I am doing an OU degree course in design and innovation and although I’ve only really just started it (I’m halfway through the first module) I’m finding some bits of it really interesting.
For my last assignment I was asked to think of 5 everyday problems thinking about who they affect and why they are a problem. I wrote about those awful plastic cards that you get when you join a club, a gym and also the loyalty cards that seem to ooze out of your purse and wallet. I have 4 children and a husband so we have 6 cards for a lot of things and they drive me nuts. I forget them, I loose them and I really don’t like them. This, to me is an anti-brand item that I am forced to carry them around to gain entry and get discounts. You would have thought that in this day an age of this huge revolution of technology where everything thing is ‘online’ and in your phone that handing out plastic cards is a bit archaic really. Old fashioned and a bit odd. I want to swipe my phone and have less stress. Also there’s the environment issue – how many of these awful cards get thrown into landfill? My children have fab imaginations and I really do try to upcycle where I can but even we can’t think of alternative uses of these plastic cards.
That’s me on my soapbox, the one with the bulging wallet that, unfortunately isn’t because of money.
Another problem I identified was that of an adaptive sharp knife for H to use to cut meat and chop vegetables.
Now I assumed this would be quite a straightforward proposition to put to my group (we were put into groups to discuss our problems and then we had to chose one to work on). H has fine motor issues, weak muscles in his hands and coordination problems so, as you can imagine, using a knife can be a bit perilous.
We have adaptive cutlery for H to use that has helped enormously with the way he holds his knife and fork.
These are called ‘Caring cutlery’ and they are ergonomically shaped to how a knife and fork should be held and H loves them.
I thought he’s have an issue with them as they are larger than his brothers knives and forks but he’s a very practical chap in that if something helps him he’s all for it, especially when it comes to eating as it can be quite embarrassing when you can’t cut your food.
We’ve worked with an occupational therapist who gave us some fab tips and exercises to help ‘unlock’ H as the top of his body doesn’t really talk to the bottom and the left certainly doesn’t talk to the right. Using a knife and fork requires you hands to do 2 different actions and this is where H’s coordination issues really gave him problems.
He’s much better because of the cutlery. He’s more independent with his food, less embarrassed about his food issues and less stressed about eating away from his family.
Design has been great for him. Innovation is marvellous.
So I thought proposing an adaptive sharp knife for children like H to use but also as a ‘first knife’ for children in general.
To say that the reaction of 2 people in my group surprised me is a bit of an understatement.
They said that it was a huge safety issue (it is I do see that) and that that would cause problems, that it wouldn’t be worth investigation due to the child safety implications and that children shouldn’t really be using sharp knives?
I was astounded.
I am not particularly liberal in my child rearing views I like to think I adopt a ‘sensible’ approach in that if my children need to do something as an adult then it’s probably my job to give you a step by step guide to it in a safe environment to enable them to be independent and confident with that skill when they’re older.
T is apprehensive about talking to people he doesn’t know so we ask him to buy items from cafes where he feels comfortable. He has to deal with speaking to people, using money and being independent from me and Hubbie. This is a skill I could ignore and say ‘he’ll just get better’ but it’s a skill he doesn’t have that he needs help to learn so we take tiny baby steps to help him get there.
Using scissors is another one of my bug bares. Children are absolutely marvellous at carrying scissors around a space yet seem to find the idea of using them quite alien. When I teach my sewing classes (I’ve written about this before) they don’t have the strength to hold the scissors, to cut the fabric and the technique to keep the fabric on the blade as they cut and open the scissors to enable to cut a clean line. It seems they know all about the safety but not about actually using the ‘dangerous’ scissors?
My guys use my sewing scissors when they sew. They are proper dressmaking scissors with very sharp blades that they know if they are silly with (they never have been) they will hurt themselves. I’ve shown them the cut I had when I wasn’t looking properly so they really do know what the scissors are capable of.
My children can be a little feral, especially since they have been home educated. We are out of the clinical and sterile environment of the classroom (don’t forget I was a teacher so I was part of this environment too) and they run, jump, jump off things they probably shouldn’t, use sharp knives to cut and prepare their food. They make decisions that matter and not just contrived ones that I really don’t mind about the outcome.
I wait a few more seconds before intervening to see if they can solve the problem, work out the issue and see that a certain situation is probably a bit too dangerous for them. Yes T doesn’t always evaluate as he is incredibly impulsive but me constantly telling him ‘NOOOOOO!!!!’ before he does things really isn’t going to help him.
So back to the knives.
We do need a sharp knife for children
(there probably is one but that wasn’t the point of the assignment and I am writing about the reactions to a sharp knife rather than the solution).
I remember sitting on the backstep of a house we lived in crossing the bottoms of brussel sprouts with my mother. I copied her and held the knife blade towards me and used it as she did. I never once cut myself and I was, probably, around 5.
We need to teach them something dangerous in a calm and controlled environment otherwise we are adding to the danger when they do eventually get their hands on a sharp knife. H will be more dangerous if he is just left to figure out the knife for himself and he will cut himself and probably badly.
Keeping children away from danger is sensible but not if what we are protecting them for is actually a life skill they need.
Children need to know that fire’s are hot, that water can scald, that ovens are dangerous. They need to know scissors can cut you quite badly and that jumping off walls can really hurt. They need to learn evaluation skills and, it is true, they need to learn from experience and if they don’t have the experience we are, surely, making life more dangerous for them in the long term.
Yes knives can be dangerous but with knowledge children will learn to make them safe.
We need to let children use sharp knives.