Cooking Safety Tips for Kids: Guidelines for Keeping Children Safe in the Kitchen
Keeping children safe while you're bustling around in the kitchen can present a serious challenge, especially if, like me, you tend to be totally focused on what you're doing. Young kids may be unaware of the many hazards a kitchen presents. The shiniest, most alluring objects are often the worst hazards - like sharp objects, poison and hot pots and pans. There are also fire hazards and some dangers you wouldn't necessarily expect. Kitchen safety means making your cooking area kid-friendly, but also staying aware of your kids even when you're concentrating on preparing meals.
Basic Rules of Safety for Kids
- Know your child's capabilities when it comes to handling and reaching for objects on the counter or stovetop, or hanging from the walls - but also expect them to change. Don't assume that just because they can't reach something dangerous today, they won't be able to reach it tomorrow.
- Teach your child to use safety precautions in the kitchen repeatedly. Avoid assuming he or she understands everything, even if told before. Repeat safety instructions each time you cook until the child knows and understands them well.
- Never leave kids alone in the kitchen. Even with a perfectly child-safe kitchen, there's still a chance they'll find a way to hurt themselves or get into something unsafe when unattended.
- Make sure your kids are fully clothed in the kitchen, including wearing shoes. Avoid loose clothing.
- Make use of child-safe gates and cabinet safety latches not only to keep kids away from kitchen hazards, but to give them a safe zone to be in while you're busy cooking.
- Keep a well-organized kitchen. The less clutter there is, the less likelihood children will accidentally gain access to something hazardous.
- If kids help out in the kitchen, don't let them work on surfaces they're not tall enough to see. Elevate them on a stool if they can't see the countertops or tabletops.
- Put away your tablecloths and placemats around very young kids. Young children tend to tug on these cloths, and dishes tend to come tumbling down.
Kid Safety With Hot Objects
- Keep hot pots and pans away from children. Even pots and pans you don't think are heavy can be too unwieldy for young kids to manage safely, so don't let young kids hold them, even with potholders.
- Keep cold pots and pans away from children, for good measure. Don't let your kids play with them or pick them up. Playing with cooking implements encourages them to treat them as toys.
- Keep young kids out of reach of the oven and anything else that gets hot. Even if your oven door is insulated and doesn't get hot on the outside, your young child should not get into the habit of touching it, or he or she may end up getting burned when the door is open.
- Warn your kids regularly about hot appliances, utensils, dishes, steamers, food, other hot objects, as these objects may seem safe when they are cool, but become burn hazards when they are heated.
How to Prevent Poisoning in the Kitchen
- Poisoning is a kitchen hazard in at least two areas: food poisoning and chemical agents.
- Keep safety cabinet locks or latches one the doors of cabinets that hold cleaning supplies or other chemical agents.
- Avoid setting cleaning agents or other toxic chemicals on a counter where kids can reach them. Be aware that kids grow fast and what they couldn't reach yesterday, they may reach today.
- Keep kids away from fire extinguishers.
- Keep an eye on your kids even if you have safety cabinet latches.
- Avoid letting your kids taste pre-cooked or not-fully-cooked food that contains eggs or meat.
- Wash your hands before you prepare any food--and the same for your kids who might handle food.
- Each time you or your kids touch raw meat, eggs, or old food, wash hands.
Fire and Oven Safety
- Keep kids away from ovens. Ovens present both a burn and fire hazard.
- Make it a rule to wear short sleeves and no loose clothing in the kitchen--both for you and your kids. Loose clothing can catch on fire.
- Keep flammable objects, such as paper towels, away from ovens and hot appliances.
- Avoid frying in deep fat when children are present.
- When you use or keep pots and pans on the stove top, make sure the handles are turned toward the wall, away from the edge of the stove.
- Clean all grease stains from the exterior of the oven, including the stove top, oven door, duct and exhaust hood.
- Do not douse grease fires with water--this feeds the fire. Starve the fire of oxygen. If the fire is in the oven, keep the oven door shut. If the fire is in a pot, cover the pot tightly.
Keep Kitchen Floors Safe for Kids
- You may not imagine that your kitchen floor is dangerous, but it can be.
- Keep the kitchen floor dry and grease-free. Don't leave spills on the floor even for a minute when there are kids around.
- Make your kitchen a no-running zone.
Keeping Kids Safe Around Heavy Objects
- Don't let kids handle heavy objects.
- Be aware that objects that don't seem heavy can still hurt your kids if they fall on them. This includes regular as well as heavy-duty dishes, cans, bottles, glasses, and small appliances.
Appliances: The Unnoticed Hazard
- Appliances such as mixers, electric rice steamers, and coffee makers can present a hidden hazard. They can present an electrical hazard, a burn hazard, and a heavy-object hazard.
- Keep kids away from hot appliances when they're in use.
- Keep toasters, blenders, and other appliances unplugged whenever you're not using them.
- Read all instruction manuals to see if the appliances are kid safe or not, and follow all safety instructions. This is true for all appliances, but especially for microwave ovens.
- Never let children use microwaves if their height is at or below the level of the microwave door. Their faces must be higher than the microwave oven.
- Keep all cords and cord ends away from the edge of table tops and counter tops.
Beware of Sharp Objects
- Keep sharp objects far away from kids who are too young to handle them safely.
- Sharp objects include not only knives, but can lids, soda cans (the tab opening can be razor sharp), opened cans, and stove burner plates that have corroded.
- Limit young children to non-sharp knives, such as plastic knives, for chopping and cutting food.
- Put sharp knives and utensils face down in the dishwasher rack or dish rack.
- Always use a cutting board, not a plate or the hand, for cutting and slicing food.
- Don't mix sharp objects in with non-sharp objects in a sink full of dishes, since it's too easy to cut yourself. You should follow this rule yourself as well as if your kids are big enough to do dishes or reach into the sink.
- For older kids who have some dexterity, a safer way to cut may be to use a fork to secure the object, then cut with the other hand. This keeps fingers out of the way.
Kitchen and Child Safety Resources and Links
- California Department of Real Estate Kids Korner: Kitchen Safety
This page links to websites with kitchen safety tips for the family.
- USDA on Cooking in the Kitchen With Kids
Describes ages at which children can perform different functions in the kitchen.
- BBC Guidelines for Cooking With Kids
Extensive website by the BBC with guidelines for cooking with children.
- FireSafety.gov for Kids
Learn from the U.S. Fire Administration for Kids how to keep your children safe from fires in the home.
FEMA: How to Keep Kids Away from Cooking Areas
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