As a rule knives and children don’t mix. But a knife is an important tool for bushcraft, so it is good to get children understanding the importance of how to handle a knife properly and safely from an early age.
If you are going to let your child use a knife for bushcraft, then they must be old enough to understand the responsibility that comes with handling a knife. They must know how to use it safely and be prepared to follow the instructions and ‘rules’ they are given. A knife is not a toy or an accessory, but a key bushcraft tool.
If children are well supervised and taught about knife safety, then there shouldn’t be many problems.
Choosing the right knife
- The knife should be well-made and robust. The handle should not be slippery but have a good grip and be well secured around the blade. The sheath must be strong and hold the knife securely.
- The best knife for practicing bushcraft is a simple fixed-blade knife with a sheath. This type of knife can be used for a range of different tasks and allow the user to make effective and controlled cuts.
- The knife should fit the size of their hand and the blade shouldn’t be any longer than the width of their palm, so they have good control over it.
Teaching knife safety to children
Spend time explaining the serious responsibility of handling a knife. Being able to handle and use a knife properly takes patience, dedication, and maturity.
- Give them clear instructions of what is acceptable and safe behaviour for using a knife.
- They must understand the dangers and how they can protect themselves from injury and know what to do if something happens. They should have their own first aid kit and know how to use it. A basic understanding of first aid and being able to treat a cut is essential.
- Always set a good example in front of your child. This includes not taking any risks, always use the right knife for the right job and always have your first aid kit with you.
- Teach them to be aware of their hands when cutting towards themselves or their gripping hand and not to move around when holding a knife.
- They must know never to point a knife at someone.
- If they need to pass a knife to someone else, teach them to do safely, by offering the other person the handle and keep all fingers away from the blade.
- They must always be focused when using the knife. If tired or distracted, put the knife away safely for another time.
Anyone using a knife, whatever their age, needs to understand the law on carrying knives and where they can use one.
Getting a child started with a knife
Encourage children to practice carving for short periods, to help them get used to handling the knife and to avoid blistering. You can get them started with a simple and practical task like making pegs.
Knife safety is one of many skills we teach on our Family Bushcraft Course. All the family can learn some great practical bushcraft skills which they can use when they are out in the woods. Get in touch to find out more.