Teaching Your Kids Rules of Safety in the Kitchen
Safety is a major concern for parents who want their children to be safe yet also have them be helpful and involved with daily activities around the house. This includes learning to work and helping out in the kitchen by following the common rules of safety in the kitchen. Younger children cannot be expected to take on complicated tasks such as using harsh floor maintenance supplies or shampooing the carpets after a cooking accident. However, most kids, even young ones, can learn basics such as kitchen floor cleaning, counter wiping, basic food handling safety, and more.
One of the most serious risks involved with home kitchens and meal prep is that of fire. The statistics from Cooking Proline are sobering, “Cooking causes nearly half (49%) of all home structure fires in the US. Cooking fires lead to an average of 550 deaths and 4,820 injuries. The 550 deaths make up 21% of all reported home fire deaths while the injuries make up nearly half (44%) of all reported home fire injuries.” And a recent report from Beaumont Emergency Hospital further exemplifies this with figures that show “Two-thirds of home fires start in the kitchen, 480 people die a year in kitchen fires, and 350,000 people are injured by kitchen knives each year. The most common injuries are burns, fires, and lacerations.”
While the risk of fires, cuts, burns, and related injuries and property damage is high, these are just some of the many reasons why kitchen safety must be a priority with children in the house. Here are some ways to ensure your children are ready to help with basic levels of kitchen work so they can be involved with the next celebration meal prep or Sunday morning breakfast with the family. Follow these basic rules of safety in the kitchen and you will be good to go!
Safety for Food and Supplies
When it comes to introducing children to the common rules of safety in the kitchen, food and supply safety is one of the most basic and essential of them all. Children need to know how to handle and prepare food and also store food safely. This also spills over into knowing how to use certain supplies and tools safely and correctly.
Food Storage- There are critical do’s and don’ts when it comes to working with food that all kids must know and remember. These include things like not leaving meat out on the counter, refrigerating dairy products, and learning about cross-contamination during food storage and preparation. If your child does not learn how to store food safely then they will not be able to safely make food for themselves or the rest of the family.
Food Handling- Along the same lines, children will need to learn and follow safe handling practices while they are working with food. This could be simple things like remembering to wash their hands before, to wash after handling raw meat before touching anything else, and to be mindful of any food contamination or allergy concerns that might exist in the family. Safe food handling is the key to happy and healthy times in the kitchen as a family.
Storing Supplies/Tools- Your children will also need to be exposed to safety tips that involve storing supplies and tools. How to properly store or clean the toaster, organize kitchen cabinets, and how to inspect appliances before every use. The level of independence your child has will determine how much they can use some tools and appliances but it is always a good idea to cover the bases ahead of time.
Safety Around Appliances
Most modern kitchens are full of appliances and smart tools, so making sure your children know how to be safe when using these sorts of devices is a must-have on the list of rules of safety in the kitchen. It is next to impossible to do anything more than make a sandwich without using an appliance of some kind, so don’t skip this lesson!
Electrical Safety- It is absolutely imperative that your child be taught basic electrical safety. They should know how to properly plug and unplug appliances and know not to stick anything in an electrical socket. They also need to know why it is dangerous to get cords and outlets wet and how to avoid getting shocked while using electrical appliances. It will ensure every cooking adventure ends with everyone safe and happy with no burns or fires.
Safety With Blades- There will be a lot of chopping and cutting involved with meal prep and cooking most likely. So, it is necessary to instruct your children on how to safely use knives, slicers, graters, blenders, and other appliances and tools that use sharp blades. Younger children should not be allowed to use these sharp instruments and even when they first start to become more independent in this area, supervision is a must!
Hot and Cold Safety- In the kitchen, some items are kept or served cold, others need to be heated properly to make them safe, and others need no heat or cooling at all. It is a good idea to talk with your child about what items need refrigeration, why meats and other items must be properly heated, and how to keep dry and temperature-neutral ingredients safe and clean during and after meal prep.
Safety When Cooking
Parents cannot talk about the rules of safety in the kitchen without a full lesson on safety while in the process of cooking itself. Cooking by its very nature needs heat, and that means an inherent risk of burning. Safety in the kitchen revolves around being smart with the use of cooking surfaces and materials so it is a must-have in your cooking lesson on fire safety in the kitchen.
Stove Safety- One of the most common causes of injuries aside from knife-related injuries resulting from burns at the stove. Whether it is putting a hand on a hot burner, splashing water, or getting splattered by oils and sauces, the stove can be a dangerous place for children. They must be taught how to stay back and safely use pots and pans on the stove and how to do basic things like stir, pour, and scoop food without getting burned.
Oven Safety- Ovens are also a source of potential burns and injuries due to the way they are set up. Reaching into a hot place can be asking for a burn, especially for young people. It is usually best to leave oven work to an adult and let the children be more assistants than anything else. They can still learn by watching and following the example of safety practices that their parents demonstrate while working around the oven.
Prep Time Safety- There is also the need for a safety lesson when working in the kitchen ahead of meal time. While there might not be anything inherently risky with things like measuring flour or milk or counting out eggs for a recipe, it is still a good idea to teach kids how to be safe and keep the food they are making safe to eat. Proper chilling, cooking, mixing, and serving can all come into play with kitchen safety.
Safety While Cleaning
The rules of safety in the kitchen do not end when the cooking ends. It also extends into clean-up and general kitchen maintenance and cleanliness practices. This side of kitchen safety can involve lessons on how to wipe down counters, safe drain cleaning practices, proper floor cleaning, and how to protect counters and cabinets after cabinet painting or installation.
Cleaning Practices- The saying that cleanliness is next to godliness definitely applies in the kitchen as many of the health and safety concerns revolving around food bore pathogens come down to cleaning practices. It is important that children learn how to disinfect services, how to avoid spreading germs and bacteria, and how to ensure work surfaces and tools are clean and safe to use before they begin cooking anything.
Dishes and Appliances- Keeping the kitchen area safe and clean also includes proper washing and sanitizing of the dishes and appliances used in the cooking process. It is important that kids learn how to load and run a dishwasher as well as how to properly wash dishes and items by hand if necessary. Safe cleaning and upkeep of dishes, utensils, appliances, and other tools should always be a part of your kitchen safety lessons.
Food Waste Disposal- There is usually some degree of food waste made during the meal prep processes. This could be apple or orange peels, tomato stems, pumpkin seeds, plum pits, bones, and other leftover bits of food material. You need to ensure your children know how to properly dispose of these items so they do not cause problems with germs, mold, and other pathogens that could infest the kitchen and contaminate things.
Safety for Everyday Use
The final area where rules of safety in the kitchen should definitely be enforced is with the simple everyday use of the kitchen space. Meals are not always elaborate events needing knives and blenders and three hours of oven time. Sometimes it is a quick sandwich or bowl of milk- but safe use of that milk and proper cleaning of the bowl and spoon are necessary. Lunch might mean mac and cheese- so basic stove safety and knowledge of how to safely prep and serve hot food are required. And of course, big family meals can be very involved and every step of the process means safety concerns increase. So, make sure you and your child are ready for every meal and everything that happens in the kitchen. Here are a few final points to consider for general safety for you and your child in the kitchen.
<li>Wipe up spills from ceramic tile floors or vinyl floors as soon as possible</li>
<li>Clear electrical sockets and keep them readily accessible and uncluttered </li>
<li>Follow all recipe and cooking time and temperature instructions as closely as possible </li>
<li>Use care with hot water, especially when stirring and draining after cooking is complete</li>
<li>Use pot holders and gloves anytime something goes in or comes out of the oven</li>
<li>Follow all appliance manuals and directions exactly as they are given</li>
<li>Avoid slips and falls on wood floor refinishing and slippery surfaces</li>
<li>Remain alert and watch what is happening- do not get distracted while cooking</li>
<li>Review the rules of safety in the kitchen often so they stay fresh in everyone’s mind</li>
Closing Thoughts About the Rules of Safety in the Kitchen
Safety is a major concern among families with young children. They want to be involved and ‘help’ mommy and daddy and be helpers. Even older kids who are more skilled and focused and easily be injured in the kitchen. It is for this reason every family should have their rules of safety in the kitchen and go over them often as a family.
Children learn by example and will want to mimic what they see others around them do. This includes learning to help out while also being safe in the kitchen by following the examples they are shown and by learning and practicing safe kitchen skills. Younger children cannot be expected to do risky things like clearing the garbage disposal or use a toxic sink and drain cleaner. However, most kids, even young ones, can learn a basis that can keep them and their family members safe in the kitchen. This will help make mealtime more enjoyable and less stressful for everyone involved.
So be sure to remember and review the rules of safety in the kitchen and make sure everyone in the family understands them and follows them!