“Children are inherently exploratory,” Mr. Tulley said. Years ago, he added: “they were only limited by their imaginations. Now, they seem to be limited by parents.”
To be sure, many parents and educators are concerned about the inherent dangers in teaching very young children skills that require very sharp tools.
The Boy Scouts of America, for example, recommend that 6- and 7-year-old Tiger Cubs use ice-cream sticks and soap, rather than knives and wood, to learn carving.
Renée Fairrer, a spokeswoman for the group, explained: “We don’t think that most young people at that age have either the proficiency or the knowledge to use a knife. We want to get them comfortable with eye-hand coordination using an item that will not hurt them, i.e., a Popsicle stick, on a material that is soft and pliable, before going on to more advanced carving activities.”
Gary A. Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, agreed that there is reason to be concerned. He cited research that shows that the most serious woodworking injuries are from table saws, although they are relatively infrequent. “When we look at the numbers, and you compare those, for example, with something like bicycling or car crashes or things that are much more common, woodworking doesn’t reach the same level,” Dr. Smith said.
The message he would give parents: “Be really careful because of the power and potential seriousness associated with power saws and woodworking. Be mindful that your child needs to have the maturity, decision-making ability, the coordination to be able to do that safely. It should be done under trained supervision. And what’s even more important is that the type of saws they use should have automatic stopping technology.”