Can Children Use Exacto Knives Safely?

Children love to do art projects and use their hands to make (and break things). They often use elmer’s glue, scissors, tape, pencils, pens, crayons, and colored markers. But what about x-acto knives? Can they use them safely? Find out in this post.

Are Exacto Knives Allowed In School?

Whether or not exacto knives are allowed in school depends on the age range of the students, and whether their parents or guardians will allow it. For students in elementary school, most likely an x-acto knife will not be allowed on campus.

For older students in high school or college, a x-acto knife may be allowed if it is brought to campus by the student and stored in their locker. It is important to check with your school’s administration to find out what is and not allowed.

Some school programs, such as collegiate courses in design, use x-acto knives to complete projects. Again this depends on the age and capacities of the students.

This also depends on what is considered a weapon by state laws. For example:

  • Colorado, USA, the 2016 Title 18 – Criminal Code, Article 1 Part 9 Section Section 18-1-901 – Definitions.

This statute declares:

(c) “Bodily injury” means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical or mental condition.

(d) “Deadly physical force” means force, the intended, natural, and probable consequence of which is to produce death, and which does, in fact, produce death.

(e) “Deadly weapon” means:

(II) A knife, bludgeon, or any other weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, whether animate or inanimate, that, in the manner it is used or intended to be used, is capable of producing death or serious bodily injury.

(n) “Public place” means a place to which the public or a substantial number of the public has access, and includes but is not limited to highways, transportation facilities, schools, places of amusement, parks, playgrounds, and the common areas of public and private buildings and facilities.

(p) “Serious bodily injury” means bodily injury which, either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time, involves a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third degree.

  • 2016 Colorado Title 18 – Criminal Code Article 12 – Offenses Relating to Firearms and Weapons Part 1 – Firearms and Weapons – General, Section 18-12-101 – Definitions – peace officer affirmative defense.

This statute declares:

(a.3) “Ballistic knife” means any knife that has a blade which is forcefully projected from the handle by means of a spring-loaded device or explosive charge.

(e) “Gravity knife” means any knife that has a blade released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force.

(e.7) “Juvenile” means any person under the age of eighteen years.

(f) “Knife” means any dagger, dirk, knife, or stiletto with a blade over three and one-half inches in length, or any other dangerous instrument capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing, or tearing wounds, but does not include a hunting or fishing knife carried for sports use. The issue that a knife is a hunting or fishing knife must be raised as an affirmative defense.

  • 2016 Colorado Title 18 – Criminal Code, Article 12 Section 18-12-105.5 – Unlawfully carrying a weapon – unlawful possession of weapons – school, college, or university grounds:

This statute declares:

“(1) A person commits a class 6 felony if such person knowingly and unlawfully and without legal authority carries, brings, or has in such person’s possession a deadly weapon as defined in section 18-1-901 (3) (e) in or on the real estate and all improvements erected thereon of any public or private elementary, middle, junior high, high, or vocational school or any public or private college, university, or seminary, except for the purpose of presenting an authorized public demonstration or exhibition pursuant to instruction in conjunction with an organized school or class, for the purpose of carrying out the necessary duties and functions of an employee of an educational institution that require the use of a deadly weapon, or for the purpose of participation in an authorized extracurricular activity or on an athletic team.”

Considering these regulations, its easy to see why exacto knives may not be allowed in schools.

So, before giving your child an exacto knife to bring to school, it is best to first check with the local and state laws regarding knives as weapons. Asking the school principal about this issue will help.

Are X-Acto Knives Allowed In Elementary School?

Elementary schools are prime places for arts and crafts projects, but also for accident prone students. Elementary school students range in ages between 6 – 12 years old. Many of these kids have not had enough growth and practice to know how to handle a sharp knife safely.

Elementary schools provide parents with a student supplies list that includes child-safe scissors that have blunt cutting tips, but usually no exacto knives.

Are X-Acto Knives Allowed In Secondary School?

Secondary school encompasses 6th through 12th grade. These have students ranging between ages 12-18 years old. By these ages, kids will have a better sense of how to handle a hobby knife safely.

However, there is the risk of children harming other kids with these knives. The blade extends for up to 1 inch or so and is extremely sharp. With today’s social media issues for kids, mental health issues may cause a problem if the kids have access to x-acto knives in class.

X-acto knives do fit the definition of a “knife” in most state criminal codes, even with its short blade. It can still be a very dangerous weapon.

Child Safe X-Acto Knife – Does It Exist?

No, a child-safe x-acto knife does not exist. In fact, no knife is child safe. They must be handled with care and a parent should think twice about letting their children handle any knife.

X-acto knives are very dangerous because of their sharp blade and ease with which they can be dropped or even thrown by a child.

However, one type of x-acto knife is best suited for being handled by children. The retractable x-acto knife has a blade that is not permenently protruding outwards and can be retracted. This makes it safer for children to use than a regular exacto knife.

Exacto Knife Cutting Mat

Should Parents Buy X-Acto Knives For Their kids?

The child, if left unsupervised is almost certainly going to cut themselves or some object accidentally.

One slip is all it takes for a child to cut their finger with one. This will then require medical care in the form of stitches or butterfly bandages. There will be many cries and screams that go along with this. If this is what parents are willing to handle, then giving their child an exacto knife to use is a good idea.

On the other hand, if parents are not willing to handle this type of situation then they should not buy their child an x-acto knife. It is as simple as that. Kids x-acto knives can be a lot of fun for children to use, but only if parents are okay with the risks that come with it.

Some hobbies require the use of exacto knives to do them well. These include some forms of model making and paper crafts. If the child is too young to handle an x-acto knife, then consider not letting them do these hobbies until they are a little bit older.

An alternative is the parent allows the child to do most of the fun hobby work, while the parent does all the cutting of specific peices or parts using an exacto knife in a supervised setting.

Good X-Acto Knives

X-Acto No 1 Precision Knife, Z-Series, Craft Knife, with Safety Cap, #11 Fine Point Blade, Easy-Change Blade System

Excel Blades Fit Grip Knife, Ultra Sharp Hobby Knife with Carbon Steel Blade, Black, Contoured Rubberized Grip

ELMERS Xacto Black Gripster Knife with Safety Cap

X-Acto Knives In Backpacks?

X-acto knives can easily cut through back pack material, so they would need to be inside a plastic case or atleast have a safety cap on them. However, the safety cap can come loose and fall off as the person moves around and the backpack shakes.

So, if you need to carry an x-acto knife in a backpack, make sure it is only for a short trip until you can get home to put it in a more secure place.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Use An Exacto Knife?

The lower age limit for using an exacto knife is not set in stone. It depends on the maturity of the child and what their parents are willing to allow. A juvenile, being a person under the age of 18 can be charged with a crime if they use an x-acto knife as a weapon.

There are other safety and legal considerations with using or carrying x-acto knives. For more information about x-acto knife rules and requirements, see our post X-Acto Knife Safety Standards.

To Close

Exacto knives are very useful hobby and craft cutting tools that can be used in variety of settings, including in some school programs. However, since they are so sharp, they must be handled with care and parents of small children should consider whether it is a good idea to allow them to be used.

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Nick Klamecki, Author
About Nick Klamecki, Author

Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use. Learn more about Nick here or connect with him on LinkedIn | Medium