Baking pumpkin pies and whipping up some of your other favorite family recipes with the kids requires more than a dash of this and a spoonful of that. A heaping of supervision and a generous serving of patience will go a long way this Thanksgiving when it comes to keeping things safe with and around the little ones. And though things tend to get hectic during this season, it's important for children of all ages to receive close adult supervision at all times in the kitchen.
“Thanksgiving is a holiday that generates a lot of great memories for children – and often they begin in the kitchen, where they learn the art of cooking in a fun, festive way. But without the proper safety practices, it can also be a potentially dangerous experience,” says Martin Eichelberger, M.D. CEO of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. “It's imperative that parents and guardians keep a close eye on the kids and set strict rules well before any aprons are put on and any bowls are licked.”
The National SAFE KIDS Campaign recommends the following tips for keeping children safe as they learn to help out in the kitchen:
- Be sure you've taken essential safety steps, such as having a fire extinguisher nearby and posting emergency numbers near the phone, before introducing a child to cooking.
- Never leave a child unattended in the kitchen. Close supervision is essential, whether children are helping an adult cook or simply watching.
- Never hold a child while cooking.
- Put pots and pans on back burners, and turn all handles toward the back of the stove.
- Use caution when heating food and liquids in the microwave.
- Supervise your child when he or she is near or using a microwave, and never let a child under age 10 remove heated items from the microwave.
- Make sure you and your children wear close-fitting clothing when cooking.
- Never leave cooking food unattended – it is the number one cause of house fires.
- Place hot foods and liquids away from the edges of counters and tables.
- Pay particular attention to items sitting on tablecloths or placemats, so that young children cannot pull hot food or liquid down and scald themselves.
- Unplug appliance cords when not in use, and keep them tied up and out of children's reach.
Age-Appropriate Tasks for Children
Since each child is different, it is important for parents and caregivers to consider the developmental level and abilities of their children when it comes to assigning kitchen duties.
Generally, children under age 10 don't fully understand what danger means and therefore should not handle the stove, electrical appliances, sharp utensils or hot dishes. Children can begin helping in the kitchen with basics like washing vegetables and fruits, or other tasks that don't require sharp knives, appliances or heat.
Following are suggested activities and age guidelines the National SAFE KIDS Campaign recommends parents review to help keep the kitchen a fun, safe place for the family. With close adult supervision, children:
Over age 5 can:
- Stir ingredients together in a bowl.
- Rinse foods under cold water.
- Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes in dough.
Over age 9 can:
- Use a butter knife or plastic knife to spread peanut butter or slice soft cheese.
Over age 10 can:
- Squeeze garlic from a garlic press.
- Use electrical kitchen appliances such as blenders, food processors, electric mixers, microwaves or toaster ovens.
Ages 12 and up can:
- Chop or slice with a paring knife.
- Turn stove burners on and off and select oven temperature.
- Flip pancakes on a hot griddle.
- Place a tray of cookies in the oven.
- Peel vegetables.
- Use an electric can opener.
- Shred cheese with a hand grater.
Older children can take on more responsibility in the kitchen.
Children over age 14 can:
- Operate the stovetop without adult supervision.
- Drain cooked spaghetti into a colander.
- Remove a tray of cookies from the oven.
Article by The National SAFE KIDS Campaign which is the first and only national nonprofit organization dedicated solely to the prevention of unintentional childhood injury — the number one killer of children ages 14 and under. More than 300 state and local SAFE KIDS coalitions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico comprise the Campaign.