Five easy steps to baby-proof your kitchen.
The key to making the kitchen safe is re-organizing. Prior to having children, I stored toxic cleaners under the sink, stacked glass pie plates in a drawer by my feet, and dried steak knives at the counter’s edge. After having children, I could have locked my cabinets with safety latches. Instead, I moved my stuff around. Divide Your Kitchen among things that are safe for your child and things that are potentially dangerous.
Rule of thumb: things that are safe – plastic bowls, silverware, cookie sheets, cutting boards, pots, pans, paper towel storage… – go into the lower cabinets and drawers. Things that are not safe – chemicals, sharp objects, glass, ceramics, appliances… – go up higher. Now you’re 90% done.
2. SWITCH TO KID-SAFE CLEANERS
Daily cleaners can be non-toxic and safe for children to use. I keep a spray bottle with vinegar and water and a bottle of dish soap ready to use. Most of the time, I don’t need anything stronger. No longer am I worried my children will poison themselves, and the best part is that they can get involved. As a result, I do a lot of daily clean-up with my kids – we spray and wipe the table and their workspace. They stand by the dishwasher spraying dirty dishes. Meanwhile, if they lick the floor, suck on a cabinet knob or climb under the sink, the worst they’ve injested is vinegar.
Fill an empty spray bottle with water and add 2 Tbs of plain white vinegar. In the hands of your little helper, this solution will clean your table, counters, floor… all the usual sticky grim. Put the dishwasher detergent and antibacterial/bleach solutions high above and bring them out for emergencies (Ekk – poop is on the floor!) A rule of thumb: if it can’t be gulped, it goes high up.
3. USE THE HIGH CHAIR
It doesn’t sound like a way to baby proof your kitchen, but this is where the baby goes when it’s not safe for them to run wild. Thirty years ago, my mom just put us in the play pen for the entire process of cooking. Instead, I put my kids in the high chair for the 2-5 minutes needed to pour boiling water, open the oven or anything else dangerous and irresistible. Give baby a spatula, oven mitt or something else relevant to what you’re doing while they sit in their high chair and they’ll likely sit happily for two minutes. In any case, they get used to it.
4. BUILD GOOD WORK HABITS
A few everyday practices make the kitchen safer. I’m constantly reminding myself to… Use the back burners on the stove, instead of the front burners. Rotate skillet handles to the back of the stove. Keep just one knife out at a time. Dry knives on a dish towel far back from the edge of the counter. Unplug appliances if the kids are sitting on the counter. Don’t let the kids sit on the counter… (not that I always follow this) Put knives and easily breakable dishes in the back of the dishwasher, out of easy reach during loading/unloading.
Words never make it on any baby proofing lists, but they are so important. Once your baby starts trying to walk, they’ll use the knobs on your cabinets to try to stand up. This is when to teach them about opening and closing cabinets and drawers without pinching their fingers. Point to the knob and say “Yes! Touch here!” Then point to the edge and say, “Oh! Don’t touch that!” Show them in slow motion how a pinch happens. Then, gently coach them as they go about their business. As your baby turns into a toddler, tell your child what you expect of them. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they test the rule. They want to find out the real limits. When they hear a little anxiety in your voice and you respond quickly and consistently, they know it’s important.
TIP: Look around your kitchen for anything out of the ordinary – a drop off, a hot water pipe… Our apartment is on the 16th floor and we have a counter right under our windows – safety bars were a good idea.