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Kid-proof your kitchen

From pots of boiling water to cords hanging down from your counter, kitchens can spell disaster for little ones. Jo Caruana looks at ways that the right planning and design can keep your children safe.

Your kitchen may be the hub of your home, but it is also a potential disaster zone for babies, toddlers and children. From fire and heat to toxins and sharp utensils, there is an endless list of things that could harm your little one, so it is important to weed out the dangers and tackle them – before they become a problem.

“Today’s kitchens have become an important family room, so you must be sure they’re safe for your children to wander about in,” say new dad Julian Galea, who is also the sales manager and a kitchen designer at Form.

“But that also doesn’t mean that you should have to destroy your kitchen cabinetry with ugly clips and locks, either,” he smiles.

Although he is very new to his role as a dad (his baby is just a few weeks old), Galea stresses that he always tries to plan every kitchen with the common sense and foresight that’s needed for it to be transformed into a family space.

“I actually planned my own kitchen when I was much younger – not even married – so my priorities were somewhat different,” he continues. “Nevertheless, the logical decisions that were taken during the design stage then meant that our kitchen will still work safely and effectively when our little one is running around in the years to come.”

That said, it seems that the concepts, gadgets and design methods behind kitchen safety have come a long way in recent years. This means that there is a lot that you can do at planning stage to lessen dangers for your children.

For instance, many modern cabinets don’t have handles, which makes them much harder for children to open, while kitchen drawers are clipped on, which means they cannot be toppled over when pulled on by a child.

And, while hot hobs, cookers and ovens once struck fear into the heart of every parent, today’s appliances have also become much safer. “Most of today’s appliances, including electric hobs and ovens, now have child locks to make it near-impossible for a child to switch one on,” continues Galea. “The majority of gas hobs also have safety features whereby the gas cuts off as soon as the flame goes out, while the knob must be positioned very precisely in order to ignite it.”

Induction hobs have also become a popular choice for child-conscious kitchen planners. They are particularly safe as they don’t switch on unless there is a pot on pan sitting on them, while the surface instantly cools once the pot is removed. “This means there is absolutely no way for a child to get burnt. Plus, the magnetic technology means that there’s no heat wastage so they’re also very economical – which is something that will please most parents,” says Galea.

From hanging pots to sharp utensils, the kitchen is a potential disaster zone for the little ones

Taking all of the above into account, there are a lot of logical steps that you can take when designing your kitchen, to make it safer for your current – or even, future – family.

To start with, you should avoid positioning the hob too close to the edge of the kitchen; this will reduce the risk of pots being pulled down while your children play. You should also keep knives and dangerous utensils in the top drawers, to make it harder for little ones to reach them, while alsokeeping fragile items in higher cupboards and away from prying hands. In addition, avoid positioning electrical sockets close to the sink, as this will reduce the risk of electrocution.

“Finally, it’s also important to think carefully about the working triangulation of your kitchen,” says Galea, explaining that this refers to the working zone between the sink, hob, fridge and oven. “If this aspect is sorted, then you will avoid having to run around the kitchen with hot dishes getting from point to point, thus reducing the risk that you will trip over your child.”

With this mind, the right planning really could make all the difference to this sort of risk, so it makes sense to get good advice on the topic, and to plan ahead. “You never know what role your kitchen will play in the years to come – from romantic meals to feeding armies of children! It makes senseto be prepared for every eventuality,” Galea says.

Steps to safety

Is your kitchen already in place? Worry not! Here are some quick tips to instantly make it safer for the children in your life.

If your cabinets and drawers have handles, then they could be easy to pull open. This means that your child will have access to the potentially-dangerous contents, including cleaning materials and dangerous substances. To solve this worry, install child-proof cabinet locks, which will ensure they can only be opened by an adult.

Plug covers are very useful for keeping little fingers out of sockets. Modern versions cover both your sockets and plugs, so you won’t even have to worry about leaving plugs in long term – they can be covered up too!

If you have a double fridge doors, then a double fridge door guard is a must. This gadget keeps both doors closed, to stop your little one from climbing in, and potentially getting closed in.

Finally, develop ultra-safe habits while you are cooking too. Remember to never leave cords, towels or pan handles hanging over the edge. Meanwhile, do watch where you leave hot beverages, and do return items to cabinets once you have finished using them to keep them out of harm’s ways.

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