Shawn Dawson, of Albany, OR, came up with the perfect present for his littlest girl:
Dear Free-Range Kids: My daughter had her birthday last weekend, and in the weeks leading up to it she has expressed an interest in both whittling and archery. Well figuring that at age 8 it was time she learned a bit more about safely handling a knife, one present I purchased for her was a very small, pink, swiss army knife. It’s quite small, but will serve the purpose of teaching her how a knife is a tool (it also has tweezers, scissors, nail file, and a screwdriver) that should be used properly and taken care of. Any tool can hurt, if one misuses it. We have talked about how to keep the blade clean, wiping it with a rag from the blunt side of the knife, using oil not water to clean it, and so on.
BTW, while this does not show proportions well, the knife is here:
For the past week, she has been quite useful around the house, ready to help cut the plastic off of boxes and the like. Playing outside one day, I noticed her cutting the top off a pop can, so I talked to her about that. This is not proper use because it will ruin the blade. I set her up with a bar of soap, and let her practice using the knife on that. We talked about cutting away from you, not towards you. But all the talk does not help unless one practices.
In short, a week later, we have had no injuries and she has learned a bit about the knife as a tool. I think it helped my wife not to worry as the blade really is quite small, and while there may be a slip at some time, it won’t do any major harm.
Now the interesting part is the reaction of my acquaintances, several of whom have seemed genuinely *shocked* that I would give a pocket knife to an 8 year old 2nd grade girl as a birthday present. It appears that in todays hyper-fear climate, the knife is a step below a handgun, and should not be handled by a grade school child. I have friends with children in the 4th and 5th grade who said they certainly would not allow their children to “play with knives”! Sheesh.
I am 50. This is my 4th daughter (ranging in age from 8 to 27 now). I was born in 1963, and when I was a child in the early ’70s, most of my friends had pocket knifes — frequently in their pockets at school. I find the state of fear that has become ‘normal’ in today’s society to be depressing.
In any case, I am looking for archery classes next. – S.D.