Give Your Toddler a Paring Knife? Seriously?

by | Sep 21, 2015 | The Power of Play

It can sound scary, but there’s an argument for giving young children access to real tools, including kitchen knives.

So writes science writer Sujata Gupta for the The Salt, a National Public Radio blog. Gupta quotes  anthropologist David Lancy to support the notion that kids benefit when they grow confident using potentially dangerous objects.

Nowadays, though, the only real tools many kids use on a daily basis are spoons and forks. In an article titled “Playing with Knives” to appear later this year in the journal Child Development, Lancy writes that contemporary parental overprotectiveness is linked to rising incomes and declining family size, factors that have turned children into “precious treasures rather than future helpers.”

Historically, it appears that humans not only gave the littlest members of society access to tools but also let them sort out the danger for themselves. Even now, in many communities around the world, young children still have access to sharp tools.

We’re on board with this thinking at Minnesota Children’s Museum. Not long ago, we offered a special prototype exhibit called Creativity Jam where kids had supervised access to hammers, nails, drills and sewing machines.

We saw plenty of parents with second thoughts about letting their child pound away with a real hammer. And we saw plenty of smiling kids saying, “Look, I did it!”

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