According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were on average over 50,000 fires started by kids between 2005 and 2009. Most of the injuries, damage and deaths from child-playing fires occur in the home, with many of these fires started with lighters and matches. As a parent, it is important to teach children about the dangers of fire early on. Providing kids with information, making sure they understand consequences and minimizing access to hazardous fire-starting items can help reduce the risk of child-playing fires in your home.
Teach kids about the nature of fire. Explain that fire is dangerous because it is hot, spreads quickly and creates smoke that causes damage to the lungs. Allow kids to ask questions about fire and answer them in simple, age appropriate language.
Warn kids never to play with matches, fireworks or lighters. Instruct kids to notify you or another responsible adult if they find these items around the house or in public. Set a good example by avoiding using fire as a source of amusement for or around your kids.
Store matches and lighters away from kids in a locked drawer or cabinet. Keep hazardous fire-starting items out of children's sight and reach. Purchase lighters that are designed with child-safety features. Establish clear rules and consequences pertaining to fire misuse.
Install and maintain smoke alarms throughout the house. Make sure there is at least one on each level of your home as well as in sleeping areas. Introduce the sound of smoke alarms to kids and explain what they should do if they hear one go off. Demonstrate how to crawl low to the ground in the event of smoke and to check door handles for heat before entering rooms. Teach kids how to stop, drop and roll if their clothes or hair catch on fire.
Create a home fire plan and go over it with kids. Establish two ways to exit the house safely if evacuation is necessary. Designate a meeting place outside the house. Teach kids not to linger if there is a fire in the house and not to hide from firefighters if they are stuck inside during a fire.
Read books about the aftermath of fires and fire safety with kids. Check local libraries and book stores for children's literature that deals with the subjects of fire, firefighters and the damage that can be caused by fires.
- National Fire Protection Association: Children Playing With Fire
- United States Fire Administration: Curious Kids Set Fires-A Factsheet for Teaching Children Fire Safety
- National Fire Protection Association: Children and Fire Safety Tips
- Safe Kids Worldwide: Fire Safety
- Prevention 1st: Children's Books About Fire and Fire Safety
- "The Mount Vernon News" in Ohio warns parents to keep matches, lighters and lit candles out of the reach of curious children.
- Contact your local fire department if you believe your child has an unhealthy fascination with fire. These professionals can instruct you as how to successfully handle this issue.
Based in Gainesville, Carissa Lawrence is an experienced teacher who has been writing education related articles since 2013. Lawrence holds a master's degree in early childhood education from the University of Florida.