Monday, January 7, 2008

Letting Toddlers Play With Knives

This great talk from Gever Tulley, founder of the Tinkering School, is a good watch for anyone raising kids in today's overprotective society.

It really resonated with me. (Spoiler warning: Watch the video before reading the rest of this post. If the link below is broken, watch here)

Of the 6 things he encourages us to let our kids do, my parents -my father in particular - encouraged *all* of them.

  1. Play with Fire: I was allowed and even encouraged to do so, including building my own rockets. He didn't even intervene in my making my own gunpowder until one of my rockets actually worked and almost knocked my neighbor off his roof when an ill-timed flight coincided with his choice of days to re-shingle.
  2. Own a pocket knife: My dad gave me both a folding pocket knife as well as a sheathed deer-bone handle boyscout knife that had been his when he was a kid. As Gever says, it was a universal tool. We whittled, carved, disected bugs, skinned squirrels (sorry peta people), peeled bark, made conkers, and a thousand other things with them.
  3. Throw a spear: I did. When we lived in South Africa i got one. Dad also bought me a bow (not a little plastic one - a fiberglass one that could put an arrow a good inch into a maple), a slingshot, and a pellet gun.
  4. Deconstruct appliances: I was always allowed to take apart any device that was going in the trash or was otherwise non-functional. I was given full access to dad's shop including all power tools from as early as I can remember. I beleive at around 9 or 10 I recall being told to "be extra careful" with the electric jigsaw.
  5. Break the DMCA: We didn't have it. But dad DID encourage questioning authority and WHY systems were structured the way they were (including the law).
  6. Drive a car: I got to sit on dad's lap and drive the car. I also was allowed to build or acquire a fair number of two or four-wheeled contraptions that had internal combustion engines, even though I was too young to legally drive them.

Anyhow. My wife and I have had numerous conversations about 'risky' activities, that usually go along the lines of "what age is it ok for him/her to be doing this/that?", and I often feel that we as a society are far too protective of our kids, and that this may be doing it's own kind of harm. This talk really helped crystalize that sentiment for me.

(Update: Fixed link in post)


Unknown said...

When I was a kid my dad and I used to play "who can shoot an arrow the highest into the sky". We had to keep our eye on it so we wouldn't get shot on its way down. One day, sure enough, he shot it so far that we lost sight of it, and we ran into the car for protection. :) Best times ever.

What's a DMCA?

Andy said...

Then "The Dangerous book for Boys" is a must read- I haven't read it yet.

Also- this sort of stuff is tough for you "city slickers." My motivation for moving to the sticks was to enable this sort of thing.

Anonymous said...


I realize you probably need to approve this comment before posting and since I only have your nonworking Microsoft email address, just wondering if you will be going to the GDC this year onn your own/to blog for your VC site? We met at last year's event and I wanted to invite you to a Canadian themed event. please send me your email address so I can give you more info. and also, please delete this comment. thanks, Alana Wagner