Why is it, when you have friends or family over, that everyone gravitates toward the kitchen? It’s where quality time is had, it’s the warmest place in the house for conversation, it smells great, it’s where the tasty food lives. Adults recognize it as a wonderful spot for family time, but the dangers that lurk in utensil drawers and behind hot oven doors cannot be ignored. If we want to enjoy family time in our kitchens, we must teach our kids how to stay safe in them. But how?
Always Reiterate What’s Off Limits
Certain obvious facets of the kitchen should always remain off limits to kids – the knife drawers, the stove and oven, for example. Don’t just assume that your children know what not to do based on one command; assume the opposite. Often times kids’ curiosity trumps any chance of reasoning in their brains, so being a constant reminder to them is always helpful in preventing injury. Take it even further, if you like: have pictures posted on the fridge of the objects they should not touch. Be straight forward with them about why, and discuss punishment that will come if they disobey. It’s not about rules, it’s about their safety.
Give Them Certain Age Appropriate Jobs to Do
Inevitably, they’ll want to be in the kitchen with you, “helping”. Don’t turn that opportunity down! You want and need to spend time with your kids, and helping you in the kitchen will be great for them as far as quality time goes. Not only that, but you never know what seeds might be planted in their minds… they may grow up to love cooking because you invested that time with them early on. Think out important jobs for them to take on when you are cooking. Maybe your 7 year old can rinse and dry the lettuce for you, and your 11 year old can measure out ingredients. You want to cultivate any interest appropriately, while teaching them right along the way.
Talk to Them About What You’re Doing
Accidents happen in the kitchen sometimes because of a simple lack of expertise or skill. Teach your children the correct ways to do things – chop onions, clean knives, slice apples – so that your words are always engrained in their minds when they’re old enough to do it on their own. Just get in the habit of explaining things, like, “I’m peeling the apple with the knife moving away from me, because if it slips, it won’t cut my hand or fingers”.
Use Every Opportunity to Teach Them a Lesson
Unfortunately, many lessons just aren’t learned until they’re learned the hard way. Fortunately, small accidents are more frequent than big ones. Take every opportunity to reiterate the rules, especially after accidents. For example, a small cut on the hand because your teen was peeling the apple the opposite way that you taught her… explain to her that’s why you taught her differently, and that it could have been much worse.
If you invest the time and wisdom into your children when they’re with you in the kitchen, and you explain to them the “why’s” behind kitchen safety, they’ll pick up plenty along the way to keep them out of harms way.