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8 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 “ouchy” mishaps? Or maybe memories of your own childhood spills, scrapes, and stove fiascos are putting 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.

First and foremost, only you, the parent, can decide when your child is ready to tackle more challenging cooking tasks (hello, open-flame grilling!). It’s generally around age 11 or 12 that children are developmentally capable of anticipating problems and responding quickly if they occur (that’s why the Red Cross’s babysitting courses start at age 11). But again, all children are different and there are lots of things you can do together in the earlier years to instill best practices and confidence. Safety matters—it’s one of our core values. But we also believe positive education (showing kids what to do and supervising as they practice) works far better than a long list of no-nos when it comes to instilling safe kitchen habits.

Here are eight tips for boosting your family’s kitchen confidence and for keeping your little sous safe throughout your culinary adventures:

1. Play Kitchen Dress-Up!
A kid-size apron or smock will make any little sous feel like a pro. While Dad’s oversized shirt may seem like a cute and full-coverage kitchen outfit, baggy sleeves can catch fire or get caught in stand mixers or the hot contents of pots and pans—so stick with accessories that cover and fit.

2. Just Say No to Germs.
All great chefs begin by washing their hands—and repeating. Before you start cooking, cozy up at the sink for a full 20-second soapy scrub sesh (just sing the “Happy Birthday Song” twice) and head back for more whenever you switch between handling meat/poultry and other ingredients. You’ll also want to remind kids that chefs don’t put their hands in their mouths, noses, and underpants (at least while they’re cooking…).

3. Stay Sharp About Knives.
Yup, knives are a big deal. Generally children will be ready to handle them by middle school, but again, only you know what is right for your kid. She can start practicing much earlier (we’re talking toddlerhood) by using a small, serrated plastic knife, like the ones you get with takeout. When she’s ready to advance, make sure the knife she uses is quite sharp, as dull knives can easily slide off (rather than cut into) the food and cause injuries. For more detailed how-to, we like this kids-n-knives advice from Epicurious.

4. Get Real About Peelers.
These little gadgets may seem innocuous, but they’re really just a funny-looking knife. Even the peelers “made for kids” are typically for ages 7+. There’s no problem with buying one of those kid versions, but you really just want a peeler that’s sharp (again, to prevent slipping and slicing the wrong thing) with a handle that’s easy to grip.

5. Graters Aren’t for Fingers.
Even adults sometimes nick their knuckles on a box grater, so if your child is a novice, supervision is essential. Start by reminding her that graters can be just as sharp as knives, so take things slow; show her how to keep her knuckles and fingertips at a safe distance. Using a big chunk of cheese or long veggie—and stopping well before the end—will help prevent any close calls. Consider nabbing a grater with a protective silicone hand guarddevice, or a rubber-bottomed version that’s less likely to slip.

6. Give Some Lovin’ to the Oven—and Stovetop.
Before you fire up those burners, practice a ritual safety check. Have a chat about things that could catch fire, and then make sure there’s nothing nearby that could ignite (think napkins, plastic bags, boxes of cereal, dishtowels, or stuffed animals). Before you use the oven, make sure nothing is inside, including food on the bottom that could catch fire or smoke. We suggest just having him watch and learn about oven ins-and-outs until around age eight; after that, he might be ready to practice.

7. Give Some Thought to Pots and Pans.
Before every cooking session, remind your child that pots and pans get really hot when they are on the stove or in the oven—and then remind him frequently. It’s very easy to forget and grab a pan handle or touch a side as you stir the soup or remove cookies from the baking sheet. Position handles toward the back of the stove so that they’re less tempting.

8. Master the Microwave
Microwaves are great for reheating leftover chili for tonight’s tacos or melting butter for the pancake batter, but both the dishes and their contents can get blazing hot. Your child should be tall enough to remove a dish from the microwave without high risk of spilling the contents, but even then, make it a requirement that she wear oven mitts.

Did you know? Little Sous offers a monthly themed kids cooking box that will help your family connect in the kitchen. Check out our subscription options!