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As the holiday season approaches, cooking as a family is a great way to create tradition and make lasting memories. Children can safely help out in the kitchen too, but parents must pick the right tasks for each child’s age and skill level.
"Parents and caregivers should check for preventable hazards before their children enter the kitchen, and they should supervise their children at all times while they're in the kitchen," says Dwayne Smith of Safe Kids Colorado. "Simply being in the same room as a child is not necessarily supervising. An actively supervised child is in sight and in reach at all times."
Burns, such as those from spills, steam, hot surfaces or a flame, can be especially devastating injuries that may require medical attention and even surgery. In fact, a recent study found that seemingly kid-friendly instant soups and noodles burn almost 10,000 kids each year.
Young children have thinner skin than adults do, and therefore burn more severely and at lower temperatures. "Thermal burns from contact with a hot surface or a flame cause the greatest number of burns in children," adds Smith. "However, children age 4 and under are hospitalized in burn centers more for scald burns from hot liquids, while children ages 5 to 15 are hospitalized more for fire and flame burns."
Children who can follow directions may be ready to help out in the kitchen with tasks that do not involve knives, appliances or heat. "You know your own children. Don't give them knives or let them handle anything hot until they have shown the maturity and coordination to do it safely," says Smith. "Some children mature faster than others, so it's up to parents to use good judgment about each child's capabilities."
Here are some general guidelines for kitchen activities that children of certain ages may be ready to handle:
Young children can:
School-aged children are able to:
Around the age of 9, kids can:
Beginning at age 13, teens can: