8 easy ways to kid-proof your kitchen

Consumer Reports News: April 17, 2008 12:33 PM

No doubt, your kitchen is one of the busiest rooms in your house--and where your baby can get into a slew of trouble if you’re not careful--because there’s a lot going on and so many tantalizing things to see, touch, and taste. Prevention is the key to avoiding accidents. Here are eight simple yet important ways to make your kitchen safer for your kids.   

1. Lock down cabinets, cupboards, and drawers. Anything that might be harmful to a child should be stashed away in drawers, cupboards, or cabinets equipped with child-resistant safety latches or otherwise inaccessible to children. This list includes all kitchen cleaners; plastic wrap and food storage bags; food-wrap packages with a serrated edge; knives, scissors, and other sharp objects; refrigerator magnets or any small kitchen knickknacks; any type of liquor.

Likewise, some all-purpose cleaners come in orange, blue, green, and purple bottles and smell fruity. It’s easy for young children to mistake them for fruit juice, especially since some of these cleaners don’t have child-resistant caps (nor are they legally required to). So use locks or safety latches, and lock up cleaners, detergent, bleach, and other harmful products. Keep all chemicals in their original containers; never transfer them to soda bottles or other beverage containers. Labels often give important first-aid information.

2. Take cover with hot beverages. Get into the habit of drinking hot beverages from a travel mug to avoid spills.

3. Be prepared in case of fire. Don’t leave the stove unattended while you’re cooking. Keep a box of baking soda near the stove to extinguish grease fires. If a grease fire should break out, first try smothering it with a pot lid. Purchase a small fire extinguisher and mount it nearby. Get familiar with how to use it.

4. Limit kitchen access. When you cook, use a gate for the kitchen or keep your baby in a play yard, swing, or high chair--in view but out of harm’s way.

5. Stow away a stepstool. Keep your kitchen stepstool in a closet when you’re not using it to prevent your little one from climbing into trouble.

6. Don’t warm bottles in the microwave. Decide on an alternative for warming bottles of breast milk or formula or heating jars of baby food. A microwave can create hot spots in the milk or food that can burn a baby’s mouth and throat. It may also cause jars, bottles, and nurser liners to explode. Holding bottles under or in warm tap water for a few minutes should do the trick. If you are mixing powdered formula, follow label instructions to use hot water, and then let the bottle cool down before giving it to your baby.

7. Small appliance cords--it’s a wrap! To prevent your baby from tugging down small appliances-- including coffeemakers, food processors, and toaster ovens--wrap up and fasten cords out of reach with twist ties or rubber bands, or tape cords to the wall with masking tape. Push electric coffeemakers and teakettles away from counter edges.

8. Pull off front stove knobs and store them safely until it’s time to cook. You can also buy childproof knob covers. When possible, cook on the back burners, and always turn all pot handles toward the back of the cooktop. We tested the Safety 1st Stove Knob Cover, $5.99 for a set of five. These covers work on stoves, usually gas, with knobs on the front. They didn’t fit on all stove knobs and were difficult to use, but they were ultimately effective. Simply removing the stove knobs would also work.

For more information, see our reports on childproofing devices and what NOT to buy.

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