Teach kids about kitchen safety and start them on a delicious lifelong journey.
Children can be introduced to the kitchen and the concepts of kitchen safety sooner than you think. Yes, the safety precautions can seem overwhelming and stressful. This is especially true if you’re allowing them to help out in the kitchen for the first time.
The kitchen has been called the heart of a home. Your kids will spend lots of time in the kitchen, especially when you are cooking. But kitchens can be dangerous places. About 350,000 people are injured by kitchen knives each year according to Beaumont Emergency Hospital, and kitchen burns are also very common. Yet these dangers shouldn’t prevent you from introducing your children to the art of cooking healthy meals — and the safety precautions involved.
Here’s what you should know if you’re considering cooking together as a family.
Start Small When You Teach Kids About Kitchen Safety
Many parents are eager to teach kids about kitchen safety and cooking healthy meals as soon as possible. The good news: introducing the fundamentals of kitchen safety can begin as early as two years old.
VeryWell Family notes that kitchen safety practices can be taught quite early on. It’s important to tailor your teachings based on age and how comfortable you and your child are with certain tasks. The first lesson of the kitchen should be, Listen, Listen, Listen! It’s never OK for kids to grab items such as knives and hot pans without getting permission from an adult first.
Kids as young as two can begin to learn the basics and importance of hand washing. Children who are three to four years old can take on a bit more responsibility.
“Age three and four is a good time to have kids help in the kitchen, as they learn about food by touching it, seeing it and helping to prepare it,” says Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen, authors of the book Fearless Feeding. At the age of five to six, your child’s skill set should include a variety of simple tasks. These can include washing veggies, tearing lettuce, and mashing foods (like avocados or potatoes).
VeryWell Family goes on to mention that at ages six and older, kids may be able to assemble simple snacks. They may also be able to make simple breakfasts and even prepare their own lunch. At age eight, they may be ready to start using certain tools/appliances (such as a toaster oven), and perhaps even start using a knife. By age 10, your child will be able to follow a simple recipe as well as use some appliances. But be sure to provide adult supervision.
Kitchen Safety: Prevent Accidents with Education
Preventing the risks of physical injury is essential when teach kids about kitchen safety and how to cook and prepare food. Simple safety precautions—such as avoiding touching a hot stove or dishes—can be taught at a young age.
Other safety skills may need to wait a few years, such as teaching your child how to use a knife. Start with plastic “to-go” knives when kids are younger. The next step can be sturdier plastic knives designed for children. Later, demonstrate proper cutting techniques with sharper knives. (And also teach the risks of using knives that are too dull.) The key is to make sure children are equipped with the age-appropriate skills to use kitchen tools safely.
Similarly, because cooking is the leading cause of housefires according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, ensure that your child is educated on how to put out a fire. Fire extinguisher demonstrations and a lesson in how to call 911 are essential skills worth learning as soon as children are able.
Food Safety Lessons
Most risks for physical dangers are rather evident when you teach kids about kitchen safety. But germs also play a role, so further lessons must include the hidden dangers involved with food preparation.
Because young children can be quick to want to do things on their own, the potential for cross contamination can become a real concern. You can put your child in charge of cutting meat or vegetables. But educate them on the dangers of using the same cutting board for raw meat and fruit/vegetables. Teach them about cross contamination (and risks of foodborne illness).
By stressing the importance of keeping a clean workspace as well as two separate cutting boards to keep raw meat away from fruit and veg, you can ensure that your child is properly educated on the matter. Plus, the importance that handwashing plays in proper food preparation should be one of the first kitchen safety lessons a child learns.
Teach Kids About Kitchen Safety with the Right Tools
When introducing your child to cooking, have the right kitchen tools on hand. This can make a major difference, particularly when looking to make the experience a safe one.
For example, when you teach kids about kitchen safety, smaller hands can have more difficulty when it comes to properly handling an adult-sized knife. That’s why the risk of getting cut increases significantly. A set of plastic kitchen knives for kids is a great way to safely teach a child how to cut fruits and vegetables. (Click on the photo below to see a great set of plastic kitchen knives and cutting boards for kids.) Home Garden and Homestead receives a small commission (at no cost to you) from the sales we generate.
Similarly, using a too-large oven mitt can actually increase the risk of getting burned. That’s because a large mitt can easily fall off smaller hands. So, keep child-sized cooking tools and accessories in the kitchen—such as smaller oven mitts and kid-friendly knives. This will create a safer and more comfortable kitchen environment for your child.
Having other tools on hand, such as a stepstool, can further aid in preventing any mishaps. The proper use of a stepstool in reaching for ingredients is much safer than climbing onto countertops.
Continue to introduce your kids to kitchen safety protocols. As they age, allow them to take on more responsibility. Introduce new tools when it’s age appropriate. This will ensure a safe and enjoyable cooking adventure for your kids and the other children in your life.
Happy cooking—with kitchen safety!