By: Martianne Stanger
“Um, ma’am, your child has a knife!” A concerned middle-aged man stopped to tell me at the top of the Blue Hills years ago when my then four-year-old son was carefully slicing an apple.
“Yes, I know.” I smiled. “He’s helping prepare our snack. He’s been using knives since he was two.”
The man shook his head, chided us, and walked away muttering about how dangerous the situation was.
My husband, other children, and I stifled laughs. My youngest truly had been using knives for two years and was perfectly adept with them.
As I had done with his older siblings, I started my youngest son with disposable plastic knives and bananas and worked up to lettuce knives and other fruits and vegetables.
Then, I taught him how to use metal wavy cutters on harder fruits and vegetables, before giving him regular sharp-edged paring knives to use.
By the time the man chided us on the Blue Hills, my youngest was perfectly capable of cutting an apple without slicing his finger off nor damaging anything else. He had learned cuttings skills at his own pace, becoming as proficient and careful with a knife as most teens and adults I know.
Was my youngest son a knife prodigy? No! Was he a child who had an interest in cutting and was given guidance and tools to learn? Absolutely!
And, learn he did.
And learn he continues to do.
At five or six years old, he participated in a children’s “Chopped” competition with friends, using a knife, camp stove, and other tools in a team of three.
Now, at eight, that same child knows how to prepare full breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for our family – nothing too gourmet or complicated, but healthy, wholesome meals that he happily prepares and presents to us.
He also has taken to whittling for fun, building shelters in the woods using axes and hand saws, and starting fires with magnesium and steel.
Simply put: my youngest child loves to cook, adventure, and create; and I love to see him build skills as he does so.
Knives. Axes. Fire. Oh my! Can they be dangerous? Sure, when used without guidance or care. However, they can also be helpful tools: tools for learning, tools for doing chores, tools for survival, tools that a child can enjoy.
Have you considered teaching your child practical life skills through the use of tools?
I wouldn’t say just hand them a sharp blade and a set of matches and see what happens, but I would say, don’t be afraid to follow their interests, teaching them how to use “dangerous” items safely.
Children can wield more than many people these days think and can create wonderful memories with worthwhile projects as they do.