Creative, therapeutic and immensely satisfying - as well as sufficiently ‘grown-up’ to spark the interest of the most reluctant. Introducing your child to knife skills and safety is best done at age 6+, when a first pocket knife makes a popular gift but can begin as early as 3 years with a vegetable peeler.
The best wood for whittling is young, fresh wood that’s not dried out and doesn’t have many knots. Hazel, willow, silver birch, alder, lime and sycamore are all fairly soft and easy to carve. Use twigs that have fallen from the tree rather than damaging the tree itself.
Safety is paramount and there are some basic rules to follow. Learning a safe technique is of the utmost importance. Teach the correct way to hold a knife and get the child to learn that if the knife slips there is a safe place for it stop.
- Adult supervision ALWAYS necessary until you are fully confident your child has fully understood the safety rules and adheres to them at all times
- Practice blade skills on something soft first- a vegetable or a bar of soap
- Always push the blade away from the body- never towards it and always push the blade away from the hand holding the wood still
- Use a table or a surface to work on to avoid the knife moving around the body
- Pare off small pieces at a time to keep control of the blade
- Keep the blade locked away when not using- don’t walk around with it