The TED talks that have filtered into all different parts of the web, podcasts, and YouTube, are generally very, very good, but one, in particular really stands out--Gever Tulley's 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kid Do. Here is the video:
They are all really great suggestions, even the one about understanding the process of breaking the law. But here on this website, it is Suggestion #2 that I thought was most interesting.
I have a 19 month old son. He is a bundle of energy and an amateur scientist (that comes from his Mom, a professional scientist). Those two things combined make him a dare devil. And I really enjoy it. I do my best to let him play with things and still be safe. We go down in the basement and he plays around in my workshop. I have shown him how to use the drill press and he can turn it on and pull the arm (only with my assistance). I let him play with my screwdrivers and drills, even my new beloved Festool CSX drill. So when I saw this talk I knew it was something that I would find interesting.
Suggestion #2 is to let a kid have a pocket knife. I honestly think that this is a really good idea, not only for the reasons that Tulley suggests--its capacity as a tool with many functions--but also because it teaches a kid responsibility. There are certain objects that demand our respect and attention, whether we are 5 or 55. A small, not too sharp pocket knife for a kid of 8 or 10, is probably the safest way to teach them that lesson. Think about it--many of the things that we do as adults are things that have far-reaching consequences. Many of those things come in our encounter with dangerous objects--guns, knives, cars, power tools, and mortgages, for example. Giving a kid a knife at around 8 or 10, when I got my first knife, a Victorinox Tinker BTW, is a great way to teach them about dangerous things. You can control how sharp it is and how they use it, but they still have that sense that something they own is powerful.
This is not a "Kids These Days" rant. We have lost faith in our kids. Kids aren't wusses. Their parents are. In an effort to prevent any pain or a second of suffering we have taught them to avoid everything. In a culture of ladders with warning labels (and yes I know that lawyers had a lot to do with that) kids aren't afraid of these things that demand our respect, they are completely ignorant of them. They don't even know they exist. And so when they are 16 or 18 and outside their helicopter parent's flight pattern, they do stupid and very dangerous things. They do not have respect for powerful objects--cars, guns, booze--and the end result is like the Dodo bird that lived on an island without a natural predator, they do not recognize danger until it is too late.
Giving your kid a knife won't just teach them how to use a tool and how to interact with things, it will also teach them how to respect objects that deserve our respect. It will act like a vaccine--preparing them for bigger danger by showing them smaller bits of danger in a controlled environment. It won't make them a killer. It won't make them a thug. The parents do that. But it might make them a little less reckless later in life.
Sorry for the political post (that's as political as I will get, I promise). Now back to the regularly scheduled program of gear reviews and discussion.