KIDS & KITCHENS: HOW TO AVOID DISASTER
Few places in your home are as dangerous for children as your kitchen. The room is full of drawers and cabinets that can pinch fingers, plus outlets and appliances that, if left unattended, can put your children at risk for shocks. Do we even need to mention all of the sharp tools in your kitchen?
It’s wise to babyproof the parts of each room that will eliminate the most significant hazards. However, nothing is a substitute for your vigilant monitoring.
We’ll share some of the most impactful and simple changes that you can make to create a safer kitchen while your kids are young. Keep in mind that you do not need to purchase every safety item in the store. Whatever you choose still needs to give you access to your kitchen, or you will stop using it.
Lock Cabinets and Drawers
Putting dangerous things high out of reach is a good idea, but you will run out of space quickly if that’s your only strategy. Instead, put all of your cleaners in one place and install a lock on that cabinet. Drawers that have plastic bags or cling wrap should also be locked to protect your child from the risk of suffocation.
Kids are curious and like to explore, but sometimes they can catch their little fingers in drawers and cupboards. If you can afford it, you might look into installing doors and drawers that are soft-close because they lessen the risk of pinched fingers. They also don’t bounce back open if you close them too hard, so your little ones will not accidentally bump their foreheads on open drawers.
There are several ways that you can secure your cabinets and drawers, but one of the most popular is with magnetic locks. These handy devices attach to the inside of drawers and cabinets, so your kitchen will still look beautiful. To unlock it, place a special key over the interior magnet and, voilà, it’s open.
Bonus Tip: Stick around to find out which drawers and cabinets are ok to be kept unlocked, and why.
Outlet Safety Tips
Electrical accidents are one of the most common reasons for very young children to visit the emergency room. If you are lucky, your little one will only get a shock, but more serious electrical accidents can have devastating consequences. It is imperative that you take special care to protect your children from electricity.
All it takes is a split second for an accident to happen, so make sure that unused outlets are entirely inaccessible to kids. Removable plastic covers will work in a pinch, but they are not the best option. If you take one out to use an outlet, you have to remember to put it back in later. Also, and more importantly, you need to keep track of the plastic piece so that your child does not choke on it.
A better solution is to hire a professional to install spring-loaded outlet covers. To use a spring-loaded outlet, you have to insert both prongs of the plug at the exact same time, or it won’t open. Also, there is nothing that you have to put back in place when you are done using the outlet because the spring-loaded cover snaps back into place automatically.
Outlet safety also means paying attention to where you plug-in appliances. If you have an outlet near your stove, make sure that the appliance cord stays far from the heat. A melted cable is a danger for you and your child.
Also, make sure that you don’t leave any cords dangling where your child can reach them. It is best to wrap up any excess length and hide it from your child’s view so that he or she is not tempted to pull on it. Say, for example, that you had a crockpot full of food, and its cable dangled off the edge of the counter. Your child could be burned and banged up if she pulls on the cord and brings the entire appliance down onto herself.
Install GFCI Outlets Throughout Your Kitchen
Speaking of outlets, you can drastically reduce the risk of shock to your little ones and yourself if you have GFCI outlets in your kitchen and bathroom. Sometimes, older kids will make mistakes and plug-in appliances near water or unplug something with wet hands. Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) automatically stop the flow of electricity to an outlet if an appliance comes into contact with water or moisture of any kind, which is why it is such a smart idea to have them in your kitchen.
Many newer homes already have GFCI outlets, but if your home does not, hire an electrician to install them for you. You should make a habit of testing the outlets each month to make sure that they are still working correctly.
Not Sure Where to Start Your Childproofing?
Safely Store Sharp Tools
Part of what makes a kitchen so dangerous is the abundance of sharp tools. Other than knives, you also have scissors, vegetable peelers, blender and food processor blades, and even cheese graters that can hurt little fingers.
One way to safely store sharp tools is to secure them in a drawer with a magnetic lock. You can keep yourself safe as well with a drawer insert made for storing knives rather than storing them loose. A second option is to mount magnetic strips high on a wall where your child cannot reach them. Make sure that the magnet is strong enough to keep your knives secure, and you are good to go. As a bonus, you will free up some counter space!
Knives and scissors aren’t the only way your child could cut himself in your kitchen. If you have any glass or ceramic dishware, you should keep it stored high out of reach. Often, nice ceramic plates or casserole dishes are heavy, so your toddler could drop something and hurt his foot or shatter it and cut himself.
Latches and Locks for Appliances
Once your child is mobile, it’s smart to put latches and locks on your major appliances. If your daughter pulls down on your oven door while it is in use, she could get a severe burn. Even if the oven is off, the heavy door could come down hard on her. When she is pushing it closed, she could seriously injure her little hands if the door slams shut at the top.
There are several latch and strap options that wrap around the side of appliances like microwaves and dishwashers to keep the doors shut. Locks specifically designed to keep oven doors closed are also readily available.
The refrigerator is a surprisingly dangerous appliance for small kids. There are choking hazards inside, as well as glass containers they can shatter. If you want to go high-tech, you could secure it with an electrical keypad. Keypads also work well if you have teenagers who might be tempted to get into your alcohol when you are not around.
Childproof, But Don’t Life-Proof
You can take steps to remove some of the biggest hazards from your kitchen, but it is virtually impossible to eliminate every potential danger and still have a functional kitchen. If you are too busy to monitor your child closely, put him in a secure area near you with toys, or ask your partner to watch him.
Bonus Tip: Set aside a cabinet or a drawer where you keep safe things for your child to explore while you cook. Tupperware, wooden and rubber utensils, and plastic cups are perfectly harmless. To keep your little lady interested, change what is inside her cabinet from time to time. A baby occupied with a safe cabinet will be less interested in the dangerous spots in your kitchen.