Protecting Kids in the Kitchen
As mentioned earlier, the kitchen is a wonder life-laboratory for children. However, the kitchen has many potential hazards due to the potentially dangerous nature of the activities required to prepare everyday meals. The obvious fire, electrical, and burn hazards easily come to mind, but mishandled knives and improperly prepared or stored food present hazards that could also harm our little ones.
One of the challenges parents might have is slowing things down and taking time to explain the less obvious aspect of kitchen safety. We take for granted the skills we developed over the year that are second nature to us, not realizing the kinesthetic challenges our younger counterparts are having because they are still developing hand-eye coordination. The key here is to go slow and ask them questions, or to “mirror back” what you have said and demonstrated.
In my Kid’s Kulinary Boot Kamps, we start with safety first. I provide age appropriate handouts for the students (10 to 13 years old) and require the parents to review them with their children. Take time to sit down with your child after you have finish cooking together and discuss any challenges they think they had, what they enjoyed most and they struggled with, as well as appropriate safety reinforcement point.
Below are some MINIMAL safety points your child should be able to understand and verbalize. This list is far from being comprehensive, so put some thought into coming up with your own safety considerations applicable to your kitchen and cooking style.
General Kitchen Safety for Kids
Never cook in the kitchen alone. Ask an adult to supervise.
Never allow electrical cords to hang over the edge of counters.
Never hang tea towels or clothes over the stove, toaster or other appliance.
Keep your oven, grill and deep fryer clean. Built up grease can easily start a fire and is the number one cause of kitchen fires.
Keep all electrical cords away from water.
Never place anything wet on the stove, microwave or other appliance.
Keep the toaster clean and away from curtains, tea towels and oven mitts.
Never overload electrical sockets.
Never leave cooking foods unattended even for a minute.
Never answer the phone when something is cooking. Let the answering machine pick up and call back when you are done.
Wipe up all spills immediately. A wet floor is dangerous.
Be certain that walking areas are always clear of toys and other items.
Use a step-stool to reach high places.
Store beaches, cleaners, detergents and all other chemicals in a safe place away from food prep areas.
Remember, protect that special gift we call “our children.” Keeping them safe will help provide an environment conducive to a positive learning experience.
Chef David Hall Thyme for a Chef, LLC www.thymeforachef.com