Most kids have experienced fire’s allure. Their eyes light up at the twinkling candles on their birthday cake, and a mesmerized hush falls over them when toasting marshmallows on a crackling campfire. Kids are naturally curious about fire, but what begins as exploration can sometimes lead to disaster. How do you teach kids how to be safe around fire? Here are some hot ideas.
Believe it or not, young children are far more likely than older children to set play fires. And too often, child fire setters repeat dangerous behaviors because of lack of proper guidance and supervision by parents and teachers. If you find any fire tools stashed in your children’s “secret” places, like in their closets or under their beds, be firm with your reprimand. Keep fire tools in a secure drawer or cabinet, out of their reach.
As kids get older, take the mystery out of fire by teaching children that it’s a tool, not a toy. Show kids how fire is used in cooking and heating, and explain why it’s valuable but also dangerous. Ask them if they’ve ever burned their tongue on hot food or their finger on a hot pan. Explain that fire can do even more hurt, and should be treated with respect. Older children can even handle hearing about more serious consequences like burns and scars – just don’t overdo it!
Take time to give your family the tools to stay cool in a hot situation. Smoke alarms are the most important part of fire safety, so make it a priority to install them on every level in your home, test them each month, and replace the battery at least once a year. Consider investing in a fire extinguisher or two, and if you children are old enough to use them, make sure they know where they are. But the most important tool you can use to fight fire is knowledge: know what to do if a fire happens, and come up with a family fire plan. Begin with a basic diagram of your home; mark all windows and doors, and plan two routes out of each room. Serious consideration of a fire emergency might get scary for young children, so try and find ways to make learning fire safety fun. Make an art project out of your exit map using crayons or paint. Build a homemade obstacle course to practice crawling low on the floor, below the pretend smoke. Demonstrate how to stop, drop, and roll with a fun song or dance. Need more ideas? There are plenty of kid-friendly online resources, including fun fire safety games.
Even if a fire seems like an unthinkable prospect, it’s important to teach your little ones to observe fire safety rules. The best way to deal with a potentially scary situation is to be prepared, so cover all the basics. Fire won’t be so scary anymore.