The accidents that can befall children in the kitchen are particularly horrendous – from burns that can disfigure them permanently to electrocution, the kitchen is not a good place for children to congregate, period. Making a kitchen safe for children begins with keeping them out of the area whenever possible, and under no circumstances should a child ever be in the kitchen during meal preparation. Children in the kitchen not only pose a threat to their own safety, but to the well-being of adults who may be distracted while cooking, using sharp knives or operating dangerous kitchen appliances. We as adults tend to underestimate the speed with which a child can move, and our efforts to recover from distraction are never quick enough in comparison.
The quest for maximizing kitchen safety as applied to children should include the removal and storage of every single item that is feasible – kitchen knives, small appliances, cookware and kitchen cleaning supplies should all be placed in a locked storage whenever possible. If this is not practical, store as many items as possible in cabinets that are at least six feet from the floor. Kitchen items that are used infrequently can be stored anywhere in the home where children cannot access them, and will help in the prevention of “kitchen clutter” that children become so enamored with. A good house rule to implement is to demand that only items associated with food preparation be placed in the kitchen, books, newspapers, writing tools and the like only give children a reason to go where they do not belong. Practice what you preach when it comes to safety.
An adult or parent needs to look at the kitchen objectively, through a child’s eye view, and with the mentality of addressing what may be of great interest to a young inquisitive mind. Large appliances like refrigerator’s and stoves should be placed in a position the a child cannot crawl behind them. Electrical cords and outlets should be placed discretely or be prevented from a child’s access. For smaller children, child gates should be placed at each entrance to the kitchen, and a playpen or highchair can be set up on the other side of the gate while a parent engages in food preparation.
Finally, one of the most overlooked accidents waiting to happen in the kitchen is presented in the dishwasher. The scalding steam that can come from a dishwasher 30 minutes after the cycle has completed poses a tremendous threat to the safety of everyone in the home. It is best when children are in the home to wait until after they go to bed to run a load of dishes, or even better, wait until they are not present at all.