If you’re asking a bushcrafter or outdoorsman what tool is the most important tool to bring to the outdoors you’ll get a scoff and the same answer every time. The knife.
So, when you’re about to teach your kids about the wild that’s normally one of the first things you’ll want to teach them about. Either way, they’ll see you use your knife and, if they’re not allowed to use it, they will use it behind your back. That’s why I think it’s one of the most important skills you can teach a child. It will teach them responsibility, trust, and perhaps above all else, actual knife skills!
I have three children and am in the process of teaching my youngest the fine art of carving sticks in the wild.
Introducing the knife
I do find that when they’re about 4 years old is a great time to introduce the knife to them. It’s about that time they’re able to start listening and follow instructions properly. Before that I find there’s not much you can teach them about caution and careful handling of dangerous objects.
On their 4th birthday our kids received their first knife, a Mora Scout with the non-sharp tip and finger guard. It’s a great knife to start off with that comes in different colors so you’re able to tell them apart. It’s not an expensive knife but keeps its sharpness very well so I find it to be a great beginner’s knife.
The first few times I will keep the knife in my pack until it’s time to practice. He gets to carry it in his backpack in the future, once I feel I can trust him with it.
- The first time I will give him a stick about the same length as the knife. The knife would lie down in front of him in its sheath.
”You’ll get to hold the knife when I see you can handle the stick the way you should handle the knife.”
This normally last for a minute or two.
- Then, I’ll take the knife myself and show him how to open the sheath and take out the knife without risking to cut myself.
- Do a few cuts on a small stick with my own knife to show how to carve. (I try to avoid using his knife to let him know I respect that it’s his gear and that I have my own.)
- Put the knife back into the sheath and ask if he’s is ready to try. Normally he’s so excited to be trusted with and hold his shiny, beautifully dangerous new knife that he say anything to get his little hands on it.
Feel their energy.
If he’s overly excited, bring out the stick again, but if he’s calm and collected, hand him the knife.
- The most important thing now is to actually make him listen to what I’m saying and follow along. If he does anything I don’t ask him to do, I’ll take the knife and give him back the stick!
- From here on, I’ll let him practice taking the knife out of- and put back into the sheath and do some very light carving.
- During the whole process I try to be consistent and give both good and bad feedback to let him know how he’s doing. I will take the knife from him immediately if he does something he’s not supposed to, or worse, fools around with it. If the second thing, I’ll pack it down and explain why he’s not allowed to touch it until next time we’re out.
- Once I feel they had enough practice for the day, I let him put the knife back into its sheath and hand it to me for me to carry.
There will come a time, very shortly after this when they see me carving in a way that they’re not allowed to, yet. I find it best to be straight forward and just tell them they’re not good enough at knife handling to carve like that.
I never tell them they’re not old enough, then it becomes about age and not about skill.
The whole excercise is about letting your child know you’re trusting them with a very important and dangerous item. If done correctly you’ll not only have a son or daughter whose self-esteem goes to the moon, but also the start of a relationship i which you establish a lasting trust between the two of you.
Disclaimer: There will come a time where there will be blood spilled from their tiny fingers and hands. Prepare accordingly.