Question of the Day: What’s the proper age for a first knife?

I don’t usually go to the Huffington Post for either knife content or parenting advice. Most of their stuff borders on the insufferable, but to paraphrase Sun Tzu, “You should know your enemy”. They are a leading media outlet for the civilian disarmament complex, as well as a host of other issues on which they espouse views diametrically opposed to mine. So I like to at least scan their headlines.

I came across an article on parenting that I found surprising. It is mostly a reaction to the runaway helicopter parenting that is ruining our kids. I largely agree with most of the points the author made (except co-sleeping) and I appreciate her drawing from a wide range of cultures in both the east and west. The section that stood out most prominently was one dealing with Europeans routinely giving knives to kindergartners. (OMG kids are using knives at school. B-b-but kids! Knives! B-b-but school! )


From HuffPo “Have American Parents got it all backwards?:

“We need to let 3-year-olds climb trees and 5-year-olds use knives.

Imagine my surprise when I came across a kindergartener in the German forest whittling away on a stick with a penknife. His teacher, Wolfgang, lightheartedly dismissed my concern: “No one’s ever lost a finger!”

Similarly, Brittany, an American mom, was stunned when she moved her young family to Sweden and saw 3- and 4-year-olds with no adult supervision bicycling down the street, climbing the roofs of playhouses and scaling tall trees with no adult supervision. The first time she saw a 3-year-old high up in a tree at preschool, she started searching for the teacher to let her know. Then she saw another parent stop and chat with one of the little tree occupants, completely unfazed. It was clear that no one but Brittany was concerned.

“I think of myself as an open-minded parent,” she confided to me, “and yet here I was, wanting to tell a child to come down from a tree.”

Why it’s better: Ellen Hansen Sandseter, a Norwegian researcher at Queen Maud University in Norway, has found in her research that the relaxed approach to risk-taking and safety actually keeps our children safer by honing their judgment about what they’re capable of. Children are drawn to the things we parents fear: high places, water, wandering far away, dangerous sharp tools. Our instinct is to keep them safe by childproofing their lives. But “the most important safety protection you can give a child,” Sandseter explained when we talked, “is to let them take… risks.”

I have read other examples including Finnish elementary schools having field trips to the forest complete with bow saws. With the exception of England, where they have fetishized knives as the root of their knife violence problem, much of Europe still has a quiet EDC and knife use culture. And for all we Americans hate on “European attitudes”, it is my experience that they get quite a few things right as well.

With my own kids I am beginning the knife/bow/gun journey. I do not yet turn my just-shy of 6 year old daughter loose with a knife, but she is beginning to help with food prep. I am more worried about my 3 year old son’s interference causing someone to be injured. She got her first recurve bow last year from Santa, and has demonstrated enough responsible handling to move onto a Red Ryder this coming Christmas. I am also strongly considering getting her a Leatherman Leap this year. I like the idea of getting to add the blade later once proper care and treatment have been exhibited.

I struggle against the helicopter parenting attitudes that are rotting our culture and our children. I don’t give my kids as long of a leash as I would like, or how I was raised for that matter. This isn’t out of a desire to coddle my kids but rather from wishing to avoid the negative interaction with the State when some idiot disapproves or my kid suffers an injury requiring medical attention. I have friends who went through a 2 year nightmare following their toddler’s accidental head injury. has a plethora of examples where parents face prosecution for daring to let elementary-school aged children go to the park or wait in a car for 5 minutes. I highly recommend this video with the founder of the Free Range Kids movement.

Again, I have written a long lead in to a simple Question of the Day:

What is the “right age” for giving a child a knife?


  1. I think it is entirely dependent on the individual child, and only the parent is in the position to judge whether they are ready, or not. Definitely not the state. Or HuffPo.

  2. Doug Ritter says:

    I received my first pocket knife at age 7 and pretty much all my friends at the time had also gotten their first knives around then. Our grandchild is approaching age 5 and he’ll be getting one of Klecker Knives & Tools Trigger Knife Kits on his birthday. Once he has demonstrated some modicum of responsibility, he’ll get his first real knife. Given the potential adverse life-impacting problems with knives at most schools these days, he won’t be allowed to have it except for when I, his grandmother or his parents are around, ensuring it is safely locked away until such time as we are convinced he won’t be tempted to take it to school, or to forget he has it on him. That’s an unfortunate reality my parent didn’t have to deal with. We all carried our knives in school.

  3. Nathan says:

    I got my first one when I was a cub scout, around 7 or 8. It was a cheap Swiss Army knockoff but it was awesome because I didn’t know anything greater. However I didn’t really get into knives until I turned 18 three years ago

  4. dph says:

    I got my 1st knife in Cub Scouts also, it was a crappy Camp King folder, but it sure took an edge. Whatever hair I had on my arms at that age was shaved off after my dad showed me how to sharpen it. Around 8 years old seems like a good age to give most kids a blade.

  5. Zach says:

    I give my kids (boys and girls) a knife on their 8th birthday. Usually one of the lower-end Leatherman multi-tools.

    It’s funny, we just did the “Whittling Chip” cards for our Webelos scouts (age 10). They’re complete knuckleheads, and it’s a miracle they didn’t chop each other, but we did our best to teach them how to handle a knife safely. I disagreed with the rule the Cub Scouts have about no fixed-blade knives. I think most of the issues were with these guys trying to handle the locks when the close their folders. Honestly, a good Mora is probably perfect for a kid’s first knife. Easy to use, easy to clean, and pretty darn sharp out of the box.

  6. Sam L. says:

    I was 8 when I joined Cub Scouts, and likely got my official BSA Cub Scout knife not too long after. Wish I still had it. Do have my BSA Scout knife I bought myself.

  7. MikeH says:

    I saved up my money and got my first Victorinox Tinker with black scales when I was 7 and I still have it to this day. I sliced a small chunk off my thumb not long after getting it and still have the scar. It wasn’t a big deal, my parents never freaked out over injuries, and it taught me to be more careful with how I’m cutting.

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Question of the Day: What’s the proper age for a first knife?

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