Children in the Kitchen
by Jane Denton
Children in the kitchen can be a parents biggest worry. All those knives and sharp blades, not to mention glasses, ceramics, hard surfaces – a health and safety nightmare. Although the kitchen will likely always be a worry, there are ways of designing a more child friendly space. Consider adding elements that will assist in your child’s use of the kitchen in a safe way, rather than alienating them from the space altogether. Encourage them to help in the kitchen, learning lessons that will help them in later life as well as aiding them in using the kitchen in a safe way, creating less worry for parents in the long term.
A good and simple introduction to the kitchen for a child can be to add a seating area into the room if possible, maybe a dining table or somewhere your child can sit and do their homework while you cook. A child learns a vast amount through observation. Watching you work in the kitchen in a safe way will encourage them to do the same, and having them in the space in the first place will help integrate the kitchen into their home lives.
If you want your child to be able to cook with you, add a surface that is lower down for them. Whether it is a table or bench, a space that is a childs height will add to that feeling of inclusion and a friendly space in the kitchen. Equally, adding a small movable step under the sink for instance will stop them straining to reach things like the tap.
Organise your kitchen in a child friendly way.
Again designing for the inclusion of your children, if you want to teach them to empty the dishwasher, arrange the contents of the cupboards so plates and glasses are at a suitable height for them. Children generally can’t reach as high as adults, but use this to your advantage. Consider storing any implements you do not want your child to use out of sight and up high. Do not leave knives out on surfaces where they can be seen or grabbed onto, in-drawer knife storage systems can be particularly useful here. Equally, child safety locks for drawers and cabinets can add that extra level of protection and peace of mind for parents. Consider fitting a child safety lock to any cabinets or drawers that contain items that your child could harm themselves with, not forgetting cleaning products!
The materials you use in your kitchen can enhance the safety of your child and aid in both of your using of the space. Dropping things is inevitable, so go for a flooring like cork or linoleum that will provide a degree of cushioning, meaning plates and glasses are less likely to shatter if dropped, unlike if they were dropped onto a more solid flooring like tiles. Linoleum will clean easily, making wiping away those blackcurrant squash stains far easier than if you had tiles or wood, where dirt can get trapped in cracks and grains.
When it comes to work surfaces, children will spill things, repeatedly, and not always clean them up so avoid porous surfaces such as wood or concrete. Granites and laminates will provide the best surface when it comes to dealing with spills, stains and general wear and tear.
Don’t forget to add a sense of fun into the kitchen. Branding the kitchen as a fun and social space can help transform your childs future perception of the kitchen and could have a massive impact on the cooking and eating habits of your child in later life. From a young age, something as simple as a chalkboard wall in the kitchen will not only give them an area to draw and have fun (that doesn’t involve a marker pen and your new white walls!) but is excellent for writing down jobs for them to do, or even reminders for yourself.
The kitchen will always be that room in the house that parents worry the most about when it comes to child safety, but there are measures you can use that will help towards minimising this risk. You need not resort to locking your children out of the kitchen altogether, creating an inclusive family friendly space can for some be the best way to introduce them to cooking and food health.