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Keeping Kids Safe in the Kitchen

Published on Feb. 07, 2023

To many people, the kitchen is one of the most special parts of the home. Holiday dinners, birthday cakes, favorite comforting recipes and other formative, treasured childhood memories all center on the kitchen. But while the kitchen holds a warm, fuzzy place in our hearts and stomachs, it can also be the source of risks from burns or scald burns – burns that happen from steam, water, or other hot liquids. A child’s skin is thinner than an adult’s, so they can get more serious injuries from a burn or scald. This, plus a child’s innate curiosity about the world around them, can make the kitchen a dangerous place.

Did you know? According to Safe Kids Worldwide, 300 children ages 0 to 19 are treated in emergency departments for burn-related injuries every day.

In this article, we’ll share a few tips on how to keep kids safe in the kitchen, starting with the 3-5 Rule.

What is the 3-5 Rule?

A graphic showing a person standing with arms outstretched to demonstrate what three to five feet looks likeThe 3-5 Rule reminds us that kids should stay three to five feet from anything hot, including the stove, toaster, microwave and oven.

So how far exactly is three to five feet? An easy way to help your child remember the 3-5 Rule is to spread their arms out wide – the distance from fingertip to fingertip is about three to five feet. Another way to follow the 3-5 Rule is to establish a “no-go zone” of about three to five feet around the stove, microwave and oven.

Another important element of the 3-5 Rule is that we should let hot liquids – like soup or hot chocolate – cool for about three to five minutes before eating or drinking them.

More Tips for Kitchen Safety

Kitchens are great places to explore and have fun, but kitchen adventures should never be done alone; kids should always have an adult with them. Here are a few more tips for how to keep kids safe in the kitchen:

  • Always use a hot pad when grabbing anything hot from the stove or the oven.
  • Always use the back burner and turn handles toward the center of the cooktop to make sure little ones can’t grab the pot off the stove. Plus, this is a great tip to prevent you from accidentally knocking into a handle and bumping a pot off the stovetop.
  • Don’t carry a child while cooking at the stove. If you need your little ones within eyesight while cooking, put them in a highchair outside of the “no-go zone.”
  • Don’t use a microwave to heat baby’s milk or formula. Microwaves can cause hot spots within the liquid, which can burn baby’s mouth. Instead, heat up bottles by placing them in a bowl of warm water, and always check the temperature of the breastmilk or formula by putting a few drops on the inside of your wrist. It should be warm, but not hot.
  • Involve kids in the cooking and give them kid-safe tasks, like washing fruits and veggies. This is a great way to teach kids kitchen safety and create some special memories at the same time.

Remember, burns can happen in a flash with just a splash, but by following these few safety tips, you can have a fun and safe time together in the kitchen.


About the Author

Kristina Pasma, BSN, RN, CPSI, is a trauma nurse liaison at Valley Children's Healthcare. She is also the Safe Kids Central California Coalition Coordinator and is passionate about educating children and their families about injury prevention at home and in the community.