Monday, May 12, 2008

Kids and Kitchen Safety

If the Mother's Day breakfast rush was a success, you may want to get serious with your kids about working in the kitchen. If they're going to be in there trying to whip up breakfast in bed for Father's Day, they better know something about being safe.

(Dear Heavenly Father, please don't let my kids do this for me. You know how much I hate eating breakfast in bed. Thank you.)

I like cooking with my kids. I know that it's going to take more time and planning but, I still think it's worth it. There aren't any rules that I know of when it comes to teaching kids to cook. The biggest issue is safety. No one has any fun in the kitchen if someone gets hurt and there's plenty to get hurt on in the modern kitchen.

Here are twenty rules you may want to go over with your kids as you teach them to cook. You might want them just to refresh your own memory. They're in no particular order. Be careful how you present them, though. You want your kids to be safe, not frightened.

1.Wash your hands, first.

Mother was right. Good cooking starts with good hygiene. Dirt and germs don't need to be in our food.

2.Very small children must stay out of the kitchen.

If a very small child wants to watch, set them up at a safe distance. I don't know how many times I've narrowly avoided tripping over my youngest one as I've turned away from the stove to get something.

3. Same things goes for pets.

4.Remember, there's fire in the kitchen.

There's a problem with fire. It's hot. Very hot. It doesn't have to be red to be hot. Be careful before you touch anything that might hot.

5.The fire extinguisher is near the stove.

Teach your kids how to use the fire extinguisher. Make sure you've got one that's easy to use nearby. Just don't use it on grease fires unless it's rated for them. Make sure the kid's know that it's OK to ruin dinner to avoid getting burned.

6.Smother grease fires, don't use water.

Our instincts are to run for the water when it comes to fire, but with grease fires that just makes it worse. Water and oil don't mix, even when the oil is on fire. Cover them with a lid and smother them, instead. Yeah, you might get your arm singed a little bit, but the alternative (an explosion) is worse. Definitely don't try to pour flaming grease out of a pan!

7.Hot water can burn you.

I know, that seems obvious but, I can't count the number of times I've heard, “It's just water, Dad.”

8.Keep your work area clean.

A clean and clear work area means there's less things to bump into, and less accidents.

9.Keep the stove and oven clean.

Keeping the stove and oven clean reduces the chances of a fire.

10.Keep the floor clean.

My kids like to leave their toys on the floor. They've got perfectly good shelves for them but, for some reason, they like using the floor instead. My youngest wanders into the kitchen all the time, to see what I'm doing, and leaves little presents for me to trip over. Not safe.

11.Use a solid step stool to reach things.

You need to be above the food to work with it safely. Use a solid step stool in the kitchen if you, or the kids, need to. Make it a good one that won't easily tip over. Paying $60.00 for a decent stool is a lot better than paying for a visit to the emergency room.

12.Knives are important tools, not toys.

Knives are important tools that you, and your kids, need to master. Sharp knives are much safer because they don't slip like dull ones do. Keep your fingers tucked under when chopping and slicing. The sharp end is for food, not fingers.

13.Cut one side of food flat, before you start chopping and slicing.

Round food will roll when you try to cut it. It's better to slice it flat on one side, or chop in in half, before chopping.

14.Don't leave pan handles sticking over the side of the stove.

Handles are great for holding things, but not much else. You don't want to snag them and dump scalding hot liquids, oil, or food on you. Turn those pot handles away from the edge!

15.Don't use wet towels or pot holders to pick stuff up.

Wet or oily pot holders transfer heat to small hands, fast. Large hands too, for that matter. Keep a small stockpile of dry ones, just in case.

16.Don't pick up a hot pan unless you know where you're going to put it.

17.Make sure you know which stove burners are on.

I put a glass lid on a hot burner once. I'd turned it off and didn't realize it was still hot. In a few moments it exploded. No one was hurt, thank goodness, but I never want that to happen again.

18.Kid's aren't allowed to use powered appliances or sharp things without a parent supervising them.

19.Make sure you have enough light.

Can't see? Turn on the light. Open the curtains. Do both if you need to.

20.Warn people: Hot Behind!

I've never worked in a professional kitchen, but I've been told that the phrase “Hot! Hot behind!” is a common one when you're moving hot pans. Teach your kids that if they walk up behind someone with a hot pan to warn them by saying, “Hot! Hot behind!” Do this with your spouse and it might make them smile.

Can you think of any more safety tips for the kitchen, or ways to teach our kids those rules? I'd love to hear them.


mike H. said...

The other kitchen safety issue I have to remember?
Lock up the chocolate chip cookies after we make them. My sons don't know when to stop.
Or is that me?

John Newman said...

LOL! I love it. I think it would certainly help me to stay safe in the kitchen.

As an aside, my wife and I bought a refrigerator that has the freezer on the bottom. I really like it because it makes normal fridge access easier and, let's face it, cold air goes down. The only problem is that my young children have easier access to the ice cream.

"No, honey. Put the ice cream back, please. Yes, I know you want some, but put it back in the freezer, okay?"

Claudia Davila (Fran) said...

Thanks for these great tips, John! I have another to add from experience. Actually it's a two-parter. First, keep toasters and toaster ovens clean of crumbs that accumulate at the bottom. Sometimes when I make toast, if there's an accumulation of large crumbs in the toaster, they start smoking and the alarm goes off. And in my toaster oven once they actually caught fire! (they must have been oily crumbs from grilled cheese sandwiches) Which brings me to part two: baking soda is great at dousing fire where there's electricity, like inside a toaster oven, near outlets, or even on electric ranges.

In my experience, the only way I can keep safe from cookies is to (try to) only make them when I know I'll be giving most of them away! :-P

John Newman said...

What a great safety tip! I didn't know about the baking soda thing, but it makes sense.