killing a pet or wild animal accidentally because they did not know better.

So at a minimum, show and talk to a child about what a knife does to a piece of meat, a piece of paper, a cloth or a pillow or old mattress.  If you hunt or have friends and family that do, show the child at an appropriate age how knives work on formerly living creatures. If a family member cuts themselves preparing food or in some other task, show the child (within reason, of course, which will vary from family to family and child to child). (I am not saying that you have to be gruesome or vicious.)

Because inevitably, knives cut people: whether it is that paring knife in the kitchen or in some more dire situation. We’ve all gotten cut just as we’ve gotten burned on a stove or scalded by hot water. The chances of getting cut (and of the cut being serious, let alone deadly) are NOT reduced by keeping that boy or girl away from anything but plastic dinnerware. The best way to prevent that is to teach them well.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (christian), Pahasapan, Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer.
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8 Responses to A baker’s dozen ™: Teach a child to use a knife

  1. Brandon Aal says:

    I grew up in the gun culture, but the same responsibilities that applied to my safety and caution with those tools were first applied to knives.
    I was given a classic Victorinox swiss army knife when I was six years old, after proving myself to be safe and responsible with my father’s exact same knife. Somewhere in life I broke the blade and lost that knife.
    At age nine, I had the honor of choosing my own fixed blade to carry with me on backpacking trips and other wilderness adventures. At that time, I had been devouring armed forces survival manuals and bushcraft type manuals, so of course I chose a K-Bar.
    I carried that magnum-sized K-Bar on my belt all summer long, and used it plenty. It was far more knife than I needed for skinning squirrels or grouse for the fire, making brush shelters, or carving on sticks, but I had a magnum-sized pride and responsibility in that being my first fixed-blade knife.
    Soon after, I received my first rifle, a Ruger 10-22, and that got me really going into the gun culture. I still have that K-Bar on the shelf today, sharp and with her leather sheath well-oiled. I everyday carry a MoraKniv Bushcrafter these days. It is a lot more practical for firestarting, and everyday homestead uses than that K-Bar. Someday I will pass that K-Bar or MoraKniv down to my own kids, and I hope they feel the pride and responsibility carrying such a tool requires.
    Thank you for sparking that trip back in time, Nathan. If we don’t raise out children to bear self-responsibility and ownership, the West is lost.

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  2. Tim McCann says:

    I still carry the Knife that was given to me as a young lad in about 1972. That Swiss Army knife has been in my pocket for decades. I even carried it with me flying around the world as a Tech Rep for the Navy until 911.

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  3. beau says:

    the paki in charge of london wants ‘knife control’.

    before you ask: yes, he and ‘they’ are that stupid.

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    • TPOL Nathan says:

      Indeed, that very effort in part stirred me to write this commentary.
      You cannot teach a person to be responsible without giving them some responsibility. Governments have, as at least one goal, to make all people into juveniles, dependent on others for every action and decision of any importance.

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  4. N S says:

    Sad to say but I remember the time when I carried a knife to school every day, and have carried one every day since I can’t remember when. And in High School the rifle was in the gun rack in the pickup or car, whichever I took, and no one ever got shot or even threatened. You worked out your issues or simply left each other alone. Why! Respect, Responsibility, Accountability! It’s that simple.

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  5. kewpeekid says:

    Nathan, Very interesting topic but I am not sure I would give a knife to a 3 year old, at least not for every day carry. Some 3 year olds do not even have full communication skills yet. I gave my kids their first knife around age 7. I told them they could only use it when they were around me and they absolutely could not take it to school.

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    • TPOL Nathan says:

      I Did not mean to imply everyday carry without adult supervision. As BSA used to do it, suitable times and places are important to establish. But key is access to the knives at home

      Since we at TPOL advocate home schooling, and did that, the issue of carrying at school doesn’t really come up.

      It is definitely worth more discussion

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