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The girls are totally hooked on the television survival series Alone and eager to go out into the woods and test out their skills. My 6-year-old can often be found attempting to whittle a stick with a pair of blunt ended scissors. It worried me that she didn’t have the correct tools to do this properly and I felt it may be more dangerous to whittle with scissors than with a suitable knife.
My husband bought my eldest a knife when she was younger, so we discussed when might be a suitable time to introduce the younger girls to knife skills. I always believe that when children show a strong interest in learning a skill, then the time is right to introduce them to the appropriate tools. My youngest has very strong motor skills and co-ordination and follows instructions well. The girls are able to peel vegetables with a peeler and have practised chopping fruit and vegetables with a small kitchen knife. With this in mind, we decided the time was right to buy the girls their first knives.
My husband researched the knives used by a local wilderness school and decided on the morakniv fixed blade outdoor knife. The knives are the perfect size for little hands. They have a grip handle, sharp blade and a sheath with a clip belt. They come in a variety of colours. We chose neon colours, so they would be able to see them easily.
The first lesson was how to get the knife out of its sheath. They were a little frightened at first but soon got the hang of it. These knives have a bump at the side to remind the children of the correct way to face the knife when removing it from the sheath.
The children have to follow the following rules and guidelines:-
- They are only to use the knives under adult supervision
- Always put the knife back in its sheath when not in use.
- The knives are to be stored in a special drawer and always put away after use.
- Never cut towards their hands (they’ve seen what happens if this rule is broken on Alone).
- Always sit down when using the knife
- Always keep their eyes on what they are doing. If they need to look away, put the knife away first.
The girls loved whittling sticks and were desperate to try other projects. I bought them a book on whittling, The Little Book of Whittling. Some of the projects were difficult with their knives because the blade was too long. On our camping trip this summer, we bought them a multi tool with a smaller knife. With this, they were able carve more successfully and new skills were learned. They learned how to fold it safely and we only had one small accident when my youngest closed it a little to close to her hand. This made the girls more careful in future.
Whittling has been the favourite pastime of the summer. I had to spend a lot of time supervising them, and my garden is littered with bits of wood and splinters but they have had so much fun and learned a lot.
One of my favourite projects, was sharpening sticks to put in the ground and make a playground. They added string to join pieces together and made a zip wire, slide, climbing frame and monkey bars.
They spent a lot of time stripping bark from sticks. Some they used for tent pegs, some they sharpened to make arrows and sometimes they simply whittled the sticks for fun.
They also learned to split pieces of wood with a knife. They used a thick stick as a hammer to push the knife through the wood.
They attempted to make a spoon, like one of the contestants on Alone, but hollowing out wood was a little tricky with their knives. They found it much easier with the multi tool.
They came up with all kinds of imaginative projects,some more successful than others. In the video my daughter demonstrates how she is making a rain collector. The large stick on the floor is the one they used as a hammer, to split sticks. You can clearly see the difficulty the girls had with hollowing sticks. This project remained unfinished, which is just as well considering we haven’t had any rain this summer!
I can’t wait to see what they achieve as they become more skilled.