I have had the privilege of becoming a parent. As a single parent I knowing how hard it can be to keep an eye on them, and learning when to intervene and when not to is a learning process I hope all us parents try to learn. After all, I feel it is our job to teach these wonderful little size people to grow into amazing independent and self reliant adults. But, they are fast when they are so close to the ground, and they see things we just did not.
Armed with curiosity these little individuals explore worlds fulled with excitement. Become rock stars with my pots and pans, world class chefs of the famous mud pie with my spoons and forks, or creative architects building towers with our dishes, chairs, and table cloths. The one thing that I do not want is for them to become experimental chemists with my cleaning products, or knife throwers or little surgeons. So, to help them explore the worlds of their imagination safely, lets put things in a proper place to try to keep them safe.
Now I know that there is not a 100% way to keep them 100% safe. In all honesty, I wouldn’t want to either. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to hurt them, nor am I wishing they get hurt. I am not Dobby from Harry Potter, who does not want to kill anyone, only maim or seriously injure. But that is how we learn and grow, by experiencing life in all its good, bad and ugly. I only want to keep them safe from things that will permanently damage or kill them. I want my children and grandchildren to live life and learn. To do that they will need to experience a black eye from the baseball that they forgot to catch. Or maybe they fell off their bike and scraped their knees and hands. (But they wore their helmet so they are safe). Learn conflict resolution through arguments and learning to communicate better next time. The kitchen is a hot spot for danger, so to keep them alive and well I want to share some possible ideas that can help.
CHILD PROOFING THE KITCHEN!
Step One: Walk in a child’s shoes.
Rule of thumb is look at the kitchen through the eyes of a child. Really. I’m serious, get down on your hands and knees and crawl around the kitchen. Open your mind and try to think like a little individual. What can I do in this cupboard? Can I climb that to see what’s up there? Ask yourself questions that are what a curious person might ask seeing things for the first time. Look for things like cleaners, chemicals, sharp tools, soap, bleach, food, the garbage can. What do you see that could cause the child to choke, to cut or poison themselves? There are many horror stories of children drinking cleaners and soaps – this can painfully kill anyone and if survived they are left permanently damaged.
You will soon discover that when children reach for an item on the counter or stove they are just trying to see what you see so high above them. It is all very innocent and they are only trying to emulate you. They want so much to learn and see what you see, do what you do that they don’t always stop and consider getting a stool to look instead of grabbing.
Step Two: Put things in its place
- Supervision is the best – if you can’t keep an eye on your precious little one while you’re busy cooking (as most of us can’t) then it is a great idea to find another spot for them. Like in a playpen out of the kitchen but still within eye shot
- Install a fire extinguisher in the kitchen (and while you’re at it, on each floor of the house). I suggest purchasing an all-purpose fire extinguisher that can be used on electrical and grease fires. Make sure you know how to use it, but only attempt to extinguish a fire if it’s small and contained. Otherwise, get your children out of the house and call the fire department from a neighbor’s home. More help with ideas on fire please go to your local fire department. They have always been helpful and happy to talk to me.
- Put a child proof lid on your trash can.Our lid had roll down clips on either side and then I also put it outside on the back step. Dispose of anything else that’s dangerous such as a sharp metal can lid or broken glass, immediately taking it out to the large city trash can if you have one.
- Keep recyclable cans and bottles in bins or bags stored out of your child’s reach or outside. I once lived in an apartment where the only outside I had was the balcony. I put the trash and recyclables out there and locked the door as always.
- Remove all cleaners, chemicals, soaps, gardening herbicides and chemical from the bottom cupboards where a child will easily reach.Many people put it in the cupboard under the sink. Keep detergents, pesticides, cleaning products, and any other toxic household chemicals, even dish soap items to high places, also put a child lock on it. I would put my cleaning stuff in the cupboard above the fridge and locked it. For places that don’t have that cupboard put the cleaners in a different cupboard above the counter out of reach of the child. I still do this as a habit, never know when grandchildren will come around.
- Gardening and mechanical stuff put outside or in a tool box in the garage. I have a lockable tool box that I put other cleaners and chemicals in and have a key lock on it.
- Use baby locks and baby latches on cupboard you do not want child in. These do not always keep these curious little ones out, they are cleaver and some learn/figure out how to unlatch them quickly. So putting things up and away is best. Out of sight out of mind! But these latches are helpful.
- Consider switching from hazardous chemicals, such as chlorine bleach and ammonia glass cleaner, to safer products, such as non-chlorine bleach, vinegar, borax, beeswax, mineral oil, and compressed-air drain openers.
- Don’t forget those bags that could cause suffocation, plastic bags and cling wrap can suffocate a child. Use a cupboard in the garage to store those, or try to put them in a drawer with a latch on it. I would put all my grocery bags and garbage bags in a garbage can and put it outside with the garbage and recycle bins.
- I have noticed many parents telling their children that vitamins are like candy, they are good for you. This gives the wrong message, in a child’s mind it is OK to have so they go get more when they feel like having a treat.Vitamins and other medications, should have child-resistant caps, and keep everything in its original container. Never transfer a hazardous product into a generic container or, worse yet, into a food container because that could lead to a dangerous mix-up. These should also be stored safely in a child proof latch cupboard.
- Store knives and other sharp tools, such as food-processor blades, in latched drawers or high cabinets. Peelers, graters, and other kitchen utensils can be sharp and should be treated just like knives. I put these with the cleaners or plastic bags depending which has more room in them. I never have a counter knife holder, its just too easy for a child to climb a chair and grab a knife.
- When using knives keep them away from the edge of the counter so child cannot reach it.
- Don’t forget glass can hurt also – glassware and china should be stored up high
- Move the toaster, coffeemaker, and all other electrical appliances out of your child’s reach. Unplug them and hide the cords when they’re not in use. I make sure they are pushed as far back to the wall on the counter as they can go.
- Choking is very common as children taste everything to learn what it is. Don’t put grapes, hot dogs, balloons, coins, or other choking hazards on low surfaces.
- Burns happen so fast so please never leave glassware, knives, or hot food and beverages unattended on counters or tables, not even for a few moments. turn the handle on the pots towards the counter not sticking out from the stove. Don’t walk away from the cooking. If you must leave the cooking put everything off, push everything to the back of the counter and make sure the infant / child leaves the kitchen with you. Don’t use place-mats or tablecloths because a child can pull them and what’s on top of the cloth– down on themselves. Remembering they can’t see what is up there.
Step Three: Leave a bit of fun.
In the bottom cupboards I left one for metal pots and pans. My child was a regular rock star, playing me the clash music with excitement,this is great for the child’s development. Something as simple as banging pots and pans and make all types of noise helps to develop a little mind and creativity. I would also use the other cupboard for metal baking pans such as muffin tins, cookie trays, cutting boards. Large unbreakable items that they can touch and you have no fear of them seriously hurting themselves. If you have many bottom cupboards please make sure nothing dangerous is in them (as listed above) and have child locks on the ones you don’t want the child to get into.
Actually none of my bottom cupboards had locks on them. I always had items in them that were not breakable or dangerous. I had one cupboard with the breakfast cereals and baby cookies. One had the towels and table cloths and wash cloths in, two were designated for the baking dishes and pots and pans and lids. The last on was the Tupperware cupboard.
Please consider leaving at least one cupboard free for baby to investigate and play in. My child loved playing hide and seek in the pots n pans cupboard. Pick a cupboard that is not too close to the stove and fill it with safe but interesting objects. Think plastic storage containers, metal pots n pans, metal pie plates, empty clean yogurt or cottage cheese containers. Large wooden spoons they can use as drum sticks.
Sometimes I would take all those items out of the child cupboards and put in pillows just to give the child a surprise. After a couple of days, I would replace the pots n pans and stuff. Sometimes I would change the order of the cupboards, my little angel would get confused and even spend time putting things back in the original cupboard. This is a great development skill to change things up from time to time. Changing things up with safe items can bring a huge amount of delight to your child as this is their entire world – low to the ground adventures that are safe.
Step Four: Extra Ideas
- When cooking use the back burners and always turn handles back towards the wall – away from where child could grab.
- You can purchase latches for doors to the oven, microwave, and refrigerator, and also knob covers for all stove knobs so your child can’t turn on the burners. If you have a gas stove, you may be able to easily remove the dials when you’re not cooking.
- Close your dishwasher when not in use. Dishwasher detergent can be toxic if your child eats it, so don’t put any into the dishwasher until you’re ready to run it.
- Use the straps when your baby’s in his highchair, and never leave him unattended.
- When carrying a hot beverage in one hand, don’t attempt to hold your baby with the other. (And make sure you know where your baby is when you’re carrying something hot so that you don’t trip over them.)
- Consider equipping your kitchen faucet with an anti-scalding device or setting your water heater to 120 degrees or lower. This is also a good idea for the bathroom.
As always supervision is the best, play with you little angels often and show them what you are doing so they don’t have to reach. I would let my little one stand on a chair that was next to the counter but pulled away from the stove, (but not so ridiculously away that they were in another zip code, just enough they couldn’t stretch out an arm and burn themselves.) then we would “cook together”. I would put some ingredients beside where she would be standing and ask her to pass me the ingredients as we cooked. These wonderful individuals love to help and love to feel helpful and needed. So have fun, be creative in how to involve them in your tasks, and be safe. I wish you many happy cooking memories together.
Picture of kitchen if from The 36th Avenue