By Daniel Sherwin
Teaching your child to cook is an invaluable lesson. Not only do you help pass on skills that contribute to a healthier lifestyle, but it is also a wonderful opportunity for bonding. Of course, the kitchen has its share of dangers. From fires to knives to invisible bacteria that are just as hazardous, there are several ways we can get hurt or ill while cooking.
By establishing the following rules in the kitchen, you can help keep your kids safe so they enjoy their cooking experiences and you can enjoy teaching them well into the future.
Always Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands may seem like a no-brainer to you, but forgetting about it can have serious consequences. There are bacteria and viruses living on everything we touch. If your children put their hands on something questionable– and, let’s be honest, you know they are– and then they help prepare your meal, the whole family is going to get a belly full of you-don’t-even-know-what-exactly.
Teach your kids to wash their hands with warm water and soap for a at least twenty seconds before cooking. They should also wash their hands after touching anything like pets, the garbage, their faces, clothes– honestly, just about anything. It’s just better to be safe than sorry. When in doubt, they should wash their hands.
Fire Safety Basics
Between 2010 and 2014, fire departments in the United States responded to over 166,000 home structure fires that resulted from kitchen equipment. These fires caused an estimated 480 deaths and 5,540 civilian fire injuries while raking up $1.1 billion in property damages. Kitchen fires are serious hazards that put your entire family at risk. In case of a fire in the kitchen, always instruct your child to leave the house; if you can’t extinguish the flames yourself, call 911 immediately. Keep a useable fire extinguisher under the sink or at hand so you can reach it at a moment’s notice.
It is also important to teach your child the following kitchen rules to help prevent fires in the first place.
- Kids should not cook at the stove until they are old enough and tall enough to stand over the stove comfortably and work with pots and pans.
- Roll up sleeves, tie back hair, and remove loose clothing that could catch fire.
- Always use oven mitts to handle anything that has been on the stove or in the oven.
- When working with pots and pans on the stove, always steady with one hand while stirring with the other.
- Move electrical cords away from stove tops and sinks.
- Never throw water on a cooking fire.
- Don’t add water to a pan with hot oil in it.
- Keep any and all fabric items– paper towels, napkins, aprons, etc.– away from the stove, oven, and open flames.
- Always unplug all cooking gadgets and make sure the oven and stove top are both off when done cooking.
There is no exact right age to tell you when your child is ready to use a knife in the kitchen. Writer Sujata Gupta started teaching her son how to use a knife as a toddler. Chef Cricket Azima instructs parents to let nine-year-olds begin with a lettuce knife. You will know when it is the best time to start teaching your child kitchen knife skills, but no matter the age, parental supervision is paramount. If you teach a child how to use one, watch over him while he does, and teach him the basics. Your child’s knife skills will develop quickly, and he will be less likely to injure himself knowing the proper methods.
Your kids will carry the lessons you pass on to them in the kitchen for the rest of their lives. By teaching them how to cook, they will be able to live a healthier lifestyle overall. Establish these rules regarding cleanliness, fire hazards, and knife safety to ensure your kitchen is both safe and happy.
Daniel is a single dad to his daughter (9) and son (6) for three years now and noticed there aren’t a lot of resources out therefor single dads, so decided to share some of what has worked for him. Every day is an adventure and a blessing for which he is truly grateful.