Determining when a child is old enough to carry his or her own folding knife is a big decision for any parent. Parents often ask what age a child should reach before being trusted with a hunting knife. The truth is there’s no hard-and-fast-rule; it all depends on the maturity level of the child.
Folding knives make great first hunting knives, as they’re typically smaller and lighter than fixed-blade models and can be safely carried in a pocket. Pocket knives are often used to teach children basic knife safety before they graduate to a larger and more rugged hunting knife.
Before turning any blade over to your child, however, it’s essential to set some ground rules for safety and proper use. The following is a guide to some common-sense yet instructive folding knife safety rules for kids.
Give your kids a phrase to repeat to remind them of the seriousness of using a knife. One example would be, “A knife is a tool, not a toy.” Have your child repeat the phrase back to you several times before picking up a blade, and revisit it frequently during the training process.
Where to carry.
When testing the waters with your child’s first folding knife, it’s important to remain in control by setting clear and specific rules on when and where it’s appropriate to carry the blade. Early on, the folding knife should only be brought out and used with the parent’s permission and under close supervision. You can relax these rules as the child matures and becomes more responsible; however, under no circumstances should your child be allowed to carry a knife to school or the store.
Circle of safety.
Before opening and using a folding knife, children should learn to become aware of their surroundings in order to prevent injuring others. Instruct kids to hold the closed knife at arm’s length and spin around in a circle. If the child is able to turn without bumping into anyone, he or she has a safe zone in which to use the knife without endangering anyone.
Children should also be taught how to safely pass a knife to someone else. A folding knife should always be closed before passing; however, it’s also a good idea to practice properly handing off a fixed-blade hunting knife. For younger children, have them set the open blade on a table or other surface for the adult to pick up. As they get older, they can practice handing off an open knife: Hold it by the blade, cutting edge facing away from the hand, and present the handle to the other person. The recipient should acknowledge with a “Thank you, I have it” to let the passer know he or she has control of the knife.
Opening and closing the blade.
Practice safely opening folding knives:
- Grip the handle in your non-dominant hand.
- Place the thumbnail of your dominant hand into the groove on the back of the blade.
- Pull the blade out as far as possible, ensuring it won’t snap back.
- Use your dominant hand to pull back on the thick point of the blade to lock it into place.
- Reverse the process to close the knife.
Show your child how to properly cut with a folding knife. A good way to practice is to carve a bar of soap. Go through each step slowly:
- Double-check that the blade is locked in the open position.
- Grip the handle with your whole hand, like the handlebar of a bike.
- Cut away from your body.
- Don’t use too much force.
Teaching your child how to care for his or her folding knife is another important safety lesson. Key points to practice:
- Keep the knife sharp; explain why a dull knife is dangerous.
- Keep the blade oiled for smooth opening.
- Clean and dry after each use.
- Lock the blade into the closed position when finished.
- Put folding knives away in a safe place. Initially, this should mean giving it to you.
Folding knife don’ts.
Lay down some absolute no-nos, such as:
- Don’t use folding knives around other kids.
- Don’t use when angry.
- Don’t use a blade unless it’s needed.
- Don’t run or horseplay with a knife in your hand.
Allowing your child to handle an open knife blade can be scary for any parent. However, clear rules and careful practice will help your child learn how to safely and properly use a hunting knife.