When I was growing up, I loved experimenting in the kitchen, but we didn't have cable or the internet. So, reruns of The French Chef on PBS were my go-to for learning about all things cooking — even if I never actually cooked any of Julia Child's recipes. Today's kids have a lot more options than I did, including all those viral TikTok recipes that they're probably going to want to try out.
To prevent your kid from making the mistakes I did, like microwaving the coffee carafe and finding out the hard way that water and hot oil are a recipe for disaster, check out these kitchen safety tips from culinary expert and kid's cooking instructor Chef Mary Payne Moran.
Kicking Off the Convo With Your Kid
Kids crave independence, and it's good to let them have it in a safe, controlled environment. According to Moran, the key to safety in the kitchen really comes down to hygiene, slowing down, and being prepared. "We talk a lot about washing hands in my class. Children tend to touch their face, hair, and nose more than they realize. [Once] students get into the flow, they [learn] that cleanliness is extremely important when it comes to cooking [...]," explains Moran. In fact, kitchen hygiene may be a big topic in her classes.
However, when she asked her students the most crucial safety tip they've learned so far, they said it was how to hold and use a chef's knife properly. "I realized it's because most parents or adults shy away from letting their kids use knives," says Moran. "Most adults don't know how to hold or use a knife correctly themselves, so it would make sense that they wouldn't want to give their child a knife to use."
Moran also teaches her students to always be prepared for whatever recipe they're working on, elaborating, "Getting their own tools and making their cooking space to their liking is important for each student. They've found which set of measuring spoons, measuring cups, whisks, and spatulas work best for them."
Kitchen Safety Rules to Save for Later
With her help, Scary Mommy put together this list of the top kitchen safety tips for kids:
- Never put knives in the sink. Dirty water can hide sharp blades.
- Learn how to handle knives properly, always keep them pointed away from your body, and store them in a safe place when not in use.
- Clean up spills immediately.
- Never leave a hot pan alone on the stove. It will start smoking quicker than you think.
- Never add oil to a pan and walk away. Fire, fire, fire!
- Don't leave spoons, spatulas, or other tools in a hot pot or pan. They will melt or catch fire.
- Keep the handles of pots and pans turned away from you — either to the side or back of the stove.
- Pay attention while using a knife or any kitchen appliance. Accidents happen quickly.
- Wash hands frequently with warm, soapy water, especially after you touch raw proteins, to prevent cross-contamination.
- Use a separate cutting board for raw proteins, and wash cutting boards with hot water and a disinfectant soap after using it to cut any raw proteins to prevent cross-contamination.
- Keep oven mitts and dish towels at close reach to prevent burning your hands or food, but never keep them near the stove/oven or other hot surface.
- Set a timer when using the stove, oven, or microwave.
- Have ingredients ready before you start cooking.
- Keep a trash can close so food doesn't drip across the floor.
- Wash fruits and vegetables before use.
- Never put aluminum or metal in the microwave. It will catch fire.
- Keep a medical kit nearby.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and learn how to use it properly.
- Never cook barefoot or wear loose clothing that can catch on fire or get caught on something easily.
- Stay focused. Don't get distracted by the phone, TV, etc.
- Keep young children and pets out of the kitchen while cooking.
- Never leave the kitchen while cooking.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help.
The Big Takeaway
"Kitchen safety is a must for kids," emphasizes Moran, "and yet we don't want these rules to scare [them] away from cooking. Cooking leads to independence, confidence, and life skills in and out of the kitchen."