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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Potato Peelers or Knives for Forest Schools?


I’m not convinced of the usefulness of the potato peeler in introducing children to carving or knife use, the only thing you can realistically do with a potato peeler is to peel bark from sticks and even then only if it soft. Simple tasks like the preparation of a stick for marshmallow toasting lend themselves excellently to being a child’s first experience with knife use and if suitable supervision and assistance is provided there will be no safety issues. If the course is long enough even young children can become confident in the use of edged tools.

A child would certainly struggle to do this with a potato peeler. I think the reason for potato peelers being suggested as an alternative to knives in the first place lies with the health and safety mad culture that has become evident in recent years, But if properly supervised and instructed and provided with knives appropriate to their age; ie small short bladed whittling knives, or paring knives for food preparation children can be allowed to use knives safely and you would be surprised just how able and confident they become with them in short order and also how much they respect knives and tools. 

This picture shows my son and daughter helping each other cut shaggy parasol fungi we had foraged earlier that day.




  1. Hi there I am a product design engineer (GSofA). I am currently working with forestry enterprise and primary outdoor education in Scotland. I am working to develop a suitable blade for ages 8-12 in a outdoor classroom environment. Due to concerns (however unwarranted) and ratios an open blade is not an option. What was specifically wrong with the peeler : what cannot be done and why? Thanks for your help.

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