Family Matters

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 2, 2000

Cathy J. Holmes / L’Observateur / December 2, 2000

The holidays are here and with this festive time of year comes plenty of traveling, shopping, and for many, cooking and kitchen activity. Children areparticularly excited and may want to assist parents and caregivers prepare holiday goodies. Whether decorating cookies or mixing salad dressing,children need close adult supervision at all times whether they are in or around the kitchen.

“It’s very easy to become caught up in the holiday festivities and the idea of doing things as a family,” said Cathy Holmes, extension agent, Louisiana SAFEKIDS Coalition. “Helping out with cooking can be a wonderful learningexperience for children, but it also can be dangerous. It’s crucial for parentsto keep a close eye on the children and set strict rules for kitchen safety.”Holmes recommends tips for keeping children safe as they learn to help out in the kitchen:

Be sure to take essential safety steps before introducing a child to cooking, such as having a fire extinguisher nearby and posting emergency numbers near the phone.

Never leave a child unattended in the kitchen. Close supervision isessential, whether children are helping an adult cook or are simply watching.

Never hold a child while cooking.

Put pans on back burners and turn all pot handles toward the back of the stove.

Use caution when heating food and liquids in the microwave. Supervisechildren when they are near or using a microwave and never let a young child (under age 10) remove heated items from the microwave.

Wear close-fitting clothing when cooking.

Never leave cooking food unattended – it is the number one cause of house fires.

Place hot foods and liquids away from the edges of counters and tables.

Pay particular attention to items sitting on tablecloths or placemats so that young children cannot pull hot food or liquid down and scald themselves.

Unplug appliance cords when not in use and keep them tied up and out of children’s reach.

Teach children the importance of frequent handwashing and other food safety precautions.

Age appropriate tasks for children

Since each child is different, it is important for parents and caregivers to consider the development level and abilities of their children when it comes to assigning kitchen duties.

Generally, children under age 10 don’t fully understand what danger means and therefore should not use the stove, electrical appliances, sharp utensils or handle hot dishes. Younger children can begin helping in the kitchen withbasic like washing vegetables and fruits or mixing foods that don’t require sharp knives, appliances or heat.

A few suggested activities for children and age guidelines for parents to review to help keep the kitchen a fun, safe place for the family (with close adult supervision) are: Children over age 5: Stir ingredients together in a bowl.

Rinse foods under cold water.

Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes in dough.

Use a butter knife or plastic knife to spread peanut butter or slice soft cheese (9 years of age or older).

Children over age 10: Squeeze garlic from a garlic press.

Use electrical kitchen appliances such as a blender, food processor, electric mixer, microwave or toaster oven.

Children age 12 and up: Chop or slice with a paring knife.

Use the stovetop to turn burners on and off and select oven temperature.

Flip pancakes on a hot griddle.

Place a tray of cookies in the oven.

Peel vegetables.

Use an electric can opener.

Shred cheese with a hand grater.

Children over age 14: Operating the stovetop without adult supervision.

Draining cooked spaghetti into a colander.

Removing a tray of cookies from the oven.

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