The Sensible Parent’s Guide to Baby-Proofing the Kitchen
Is it just me, or do toddlers seem to have some kind of Spidey-Sense, drawing them towards anything and everything that they shouldn’t be touching? Honestly, my poor heart can’t take it. They’re daredevils in diapers! I swear, I spend most of my time trying to stop mine from sticking his chubby little hand in this or swinging from that. And the kitchen can be an especially scary place for parents of little ones.
Staying completely out of the kitchen isn’t an option. Plus, you may really enjoy spending time together in the kitchen, making memories or just going about your daily tasks.
So, how do you make your kitchen as safe as possible for your little one, so you can get on with what you need to do without worrying? This handy guide covers all you need to know when baby-proofing your kitchen.
Cupboards and Drawers
The first thing your little one will discover when crawling about the kitchen is that handles are fun. They’re good for pulling on to stand and climbing up. Oh, and…what’s this? If you pull hard enough, they open up a world of exciting treasures. Cans, cartons, bags, pots, pans – endless fun for a toddler. Or, if they’re anything like my kid, the sheer joy just of opening and closing the cupboard door can keep them occupied for a long time.
To avoid your baby getting hold of something they shouldn’t, or trapping their tiny fingers in any openings, it’s worth investing in some safety latches, to give you back some peace of mind.
There are a few types of latches you can buy:
- Pull cord
- Tension rod
Visit your local hardware store or buy online. Some will attach using adhesive, while others will need to be screwed in. If you’re in rented accommodation and can’t drill any holes, adhesive might be your best bet.
Keep These Items Locked Away
When installing locks on drawers or cabinets, pay special attention to the places that store the following:
- Spices. Some spices can be toxic in large amounts. Spice racks should be kept well out of reach.
- Foil, baking paper or plastic wrap dispensers. These often come with sharp, serrated edges that can lead to nasty cuts.
- Plastic bags. These are a suffocation hazard. Keep them locked away and, when finished with them, tie them up and put them in the trash.
- Alcohol. This one doesn’t really need explaining.
These days, most modern appliances come with child lock features, stopping little ones from messing up any settings or turning things off or on. This includes ovens, dishwashers, washing machines and refrigerators with water/ice dispensers. If you’re not sure. Look up your model online and there’s bound to be a video or tutorial showing you how to engage the child lock. It’s usually a simple process like holding down a button for 3 seconds to activate the lock. If you’re buying a new appliance, look out for any child safety features.
Some ovens come with handy retractable knobs, which prevent little hands from turning them on by accident.
Always check the outside of your oven is just warm to the touch, not hot, when cooking. Most modern ovens come with double or triple layered glass doors, but older models might not. If your oven is too hot to touch on the outside, set up a safety perimeter to stop your little one from touching it.
And make sure it’s securely attached to the wall! In fact, any freestanding unit, whether it’s an appliance or storage unit, needs to be secured.
If you’ve got a gas stove, check regularly for any leaks. And make sure the pilot lights are working. On some stoves, you can remove the knobs, to stop children playing with them and accidentally turning them on.
Where possible, use the back burners, as they’re farther away and so your kids are less likely to reach anything. If you have to use the front burners, make sure the handles are facing the back, so they can’t reach up and accidentally pull any pans and their hot contents on themselves.
To go one step further, you can pick up a stove guard, which blocks your child from reaching the stovetop. Or some nifty child proof covers. You can find these online and they don’t cost the earth.
The safest way to prevent injuries around a washing machine is to keep the door closed. Fingers could get trapped in the hinges, a child could get hurt if the door swings open too fast while they’re holding onto it. And some enterprising little souls even manage to crawl inside the drum. Experts often advise leaving the door open to prevent mold, but you can wipe the seal after every wash to help stop mold from building up and run regular cleaning cycles.
The biggest risk when it comes to your dishwasher is sharp objects. Try to keep these on the top rack, out of reach. And a bonus tip is to make them the last thing you add, right before you turn the dishwasher on and the first thing you put away. This lessens the chance of your kids getting hold of any.
For a little extra security, you could add an adhesive latch to the outside of your dishwasher to stop children opening it.
Make sure you keep any glass bottles or jars higher up in the refrigerator, out of reach. I’d also recommend adding a latch to keep it firmly closed. Ensure it is securely attached to the wall. It might not seem like a small person could pull such a big object over, but it can happen.
Oh, and those cute magnets you have decorating the fridge? These are…well…magnets to kids, especially curious toddlers. Magnets are a real choking hazard and, if swallowed, they can cause some real damage. Either ditch the magnets until they’re older, or make sure they’re well out of reach.
Small domestic appliances, like the toaster, microwave, blender, etc. should always be unplugged when not in use. If you can, store them out of reach in a locked cupboard, or on a shelf above the counter. To stop dangling cords posing a hazard, you can buy cord shorteners or a cable tidy.
Cover up any sharp edges or corners using some protective guards or adhesive cushioning. It’s usually cheap to buy and easy to install yourself.
A great tip – get down to floor level to see things from your child’s point of view. You’ll get a better sense of any potential hazards you need to guard against.
Cover up any electrical outlets that are a temptation for probing fingers, either by blocking them with furniture or using special outlet covers.
Most garbage cans aren’t child-proofed. To avoid your toddler getting into the trash, consider keeping your bins in a locked cupboard. Or add a latch to the lid of the garbage can to stop kids from easily opening it.
Other Baby-proofing Tips
- Do away with tablecloths that hang over the edge of the table and can be pulled off, along with anything else that’s on the table. You can buy clips that secure tablecloths if you prefer.
- Make sure chairs are tucked safely away under the table. They are ideal for climbing.
- Clean underneath your cabinets. They are a great collecting point for bits of debris and old food that could cause a choking hazard or make your child ill.
Whether you decide to follow these tips or not, the most important thing to remember when keeping your child safe in the kitchen is vigilance. You should never leave your child unsupervised in the kitchen and you’ll need to keep an eye on them when you’re in there together. As they get older, you can teach them about kitchen safety, so that they know what’s safe to touch or play with and what isn’t. But, for now, these baby-proofing tips should help give you peace of mind when it comes to spending time in the kitchen with your toddler.