Without a doubt, the kitchen is the most dangerous room in the house. Behind every closed door is the potential for injury or even death. So, as a parent, one of my priorities has always been kitchen safety for kids.
According to the US Fire Administration, 30 percent of all house fires start in the kitchen. From 2008 to 2010, residential cooking caused an average of 165,000 house fires annually, resulting in more than 330 deaths and upwards of 10,000 injuries. But it’s not just fires that make the kitchen such a scary place. It’s knives, poisons, appliances. Everything has the potential to cause injury or even death, especially for a kid. But it doesn’t have to be that way if we teach our children kitchen safety.
Kids are very curious by nature. They like to explore, and they like to find new things hidden behind closed doors. The kitchen is the room with more doors than any other in the entire house. So, naturally, it’s the one place in the house where kids always want to go. Four bedrooms, a basement play room and a dining room full of Lego bricks, and, of course, they WANT to be in the kitchen.
So What Do We Do About It?
Certainly we could lock the doors to the kitchen; but most homes nowadays have an open floor plan, and there are no doors to lock. We could put up a gate to keep the kids out, but having to climb over it every time you need to get something can be a pain. Not to mention, the way that my kitchen is set up, there is no spot to really attach a gate. Which really leaves us with only one viable option for keeping our kids safe in the kitchen: door and drawer latches.
When we installed them in our house, we made sure to get ones that were difficult for my wife and me to get open. That way we knew that it would be next to impossible for a child to get in. The other thing that we did was to NOT put them on every door. Some things are a little more dangerous than others are, so it made sense to put latches on the cabinets with cleaning supplies but not on the one with all the storage containers. Our thinking was that if our child wanted to get into a cabinet, he could go into the one where he was not going to get hurt. Of course, now all of our storage lids are missing, but at least we never had to call poison control. Our kids never really needed to see what was in the other cabinets because they liked the one that they could go into.
Cabinets aren’t the only things that appeal to kids in the kitchen. We buy these fancy stainless steel appliances, and to the kids, these appliances are like shiny beacons of temptation. Anything that can be opened by a child WILL be opened by a child. That means the refrigerator, the freezer, the stove, the dishwasher … EVERYTHING. You need to make sure there is nothing in there that will harm your child. I never worried about the refrigerator so much; I was always more concerned with the dishwasher and the stove. The dishwasher has all of those dirty knives, and the stove has the potential to blow up the entire house. Maybe I am exaggerating a little, but if the gas is somehow left on by the hands of a little kid, we could certainly have the potential for disaster. Only put knives in the dishwasher when you are ready to wash them, and, if you can, remove those knobs from the stove and only use them when you need to.
The smaller appliances on the counter top can be a danger as well. Always leave them unplugged when you aren’t using them. We don’t need to see a child sticking a hand into a blender or playing a game of operation while trying to remove a waffle out of a toaster. Push the coffee pot back against the wall when in use so as to not scald a child who might accidentally grab it.
A lot of children’s kitchen safety is common sense stuff. Obviously, you would never leave knives lying around everywhere or leave all of your cleaning supplies where a child could get a hold of them. You need to put things away. Also, you should probably have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case a fire does start.
While childproofing is an important part of the safety process, it’s only half of what you should be doing. It’s obvious that locking things away and making them off limits to the kids can work in theory, but the most important thing we can do as parents to promote kitchen safety is to make the kitchen a not-so-scary place. As parents, we need to make the kids as comfortable as possible in the kitchen from an early age. The earlier that something like this happens the better. Think of it along the same lines as potty training. The sooner it happens, the more normal it becomes, and you don’t need to worry about accidents when you have it taken care of early. You could say the same thing about teaching children kitchen safety.
How do we do that?
- Get your kids involved: Obviously, much depends on your kids’ ages; but even early, little kids can think they are helping by pretending to mix things in a bowl. Give them a couple of spoons and maybe a bit of flour, and let them “cook.” Sure, it might get a little messy at times, but much like potty training, it won’t always be that way. The earlier they get involved the more likely they will be willing to help and become more aware of their surroundings.
- Introduce knives as carefully as possible: Never let kids use one unattended, but at least let them know never to cut toward themselves and not to grab a knife by the blade. Let them use a butter knife that is dull so they won’t accidentally cut themselves.
- Show them what certain appliances do: Kids will listen, but nothing resonates unless they have a visual. We can tell them that the stove is hot, but unless they see it, they won’t really know. Short of touching the heat, let them see how hot it can get.
- Let them see what is behind the closed doors: Tell them about the dangers that you are locking away. If they are anything like my kids, they will look at it once, become bored and move on.
- Always supervise your kids: Let’s face it, things will inevitably happen and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Communication is BY FAR the most important thing that we can do when it comes to promoting kitchen safety for kids. We can hide everything, but that doesn’t mean that the dangers aren’t still there. Having your kid know what the dangers are will give you better piece of mind. And who knows, maybe one day they will make you breakfast in bed.