Swiss-Army-knifeWhen I was growing up, part of the essential equipment for a boy was his trusty Swiss Army knife. We used to called them ‘pen knives’ but this may have been down to the local Yorkshire dialect. The attraction was the many tools packed into the handle, ready for any boyhood adventure.

I saved my pocket money and bought my first Swiss Army Knife at the age of eleven. At the time I was camping regularly with my family and the Boy Scouts. My knife came in very handy for everything from opening cans of beans to cutting new guy ropes for a tent after a storm. My brothers and I used to cycle miles from anywhere at the weekends, often having to make the odd adjustment or repair to our bikes. The flat bladed screwdriver tool saved our bacon (and a long walk home) on many occasions. This was before mobiles, so phoning your dad for rescue was never an option.

Are Swiss Army knives safe for kids?

With life, there is acceptable risk and unacceptable risk. Unfortunately there are a thousand shades between the two. I tend to be on the conservative side when it comes to my kids up-bringing. We all wear cycle helmets when out on the bikes, Josh has worn a buoyancy aid when crabbing at Mudeford Quay and when body boarding below the age of eight.

I think my wife was secretly embarrassed by me wearing a full wetsuit when down by the sea at West Wittering.  She would often comment on how there were only four people clad in rubber and several hundred who seemed to be doing fine without. Admittedly, on the family non-surfing beaches around the UK there are very few people wearing wetsuits. There is method in my madness. Firstly, I don’t have a particularly high tolerence to cold water. More importantly though, the suit increases my buoyancy and enables me to stay in the water longer. This is vital if your kids are being pulled offshore by the current, or I find myself in trouble.

I do think about the risk a lot. Even so, I reckon my kids at ten or eleven years of age are ready for a Swiss Army knife with some careful education.

Why do modern kids need a Swiss Army knife?

I was in the garden one evening demonstrating to the kids how to light a fire without matches. We were using the Weber fire pit and a ‘Light my Fire’ firesteel to generate some sparks. I showed them how to make wood shavings with my trusty knife.

I’ve shown them how to make temporary wooden tent pegs out of a local tree. How many times have you unpacked the tent only to find there are three tent pegs missing. If you are anything like us, the three rogue pegs are at home wrapped up with our sun tent. I did intend to replace them when I borrowed a few to fasten down the sun tent on a particularly windy day.

There are still a few soft drink bottles that require a bottle opener. Teaching your kids to use their own Swiss knife to open a bottle when you are sitting in a forest is great. How else do you expect them to learn this stuff? There is nothing worse then seeing a grown up with HAMS – Hopeless Adult Male Syndrome. Life skills are not just about networking and passing exams.

Everyone deserves to know how to use a  mini-screwdriver, corkscrew, can opener, cap lifter, wire stripper, reamer, punch, tweezers, toothpick, mini scissors, multi-purpose hook (parcel carrier) and a fish scaler with hook disgorger. This is just some of the stuff you will find on the Victorinox Swiss Champ.

Some basic knife safety for you

#1 – Full Attention to the Blade!
When working with a knife, give the job and knife 100% of your attention. Don’t allow distractions!

#2 – Sharp Knives are Safe Knives
Always keep your knife sharp — dull knives require more force to cut and are more likely to slip.

#3 – Keep ‘em Clean
On folding knives, always keep the lock and inside of the handle free of debris and dirt. Foreign objects can affect the lock’s integrity.

#4 – Fingers Off Limits!
Don’t check the sharpness of a knife with any of your body parts.

#5 – Cut Away, Never Toward
Always cut away from yourself whether using, sharpening or cleaning your knife.

#6 – Not a Pry Bar!
Don’t use a knife for unintended purposes (it’s not a screwdriver, hammer, ice pick or pry bar!).

#7 – Dishwasher Safe?
Do not wash your camping knife in a dishwasher.

#8 – You Are not a Ninja
Do not throw any knife unless it is designed to be thrown. Even then, beware of “springback” from a bad throw.

#9 – Let it Fall. . .
Never try to catch a falling knife, no matter how instinctive it is. Just move out of the way.

#10 – Right Tool for the Job
Learn how to use the different types of knives safely and don’t be tempted to cheat. Use the right tool for the job.

#11 – Always supervise kids with knives
I’m not suggesting you should let your kids run wild with a knife. There is a time and a place for everything.