Kitchen Safety for Children on Their Own
Alice Henneman, M.S., R.D., Extension Educator
Nancy Malone, Grants Coordinator, Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department
It's estimated that roughly 7 million American children
are "on their own" or are "cared for by a sibling" for short periods of
time after school. Often the kitchen is the first place children go when
they get home. What are the most important food and safety facts that children
should know? Here are some clues to kitchen safety that you will want to
1. Hands carry lots of germs. The first step
in food safety is to wash your hands before making or eating a snack. All
you need is a little soap and water. Make sure the water is warm, and lather
up. Scrub the back and front of your hands, between the fingers and don't
forget your fingernails. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Then rinse under
running water and dry with a clean towel.
This may sound nice but not necessary. Proper handwashing,
however, could save you from becoming ill.
2. Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating
... use just clear, clean water-no soap.
3. When using a knife to cut your food, always
cut away from your body.
4. Microwave cooking is fast but can cause
serious burns. Check with a grown-up for specific directions before using
the microwave oven. Some general tips for safe microwaving include:
• Never turn on an empty oven. This can cause the
oven to break.
5. Hot liquids, not fire, are the most common
cause of burns to children. If you get burned working in the kitchen:
• Read package directions carefully. Make sure you
know how to set the microwave oven controls (for example, 10 seconds, rather
than 10 minutes).
• Use only microwave-safe cookware.
• Food coming out of the microwave can be very hot.
Never pop any food right from the microwave into your mouth. Allow the
food to cool for several minutes before eating. This includes letting microwave
popcorn set a few minutes before opening; then open the bag so the opening
is pointing away from you. Steam from the bag can cause serious bums.
• Food gets hot in the microwave. Have potholders
handy to remove hot dishes.
a) Go to the sink and hold the burned area under
cool, running water.
6. Germs grow quickly in foods that are not stored
properly (i.e. milk, lunch meat, hard-cooked eggs, yogurt or foods left
out on the counter at room temperature). Put these foods back in the refrigerator
as soon as you've fixed your snack.
b) If the burn begins to blister cover it loosely
with a sterile gauze, or a clean cloth.
c) Tell a grown-up whenever you are burned. If the
burn is severe and hurts badly, get help from an adult immediately.
7. Discard foods like bread, cheese, jelly,
fruits, vegetables or any other foods that have mold spots or look bad.
Fruits and vegetables that are shriveled or have soft spots should be thrown
8. If you spill something, take the time to
clean it up properly.
9. To use a toaster safely:
• Keep the toaster away from curtains or towels
or other things that could catch fire.
10. Use a stove only if you have been trained
to use it by an adult. Keep things that will burn away from the stove.
Towels, potholders, plastics and paper towels can all catch fire quickly
when near direct heat or flames.
• Plug it directly into the electrical outlet. Avoid
using adapters with many other appliances plugged into the same outlet.
Unplug toasters and other kitchen appliances when not using them.
• If toast gets stuck, unplug the toaster. Do not
use any object to remove the toast from the toaster.
Toasters can catch on fire. If you see flames from
any kitchen appliance, tell a grown-up immediately. If an adult
is not home, call 911.
Keep an eye on the stove when cooking food. Turn
pan handles away from the front so someone can't knock them off while walking
by. Always turn off the stove when you're done cooking.
11. If something on the stove catches fire:
a) Smother the fire with a lid.
• DO NOT THROW BAKING SODA, SALT, WATER OR FLOUR
ON A FIRE.
b) Turn off the burner.
c) Once the fire is out, tell an adult there was
d) Leave the house and call 911 if the fire has leaping
• DO NOT CARRY A BURNING OBJECT TO ANOTHER ROOM.