Child Safety In The Kitchen
Home kitchens contain many sharp objects and electrical appliances that may endanger a child's safety. Here are some tips on how to make your kitchen child-proof and accident-free while preparing food around small children.
If you ever get a chance to see a commercial kitchen up close, you will notice many safety practices that most people have never considered using in their home kitchens. Floors are constantly checked for spilled food or other substances that may cause falls, sharp objects such as knives are stored far away from curious hands, and chefs instinctively handle cookware with safety in mind. Whether you have small children in your home or anticipate visits from those who do, you'll want to use some of these professional practices to make your kitchen more child-proof and accident-free. Kitchen accidents can be very serious by their very nature, including scalds, burns, lacerations and electrocutions.
1. Store ALL sharp objects and bladed machines away from a child's reach. This may seem elementary, but many accidents are caused by the one item left out by mistake. The obvious time to store these dangerous items is after an organized dishwashing session, but you should also make a practice of moving knives out of reach while using them for food preparation. Get in the habit of placing your knives at the TOP of the cutting board when not in your hand. Placing knives at the lower part of the cutting area creates two dangerous situations- a child can reach the knife and cut himself, or the knife could fall off and land on a small foot or head. Never allow a child to reach into a blender or drink from one. Pour out the entire contents of the blender into an appropriate container and place the blender pitcher itself out of the way. The same holds true for any other sharp device you have used to prepare food. If you use a wire cheese slicer, place all the cut cheese on a plate and put the slicer away. It is always a temptation to slice food 'as needed', which may leave a dangerous kitchen tool unguarded and accessible. With small children, prepared what you believe to be an adequate supply of a food item, then put away the appliance before serving.
2. Think like a child. Could you reach that box of cereal and a pitcher of milk if you were three feet tall? How much effort does it take you to open a silverware drawer, and is there anything to stop it from falling completely out of the cabinet? Many accidents are caused by a child's attempt to perform an act that most adults consider routine. Adults may think nothing of putting a breadbox on top of the refrigerator, but a child who wants a piece of toast may have to stand on an unstable chair to reach it. Adults may think nothing of putting a toaster towards the back of the counter, but a child may lose his balance while stretching to reach it. A hot cup of coffee may please an adult, but a scalding hot liquid spilled on a child will cause damage. Go through your kitchen and notice what items are most and least accessible to a child. If you allow your child to prepare simple meals, such as cold cereal and toast, make sure you have essential ingredients stored at a child's level. A child should never have to use a chair or step-ladder to reach a 'safe' item. Save the obstacle course for more dangerous objects.
3. When preparing hot foods, be aware of your cookware constantly. Handles on frying pans should always face the center of the stove, not face the outside. Adults can easily reach the handles when stored this way, but children are far less likely to accidentally hit the handles and spill the hot contents of the pan. If your meal requires a large pot, keep it on the back burners. Inspect roasting pans for any sign of damage before using. Are the handles solidly attached? If you are cooking a large item in the oven, such as a roast or turkey, avoid serving it in the same roasting pan used for cooking. Remove the item and place it in a suitable holder. Carefully pour off any excess liquids or gravies that formed during cooking into a separate container and remove the hot pan promptly. Children can burn themselves any number of ways if allowed to get near a hot roasting pan, so remove the opportunity quickly.
4. Never leave electrical objects plugged in when not in use, unless they are specifically designed as such. Obviously a refrigerator should remain plugged in, but the electrical cord on a refrigerator is usually well-grounded and placed out of a heavy traffic area. Concentrate your concern on items such as blenders, mixers, electric knives and sharpeners. Children are notoriously experimental, so a mixer may appear to be a new toy to a small child. If such a device is turned on suddenly, the child may drop it out of fear. What started out as a simple experiment may result in lacerations, amputations or electrocution. If you cannot store the item in a safer place right away, at the very least remove it from the power source. Unlike some other power equipment, kitchen appliances rarely have safety locks or other child-proofing measures. A blender will go from the off position to 'pulverize' at the press of one button. A small child will easily find that button, and the results can be tragic for both parent and child.
A child-proof kitchen requires diligence, but it can be achieved with a little foresight and dedication on the part of a conscientious parent.