5 Tips for Staying Safe in the Kitchen
Cooking with kids doesn't have to be scary.
Excited about the idea of cooking with your kid but finding yourself stalled by thoughts of mishaps? Or maybe memories of your own childhood spills, scrapes, and stove fiascos put a damper on kitchen exploration. We get it. But we’re also here to tell you that the kitchen doesn’t have to be a scary place.
1. Know your little sous. The highest-level kitchen safety insight, in our minds, is that only you can know your kids. You decide when your child is ready for any given kitchen mission, and when they can move up to more challenging tasks. (Hello, grilling!) The Red Cross starts teaching babysitting courses at age 11, in part because kids that age begin to develop the ability to anticipate and respond to problems. But all kids are different! Good news: there’s lots to do in the kitchen, including setting timers and putting away groceries. Trust your instincts—and get ‘em busy!
2. Play kitchen dress-up! Fact: kids love having their own aprons. Double-fact: it’s also much safer for them to use kid-specific aprons, mitts, and other accessories. Dad’s old shirt may look cute, but baggy sleeves can catch fire or tangle with equipment. Outfit your kitchen team!
3. Get real about graters and peelers. Supervision is essential, as is explaining to kids that these gadgets may look innocuous, but can be as sharp as knives. With graters, use big chunks of cheese and long vegetables, and have kids stop well before they reach the end. For peelers, it’s fine to invest in the many kid-friendly product options, but more important to have a peeler that’s sharp (so it won’t slip) with an easy-to-grip handle. If you’re concerned, using cut-resistant gloves might be a good idea for your kiddos—you know them best!
4. The stovetop talk: “stop, look, and think.” Okay, not as catchy as “stop, drop, and roll,” but you get the point: Pots and pans get really hot on the stove (or in the oven). An easy way to refresh on this knowledge is to do a quick, ritual safety check with your kid’s help before you start cooking with heat. Be sure to position panhandles safely, pointed toward the back of the stove. Is there anything around the stove that could catch fire? Make sure to remove those items. Anything in the oven that shouldn’t be there? Let’s do a check before we turn it on. This should be a supervised activity, especially if you have a ceramic stovetop where burners remain hot even after the heat is turned off.
5. Master the microwave. They’re great for reheating leftover chili for tacos or melting butter for pancake batter. But the dishes themselves can also get hot. Always assist your child in getting anything out of the microwave (unless she’s tall enough not to risk spilling the contents). Even then, teach the golden rule: Always wear mitts!