In most of our houses, the kitchen is at the heart of family life. It is also one of the more challenging rooms to make safe for your children. There are many hidden dangers in the average kitchen, but you can keep your children safe with careful planning and well-thought-out changes.
Here are some guidelines for creating a safe, practical environment in the kitchen:
• Store glasses, crockery, precious china, and crystal ware in a lockable cabinet or up high and out of reach.
• Be aware of the dangers of household cleaning products. Insect repellent sprays, rat or cockroach poisons, floor and sink disinfectants, floor cleaning acid, glass cleaners, anti-grease and anti rust solutions, strong detergents, hard water softeners for your dishwasher and water filter cleaning solutions are all potential hazards. Try to select the least toxic, and store them in a safe place, locked away from your child’s attention. Don’t forget to wash your hands after handling any of these toxic substances.
• Keep knives and other sharp tools, such as electric mixer blades, tin openers and graters in overhead storage cabinet or locked drawers. Sharp edged utensils, glasses, large pans or griddles should be kept in a safe place. Of course, some babies are able to work out safety locks. If your baby does learn how to unhook a safety lock, you’ll need to rethink how you store potentially hazardous items. You could lock up everything that is potentially dangerous, or relegate all dangerous items to out-of-reach storage areas. Check out our childproofing checklist for more details.
• If you have an open-kitchen plan, you could even keep your baby out of the kitchen with a safety gate, but if you decide to do this, make sure you can still see what she is getting up to while you are working in the kitchen area.
• Place glasses, knives as well as hot food and drinks, away from the edges of counters and tables. Do without place mats and tablecloths because a child can pull them — and their contents — down on herself.
• Once the cooking is done, ensure that you do not leave hot tawa, pans, and other cooking utensils in the kitchen sink. Pour water to cool down the utensils.
• Ensure that any leftover oil after deep frying is kept in a safe place where your child cannot reach. Freshly boiled milk should be kept in a safe place away from your baby. Use a mesh cover to prevent insects from falling into the hot milk.
• Avoid using open baskets or trays to store fruit, chillies, onions, garlic or other vegetables.
• Water used for cooking, should be stored in closed bottles or buckets and containers with lids. Never let your baby play around open containers filled with water.
• One idea is to set aside at least one cupboard or drawer that is safe (and away from the gas stove hob and oven) for your child to open and explore. You’ll probably find that she no longer tries to discover the contents of the others, unless you leave the doors open. Store safe but interesting things there, such as light saucepans, wooden spoons, steel or melamine plates, and empty plastic containers. Occasionally change the contents to give your child a surprise.
• If you have a modular kitchen where the drawers and shelves are fitted with wheels, it is wise not to allow your child to open it on her own. The drawers roll in and out quickly and may crush your child’s fingers.
• Use the back burners in a four-burner gas stove as far as possible. When you are using the front ones, turn the saucepan or the pressure cooker handles toward the back. You could also place your gas stove on a high counter away from the reach of your baby. Remember to keep the gas stove atleast a couple of inches away from the edges so that your baby cannot reach the gas knobs.
• While cooking, ensure that your clothing is not easily flammable. Always tuck your saree or dupatta carefully and do not let it hang loose anywhere near an open flame.
• Most dishwashers and microwaves have a child lock, however if yours doesn’t, keep it locked, with safety catches if possible, when not in use.
• Install a fire extinguisher where the risk of fire danger is greatest, such as in the kitchen or near the main electricity unit. But only attempt to extinguish a fire if it is small and contained. If you do have a fire, it is essential to get your children out of the house immediately and dial the firestation number from your cellphone or a neighbour’s house.
• Never leave children unattended when they are in high chairs. And always use the safety harness. If your chair doesn’t have one, buy one and leave it clipped onto the chair so that you always use it. Also avoid letting your baby sit on a dining chair all by herself, especially if she is old enough to stand and climb onto the table. Hot meals, sharp cutlery, glass bottles of sauces and condiments are all potential dangers.
• When carrying a hot drink in one hand, don’t attempt to carry your baby with the other. To avoid burn injuries, don’t hand drinks to people over your baby, and don’t drink hot drinks while feeding your baby. Put hot drinks out of reach of babies and toddlers. Use kettles with coiled flex or use pots and pans with heatproof handles, and make sure it is placed at the back of the worktop.
• Do not allow your baby to open the refrigerator and play. Not only will your child pull down things on herself but she could also climb into the fridge and shut the door behind her.
• Never carry you baby in your arms or in a sling while you are cooking. Babies can reach out and pull at things that may be hot or dangerous. Let your baby sit in the pram, stroller or bouncer just outside the kitchen so she can see you all the time. Give her a steel spoon and bowl, which allows her to make some noise and keep herself entertained.
• Grinding stones and other heavy kitchen appliances should be kept in a safe place. Do not let your baby open containers with rice, flour or small-grained cereals and pulses. Kidney beans (rajma), chickpeas (kabuli chana) and lentils can pose a choking hazard.
• If your kitchen has a utility area or a balcony, ensure that the door leading to the utility area is shut at all times. If that is your only source of light and ventilation, install a mesh or a grill door.
• Try to keep your bin in a closed area. Choose a bin with a lid as an added precaution.
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