Child safety in the kitchen: Learning about knives and electric appliance safety

Kitchen safety with children, or how to channel your young child’s desire to help you in the kitchen.

The kitchen is a place of fascination for children. Grown-ups do such interesting things there and never want to share the fun. Of course the reason for that is that there are a lot of things in the kitchen that can hurt a child, or someone else, if the child doesn’t realize the risks. The most effective way to deal with this fascination is to explain to the child what things in the kitchen are dangerous.

Young children enjoy being able to help out, so seeing the amount of time that their parents spend in the kitchen preparing foods is a constant temptation. Rather than leaving the kitchen as an off-limits area, it may be better to explain to the child what the particular hazards in the kitchen. If they understand the dangers, while it won’t prevent them from making messes trying to cook on their own, they will be far less likely to hurt themselves.

Child safety in the kitchen: Learning about knives and electric appliance safety

The first danger that comes to mind in the kitchen is the knives. Simply putting knives out of reach is a difficult proposition: Not only are there few places in the kitchen that an enterprising and determined child can’t reach, but those of us with legitimate tasks in the kitchen want the knives to be readily accessible. Next time you are preparing vegetables, and your child wants to watch, show her how the knife blade is sharp enough to easily cut through the vegetables. Explain the care you have to take to keep the knife from cutting your fingers while you use it. Show the proper methods of using the knife: holding what you’re cutting with finger tips curled under; cutting away from your fingers; making sure that you are cutting only what you want to cut before actually engaging the knife. Make the point to your child that knives are not toys – they are not to be played with, and can cause bad accidents if they are not treated with care.

After knives the next group of items in the kitchen that you will want to talk about with your child is the various appliances. Start with the stove and oven. Explain that she is never, ever to turn it on unless an adult tells her it’s okay, and is watching while she does the action. Explain that the burners and the stove get hot when turned on, and can cause fire, or burn unsuspecting people. Once again, explain that the oven and stove are not toys, and should only be used under the supervision of an adult.

The appliances that are most tempting are those that have accessible moving parts: mixers; can openers; and blenders. The child can see what is happening, and as long as she understands she is not to touch anything while it’s on, she can watch to her heart’s content. (In my experience it takes about 2 minutes of watching dough being kneaded in the mixer for a toddler to get bored.) Explain that these tools, unlike her toys, will keep working even if her fingers get in the way, and can break bones. However, with the proper supervision a child can operate many of these tools, and letting her help will not only keep her safe, but allow her an outlet for her desire to be with you and doing what you’re doing.

In short, instead of making the kitchen off-limits better results will be had by making work in the kitchen a cooperative effort between your child and yourself. Lay down ground rules for her safety, and then the two of you can work together on making dinner.

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