Holiday Prep: Teaching Your Kids How to Work Safely in the Kitchen
by Michael Bourke
Involving children in meal preparation is a rewarding experience for the entire family, and with the holidays quickly approaching, there will likely be a lot of time spent in the kitchen making tasty meals and treats. Cooking is also a great way to educate your child about the nutritional value of healthy fruits and vegetables, with a few indulgences here and there to get in the holiday spirit, as well as safety rules to abide by when putting together delicious meals.
As adventurous and fun as cooking is, hot stoves, heavy equipment, and sharp utensils can make this area of the home hazardous. However, there are plenty of benefits in allowing your child to take free rein in serving up an epicurean delight. Consider these childproofing rules to incorporate safety into their kitchen fun as they help you make sure this holiday is yummy, merry and bright.
Clean Hands, Happy Bellies
Before preparing any meal, teach your children that handwashing is the most important step in practicing good hygiene. This not only prevents the spread of illnesses but also teaches your kids the value of cleanliness — nobody wants nasty germs on their food.
Just a little soap and warm water go a long way. Your child may even hum a tune, such as the alphabet song to make sure that the proper amount of soap is distributed on their little hands. This time of year it is common for there to be baked goods lying around (although you wish there weren’t), so make sure your kids know to always wash their hands before reaching for a treat or any food for that matter.
Give Produce a Good Wash
Fruits and vegetables also carry germs and dirt that aren’t typically washed off before reaching your local grocery store or farmer’s market. More so, you never know how many hands have actually touched the produce at the market, so a thorough cleaning can save everyone from an unnecessary foodborne illness and a holiday memory you’ll want to forget.
According to the Center for Food Safety, water does just as good a job as any bottled produce wash. Teach your little one the value of properly cleaning produce before use. Even a simple vinegar mix will help to stave off bacteria. It’s also important to keep your produce away from raw meats during meal preparation, as E-coli, salmonella, and staph can contaminate and cause sickness and other negative side effects.
Studies show that allowing kids to cook makes them crave foods with more nutritional value than junk food, which is great news with all the junk food this time of year inevitably brings. However, the use of sharp implements still leaves some parents a bit hesitant. At the same time, there are others who tout the benefits of allowing children to use sharp utensils as a learning mechanism for independence.
When the time comes to allow your child to use a sharp knife, a cheese grater, or even a potato peeler, it’s a good idea that an adult is present. Though your children will be able to show off their advanced cooking skills, accidents still happen and they will still need some supervision. Thankfully, there are great kid-friendly tools and other child-proofing items available that will give them access to show off their culinary talents.
Stove and Oven Safety
Of all fires in the home, 65 percent start in the kitchen, caused by lingering grease within the oven. Clean your oven and stove regularly to prevent overheated grease and fire causing splash points. Childproof your kitchen with Class K fire extinguishers, which are best for use in the kitchen due to their ability to quickly extinguish hot fires and cool cooking oils. Such extinguishers may also be placed alongside the nearest escape route like a window hallway for quick and convenient use.
Teach your child to never play in or around the stove as potential spillage can occur and cause serious burns. Use back burners when possible to also reduce the chance of an accident. Always make sure that pot and skillet handles are turned in and tightened, and be sure to use oven mitts when transferring hot pots and pans.
Cooking is a creative, adventurous way for kids to get acquainted with the kitchen, but safety should always come first. By teaching your children the importance of cleanliness and proper handling of equipment, you ensure their well-being while they get to make meals to remember. Bon appétit!
Photo Credit: Pixabay