Playing with Fire: 7 Tips to Keep Kids Safe while Grilling

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Labor Day is the third largest cookout event of the year in the U.S. (behind 4th of July and Memorial Day). To keep this holiday and any other grilling day safe for children, follow these safety tips:

  • Establish a 3-foot ‘kid-free zone’ around your grill. Draw a border on the pavement using sidewalk chalk. Tell your kids and their friends that only adults are allowed inside the circle when grilling.
  • Protect against bumps and cuts. Grills are bulky machines mostly made of metal. Tissue wounds are the second most common injury for children, after burns. Be aware of sharp edges or corners that a child could bump into. Cover any part of the grill that seems particularly sharp with a piece of masking tape.
  • Grill outside only. Never grill in a screened porch, tent, garage or any enclosed area because carbon monoxide may accumulate and poison you and those around you. Keep your grill on a flat surface at least 10 feet well away from house siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Never leave your grill unattended once it’s been lit. Talk to your children about what can happen when the grill is lit and hot. Point out that other parts of the grill, in addition to the cooking surface, also get very hot. Many burns occur when children touch the lid or sides of the grill.
  • Cook food thoroughly. Keep children and adults safe from food poisoning. Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked thoroughly and free from any harmful bacteria. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160°F. Chicken should be cooked to at least 165°F. When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry.
  • Let children help in other ways. Have your kids pick out fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or local farmer’s market. Let them put together kabobs, form hamburger patties, brush chicken with barbecue sauce or marinate steaks. Teach them to use a food thermometer to measure food temperatures (when off the grill). Involving them will promote their self-esteem.
  • Be prepared to put out a fire. Keep a fire extinguisher, a bucket of sand or a garden hose near by in case of a fire.