We allow the kids (4-6 yrs old) to use knives, often carving simple objects beside them as they whittle sticks. The task is not mastery (for child or adult), but simply the exploration of meaningful work. Some children are very strong, and can quickly hone a stick down to a meaningful point or sword. Others spend 30 minutes merely scraping off bark. Whatever they create, it has incredible value to them, and we often help turn them into wands or swords with the addition of a felt heart, a cross-bar handle, or some woven grass or willows. Simply seeing their teacher (you) engaged in a meaningful activity inspires their own creativity. Don't focus on doing it right. Be safe - that's always rule number one with a knife - but many children can learn a great deal simply by handling a knife. Even in our school, with some pretty wild and tough kids, many of the children have told us that this is the first time they have ever used a knife, even a kitchen knife (we cut potatoes for snack on Mondays), a hatchet, an axe. Basic experience with tools builds confidence. Be vigilant. Be careful. Lay some ground rules. But trust them. Children don't willfully hurt themselves, or others. Sometimes the danger of a knife blade, or a flame, brings a certain focus and attention that plastic cutlery sets and toy stoves can never induce.