According to Safe Kids Worldwide, 3.5 million children are sent to the emergency room and 2,200 die from injuries that occur in the home every year. Considering that the kitchen is a commonly used space in the home filled with hot appliances and sharp utensils, a lot of those incidents naturally happen in this space. If you have a young child at home, you already know how difficult it can be to prevent him or her from getting into areas that are off-limits. Children are naturally curious, often exploring the unknown without fear or hesitation. As adorable as it is to experience their brave nature, it can lead to something dangerous the moment you turn to look away. Although we know that accidents aren’t always preventable and lessons are often learned by making mistakes, the kitchen is the place where parents need to take full precaution to ensure their child’s safety.
While the ideal thing to do is have someone play with your child while you make dinner so your cooking has your undivided attention and your child is happily distracted, most homemakers don’t have that convenience. Oftentimes, parents have to prepare meals with a young child in tow. While it’s difficult, it’s not impossible as long as you practice these 10 safety procedures for creating a kid-friendly kitchen to keep your little one safe.
1. Install safety locks.
You can purchase inexpensive plastic locks from most hardware and parenting stores for your cabinets, drawers, refrigerator and oven. Once installed, these devices will prevent children from opening things they’re not supposed to such as a fridge filled with food or a hot oven. Depending on the configuration of your cabinet doors and handles, you may be able to use latches or hooks that connect the handles together and do not require being physically installed; there are variety of styles so choose one that works best for your needs. As an option, you can choose to leave one or two cupboards accessible to your child and stocked it with safe plastic containers. Though you may have to frequently wash the containers, your toddler can enjoy playing with them while learning how to stack them and put on/remove lids. Make sure that this accessible cabinet is in an area of the kitchen where there is little traffic so you’re not tripping over your child or so things don’t accidentally fall on top of them. If you do decide to store containers in the cabinet though, make sure your child doesn’t stacked them up into a makeshift ladder to climb on top of. Soft-close drawers will also reduce the risk of trapped fingers in cabinet doors.
2. Store sharp knives in your upper cupboards.
As your toddler grows, he or she will soon be able to open drawers and reach inside. For this reason, you should take preemptive action by relocating any knives (or other sharp instruments) to a higher cupboard that will remain out of your child’s reach instead of storing them in a drawer that is waist-height. Also place knife blocks on the far counter or in an upper cabinet that is unreachable to your child.
3. Use a baby gate or high chair.
When the oven is in use, you will want to prevent your child from touching it and being burned. Because it is difficult to monitor your child’s every move, you may find that a gate across the entrance to the kitchen is useful for keeping your child restricted to the adjoining room. Just make sure that you can see you child at all times behind the gate or that someone is there to supervise. Sitting your child in a high chair in the kitchen area is also a good option to limit their access to the danger zones. Simply buckle them in with finger foods on their tray and they’ll be happily preoccupied. You can also place paper and crayons in front of them and let them get creative. Just make sure they’re not close enough to reach anything on the countertops.
4. Relocate cleaners from under the sink.
Many people typically store household cleaners under the kitchen sink and this is easily accessible to your child. Even if you install safety locks on the cabinet doors, it’s not a guarantee that your persistent child won’t find a way to get inside. If they get into your cupboards filled with pots and pans, your only worry is a couple of bruises and loud clatter from the falling pans and your crying child. If they get into your cupboard of cleaners containing harmful chemicals that can get into their mouths and eyes, you will be dealing with something completely worse. Store cleaners either in a cabinet up high or in the garage.
5. Relocate medicine and foods from low cabinets.
Although medicine containers are difficult to open as it is for an adult sometimes, you don’t want to risk you child ingesting medicine that will be toxic to them. Move medicine to higher cabinets that they won’t be able to reach and make sure the lids are properly secured. As far as food, young children put everything in their mouths; it’s their instinctive way to explore their environment and learn. Although food isn’t a dangerous thing in general, it is for a young child still learning how to chew and swallow. Everything is a likely candidate for a choking hazard. Move food containers out of your child’s reach to avoid the chances of them opening a package and filling their little mouths with food they can’t swallow. Also be mindful of foods that are poisonous to young children. For example, honey can grow botulinum spores in the body that secrete a toxin which can cause paralysis in young infants. Salt is also poisonous if consumed in large amounts.
6. Keep the kitchen floor clean and safe.
Toddlers spend a lot of time playing on the floor. Considering the fact that the kitchen floor is a prime location for harmful bacteria to grow, regularly sweep and mop the area. If a piece of food drops, immediately pick it up before your child tries to eat it. Also place non-slip rugs over linoleum or tile to avoid slipping and falling.
7. Keep electrical cables out of reach.
When a toddler sees a dangling cable, his or her first instinct is to pull it. If that cable is connected to a toaster on the counter above, that toaster can fall and injure the child. Avoid this danger by keeping all cables safely out of reach or by putting appliances away when they’re not in use. If there are outlets accessible to your child, insert plastic socket covers to prevent your child from inserting a fork, finger, or tongue in the outlet. If an outlet has a plug in it, you can purchase an outlet cover so your child can’t unplug it. Also take precaution towards any appliances with a button or switch. Children love pushing buttons and flipping switches so either move the appliance away from the counter or turn on it’s “lock” feature as most ovens today have.
8. Turn pot handles toward the back and use back burners.
A handle pointed outward over the edge of the stove presents a temptation for the child to reach up and pull it down. This will quickly cause the pan and all of its contents to fall on your child, seriously causing injury and burns. To prevent this from happening, align the handles towards the back of the stove so your child cannot reach up and grab them. If you’re also just using one or two burners to cook, use the back burners to keep the front ones cool. Likewise, if you have hot foods, liquids or grease in containers on the countertop, keep them away from the edge so your toddler can’t reach them.
9. Check your smoke detector regularly.
96% of parents say that they have a smoke alarm in the house but half of them say they often forget to check the batteries. Experts recommend that you check your smoke detector every 6 months to make sure it’s properly working. 2 in 5 home fires originate in the kitchen and most parents admit that their biggest worry when it comes to safety at home is a fire. With a busy child at home, it’s natural for minds to become distracted and if you accidentally forget to turn off the oven, you’ll want a warning before it’s too late.
10. Communicate with them.
It’s never too early to teach your children about safety. Even if you feel as though they can’t understand the concept just yet, it’ll be good practice for you to use every moment around your child as a learning opportunity; they’ll be exposed to the specific words you use and eventually, it’ll come as second nature to you to constantly narrate what you’re doing. At first, use simple words such as “hot,” “burn,” “ouch,” “no,” and “mommy and daddy only.” They might look at you with a confused expression but they’ll eventually learn if you keep at it. Once they get older and express interest in helping, allow them to do safe and easy tasks in the kitchen such as pouring and mixing, but ALWAYS supervise. They’ll exercise their fine motor skills, learn how to measure and most importantly, they’ll have fun and feel proud being able to help you cook.
By taking some simple precautions to baby proof your home, you can eliminate the majority of the dangers your kitchen can present to your young child. You can protect your child while still allowing him or her to enjoy spending time in the kitchen with you. While there is no real substitute for complete supervision, taking preventative measures to create a kid-friendly kitchen will reduce the chances of your child taking a trip to the hospital.