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As Thanksgiving and winter festivities approach, families may be planning to celebrate with loved ones over traditional homecooked meals.

“There’s a lot of excitement and joy surrounding meal preparation at this time of year, but it also can be stressful,” said Dina DiMaggio, MD, FAAP. “Consider how to involve kids in the process and think about assigning an adult to keep track of the youngest when the kitchen is at full capacity. By planning in advance, families can help ensure the day goes smoothly for all.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers ten tips to help your family safely serve a delicious holiday feast.

  1. Teach kids the importance of staying safe while cooking by showing them how to hold kitchen tools safely, use children’s safe knives when helping prepare foods, how to use oven mitts to protect hands from heat, keep flammable objects away from the open flames, and how to turn appliances on and off safely. Always supervise children when cooking to ensure they are sticking with safe and age-appropriate tasks.
  2. Cook and wash food thoroughly. When preparing food for a holiday celebration, follow food safety guidelines. Bacteria are often present in raw foods. Fully cook meats and poultry, and thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits. Ensure they wash their hands thoroughly too after touching raw foods.
  3. While you're teaching your children family recipes, also teach them about good food safety. Wash your hands frequently, and make sure children do the same.
  4. If you offer your helper a taste, be sure to wash the spoon before putting it back into the food. Also, make sure that taste doesn't include raw eggs or other ingredients that should be cooked before eaten.
  5. Separate raw foods. During preparations for a party, the refrigerator and freezer can become crowded with sweets, roasts and other goodies, but don't let these become breeding grounds for bacteria. Always keep raw foods and cooked foods separate and use separate utensils when preparing them.
  6. Always thaw meat in the refrigerator, never on the countertop.
  7. Prevent burns. Keep hot food and liquids away from the edges of counters and tables, where they can be easily knocked over by a young child's exploring hands. Be sure that young children cannot access microwave ovens. Turn pot handles toward the side or back of the stove.
  8. Whenever you have to walk with hot liquid—a cup of coffee, a pot of soup—be sure you know where your child is so you don’t trip over him or her. Also, be careful not to be drinking hot liquids while having a young child on your lap to avoid any burns.
  9. Put away or toss? Foods that require refrigeration should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
  10. Clean-up quickly. After a holiday meal, clean up immediately. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco.

To request an interview with an expert, contact AAP Public Affairs.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

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