Every year, thousands of kids under the age of 5 are hospitalized for burn injuries. Some of these incidents permanently disfigure children or even kill them. A common source of these types of accidents? The stove. "Parents should always use back burners on the stove when possible," says Kimberlee Mitchell, child safety expert and founder of Boo Boo Busters. "Additionally, they should install stove knob covers, so children can't turn on the stove."
But stoves are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to childproofing the kitchen. Here's how to make the heart of the house as safe as possible for young children.
Danger Zone 1: The stove/oven. In addition to using back burners and knob covers, secure your oven doors closed with latches. Mitchell also recommends not letting kids play with pots and pans, as they may not understand it's not play time when they're filled with scalding hot water. If using back burners isn't an option, turn pot handles inward, out of children's reach. A good place for children to be during meal prep? Highchairs or play yards. Don't hold your baby with one hand while cooking or carrying hot items with the other.
Danger Zone 2: Products. Move all household cleaning supplies up high, out of children's reach, or into the garage. If that's not an option, install magnetic child safety locks on all drawers and cabinets within the reach of tiny hands. "Do not let children handle dishwasher or laundry packets," notes Mitchell of the deadly bright colored pods that look like candy. "Children should not even know packets exist." Don't store or carry toxic cleaning agents in random containers (such as food jars) as to avoid any potentially lethal mix-ups.
Danger Zone 3: Drawers and cabinets. Mitchell recommends latching all drawers kids have access to except one, which should be low to the ground and away from the stove. Fill the drawer with Tupperware lids and other safe objects, so they'll have an area to explore. If your child begins using "their" drawer as a step stool to pull themselves up to the counter, though, time to lock that one, too. Not only do you not want them having access to the counter top, you don't want them falling. Sharp, dangerous objects, such as knives, scissors, and peelers, should never be kept on countertops and always locked away. Mitchell recommends investing in high-end latches that are made with nylon as opposed to just plastic (try Kidco); or even better, magnetic locks, which require a special key to open the drawers. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, latch top cabinets shut as a precautionary measure.
Danger Zone 4: Appliances. "Consider locking all appliances children can access like the refrigerator, dishwasher, trash compactor, dumbwaiter, and oven," suggests Mitchell. It's best to empty and load dishwashers when children aren't in the room, but if that's not an option, place them in a highchair or play yard. Smaller appliances should be stored on counter tops out of children's reach or locked away in cabinets. Always keep small appliances -- blenders, food processors -- unplugged and tie cords up to prevent kids from strangulation or pulling objects on themselves. Small magnets, which can be incredibly dangerous if swallowed, should not be at baby's level.
Danger Zone 5: Open shelving. "Open shelving and babies do not mix, because little ones can, and will, access the lower shelves and could shake the shelves, causing top shelf items to fall down on top of them," notes Mitchell. "If you have open shelving, I would recommend gating off the kitchen. If that is not an option, always have baby in a highchair or play yard while you are in the kitchen." Open shelving may look pretty, but the best place for glasses and coffee mugs are in high cabinets, where babies can't get them.
How do you keep your child safe in the kitchen?
Image via Corbis