Toddlers and preschoolers are the most likely age group to start fires, usually by playing with matches or lighters. This demographic is also the most likely to die in fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Preventing your child from playing with matches is one of the best ways to avoid an accidental fire, but this lesson must go beyond simply telling him to leave matches alone. Take action now to prevent a fire in your home and to keep your child safe from fire-related injuries.
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.
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.