Skip to main content

Oregon Family Magazine

Knife Safety

07/28/2022 ● By Rees Maxwell
When I was young, I was excited by all manner of bladed tools: swords, axes, and the ubiquitous knife. I fantasized about owning the sword at the mall being held by the suit-of-armor-wearing mannequin, but there was nothing practical about owning one. And while intrigued at what an axe could accomplish, I was terrified I’d seriously injure myself since no one had ever taught me how to use it. (Though I learned later in life, I’m still a bit fearful when using one.) But a knife! That was something many of my friends had, and it was a tool my dad had instructed me how to use early on. 

Most children are fascinated with knives, and we want them to be competent enough as adults that it seems child’s play to use. But, can we teach them safely while they are still children? I’ll explain why childhood is actually the best time to practice safe knife use, and teach you the five knife safety steps to pass along.

Take Risks, Safely - Kids have a proclivity toward danger. Some more than others, but the draw toward it is real. Teach them to feed their need for risk-taking in a responsible way, under your supervision.

Trade a Cut Now for a Trip to the ER Later - Kids will get cut using knives, it is going to happen. Would you rather they get a small cut when you are around to bandage their finger (and hurt pride), or banish them from using knives altogether and worry they’ll only wait until you’re absent to try one out?

Knives are Powerful Tools - They can cut and shape wood, and can cut and misshape flesh. Their power is double-edged, and learning how to walk that line with awareness will help your child realize how to control their own power within themselves. Their new confidence will benefit other areas of their life as well. 

Connect With a Skill That’s Over 2 Million Years Old - Yes, humans have been using knives for a looong time! Help them safely reconnect and they’ll think you’re the most awesome parent ever! Just teach them the following: 

1. Sharp Knife = Safe Knife. A sharp knife will require less force, and if it slips it won't fly out of control.

2. Stay Seated While Carving. This creates a solid and steady foundation and avoids the temptation to move around with an open knife.

3. Create, and Maintain, Your “Blood Bubble.” This space is defined as anywhere you could reach with the combined length of your arm and the end of your blade. Teach everyone to keep out of your blood bubble! 

4. Cut Away from All Body Parts (and stop cutting if you look away). It is easy to cut away from your torso but not realize you’re still cutting toward a finger or even your leg. Be aware of what is in front of your blade. And if you need to look away, like when talking with someone, separate your knife from your project. 

5. Close or Sheathe Knives Not in Use. Knives that are left with the blade exposed pose an obvious hazard. Whenever you are finished using your knife, it needs to be folded closed or put into its sheath before you get up.

Now go find a sharp knife and piece of soft wood and sit with your child. Share the inspiring and confidence-building skill of safe knife use. They’ll use this skill throughout their life, and thank you for teaching them now.