Fire Safety

How to Tell Kids Why They Shouldn't Play With Fire

Explain how fire burns and spreads to your child. When combustion happens, this energy looks for fuel to burn, offers the Polymer Science Learning Center. Whatever flammable materials are available will catch on fire. Once materials catch on fire, the flames can burn quickly, particularly if the materials are especially flammable.

Tell your child that fire and flames can quickly burn out of control, especially if there is no one immediately present to try to extinguish it with water or a fire extinguisher. Tell your child that a fire spreading and burning can burn items up, burn houses down and even hurt or kill people.

Urge your child to avoid fire and to never engage in fire play, advises the Kids Health website. Even if fire looks interesting, cozy or enticing, instruct your child never to touch lighters, matches, candles or other burning flames because she may lose control of her play with devastating consequences.

Instruct your child to get away from anyone who plays with fire when he is nearby. Urge your child to find an adult to tell about the fire play. Tell your child that you will always listen and try to help if he comes to you with information of this type.

Teach your child what to do in the event of a fire. The most important task is to get away from the fire and alert others to the danger. Make it clear to your child that a fire will burn quickly, so he'll need to act fast, advises the University of Michigan Health System. Instruct your child never to hide in a fire, instead escaping away from the fire and leaving the building, if applicable.

Tip

Children under age 5 are the highest age group of people killed in fires that begin from play, states the American Psychological Association.

Warning

If you discover your child playing with fire, ask your child where she got the idea to play with fire, instructs the Child Safety and Abuse Prevention Program. If you find that another child is involved, report the issue to the child’s parents immediately. Ask your child where she got the matches or lighter. Also find out whether your child was simply curious or whether other motivations were involved such as anger or frustration. If you learn that your child’s fire play involved negative emotions, seek professional help for your child to resolve the issues.

How to Stop a Child From Playing With Matches

Talk to your child. While you can't rely on a lecture alone to keep your child from playing with matches, a conversation about the dangers of matches is a good starting point for emphasizing the dangers of fire. Tell your child that he isn't allowed to play with matches and remind him to stay away from them at all times.

Instruct your child to always tell an adult if she finds matches laying around. Praise your child when she tells you about matches so she's encouraged to do it again in the future. The New York City Fire Department recommends instituting a "no touch" policy for children ages 5 and under. Tell your smaller child to never touch matches. Instruct her to leave the matches where they are and to come tell you right away.

Store matches out of your child's reach. Put them on a top shelf as far back as possible or keep them on a top shelf in the garage. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends keeping matches in a locked cabinet or drawer.

Model appropriate behavior. Never amuse your child with matches, recommends the KidsHealth website, as it will encourage her to think of them as a plaything rather than something that's potentially dangerous. Let your child watch you light your grill or start a campfire, but use the lesson as a time to discuss the appropriate use of matches and to reiterate your rule that she is never to play with matches.

Don't smoke in your home and don't allow others to smoke inside, either. This increases the risk of your child getting hold of matches and playing with them. If you must smoke, do it outside and always keep your cigarettes and matches out of your child's reach.

Tip

Have an evacuation route and an escape plan in place in case your house does catch on fire. Teach your child to always leave the house if he sees smoke and to never go back inside once he escapes.

How to Get a Child to Quit Playing With a Lighter

Keep lighters out of reach. While you might want to have a lighter around to start a fireplace fire, light candles or the outdoor grill, children should not have easy access to lighters. Place them in out-of-reach cabinets or in locked drawers.

Talk to your child about the dangers of fire. Show him that you understand he is curious about fires, but let him know that one small mistake could mean that the entire house could burn down, and that people he loves could die. It's a scary message, but it gets the seriousness across.

Set specific rules and consequences for playing with lighters. Once your child understands that fire is dangerous, let him know that there is a "No playing with lighters" rule in your home. Assign a consequence, such as extra chores or losing video game privileges that will occur if he is caught playing with a lighter.

Involve a child psychologist if the problem is too big for you to handle. Many children play with lighters because they are curious and unaware of the dangers. Other children play with lighters with more malicious intent. If your child is the latter, a psychologist can help her work through her feelings in a more productive way.

Tip

According to Fireproof Children/Prevention First, children are most likely to play with lighters in their own room, in the closet. If you're not sure you can trust your child, consider placing a smoke detector in his bedroom. That might alert you if he's playing with fire.

Warning

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, children can easily confuse novelty lighters with toys and thus might try to play with them, not realizing that it's a dangerous tool. Avoid these types of lighters in particular, sticking with the more traditional styles, particularly ones that have child safety in mind.