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Kids Playing With Knives

Updated on March 8, 2012

It is harmful to let young children play with knives, fire or other dangerous objects? What is an appropriate age to introduce hazardous things? What is actually hazardous?

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One parents’ view about letting a child discover the world.


There are countless opinions on child rearing methods. There is a myriad of advice being given from pregnancy care, diaper use, childproofing homes, and so on. Parents have suggestions being given to them constantly about how to handle their own kids, even beyond adulthood. Plus, society’s steady changes are influencing the trends for raising children. One of the most basic developments is safety. Stranger danger, home and fire safety, internet protocols are just a few.

As a parent, I want my child to be very safe, but is there a cost? I believe there can be. If one is too protective, I believe it can inhibit a child’s learning skills and harm the parent-child relationship.

I didn’t have my son until I was 32. I had already accumulated some experience with children by having young family members occasionally live with us. Since I started my parenting experience with older children I did not have the same panic buffers in place when my own son was born. Perhaps this all gave me an edge over younger parents. I decided to let my son be my guide about what he was ready to learn or discover.

Our parent-child dynamic developed in a way that I didn’t fret the small stuff so he was free to go, go, go. If he fell down, my response was minimal, especially if there was no bleeding. Reciprocally, he didn’t stick his wet fingers in the uncovered electrical sockets so I would panic.

Every child is unique, especially with regards to learning about the world around them. My son is brilliant (not just my opinion) and very inquisitive. As his curiosity grew, so did his interests. He touched, flipped, threw, tasted, and grabbed everything as a typical baby would. He quickly adapted to using tools such as marking on walls, taking a hammer to the keys on the piano, smearing his food and so on.

I have observed many parents telling their kids “NO” whenever they do something that they deemed inappropriate. I did not feel it was wrong or bad for a two year old to marker the walls. Was I happy about it? No, I certainly didn’t appreciate the extra cleaning or painting. But I felt I was disrespecting my son’s learning experience by being upset with him. There was no intention to harm or destroy in his actions, so why should I punish him?

What about dangerous things?

  • Fire. I sometimes have candles burning in the house. At about the age of 2, he reached out to touch the flame and I did not stop him. It was hot, but he wasn’t burned. It was fine. He didn’t start wanting to play more with fire until he was much older and ready.
  • Knives. About the age of 4 I found he had taken a kitchen knife and was cutting up cardboard in the garage. He nicked himself, barely. It hurt. He allowed me to show him a better way to use knives and which knives were not off limits. I have a set of serrated steak knives that are not too unsafe for new users.

By giving him the freedom to learn in his own way as often as possible, I opened a path for him to be receptive to me. There was no rebellion for us to overcome. Since I didn’t tell him “no, no, no”; reciprocally he didn’t tell me that either. It was much easier to get him to comply when I did have to set a boundary. It was also less difficult for him to learn a healthy respect for things that may be dangerous and hazardous, like household chemicals, how to deal with new people, and more.

By the age of 4 he was using “real” tools. We taught him about measuring, sawing, and hammering and such. By the age of 7 he was easily ready to help me cook in the kitchen, cutting vegetables and fruit, measuring things. At the age of 10, his Leatherman multi-tool broke. He remembered that those tools have warranties. Unbeknownst to me, he went online, found the website, filled out the form, printed it and asked me to sign it and help him send it in! I was impressed.

As I reflect on my parenting methods I am satisfied. I have chosen to nurture and support rather than dictate or dissuade. I do not know if these choices would be right for every parent or every child, but it has worked for me and mine. No parent, no person, is perfect but I have a great rapport with my kids (I became guardian to a few nieces too). We have relationships built on mutual trust. They talk to me about everything because I don’t judge their age-appropriate interests. I have seen them follow my advice on serious subjects.

Ultimately, the best I can do is not protect them; instead, teach them how to maneuver in this world, how to protect themselves, and always be there when they fall and get a boo-boo.

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