Every year, children set over 35,000 fires, and account for 15-20 percent of all fire deaths, according to the United States Fire Administration. Fire safety is emphasized in the U.S. during the month of October, in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire of Oct. 8-9, 1871. During Fire Prevention Week each year, elementary schools teach fire safety practices, and parents should engage their children in activities that will reinforce these concepts at home.
Elementary school children learn to “Cover, Stop, Drop, and Roll” and “Stay Low and Go” when discussing fire safety, but need help understanding these concepts. Flames cut from felt material and placed on a child's arms add a realistic effect to “Stop, Drop, and Roll.” The child practices stopping all movement, covering his mouth, dropping to the floor and then rolling back and forth on the ground. For “Stay Low and Go,” he crawls on his hands and knees, keeping his head about a foot above ground level. A sheet hung between two chairs can represent the smoke he must crawl under. The child can act out various scenes. For example, “You stood too close to the stove and your shirt caught on fire. What should you do?”
Home Escape Plan
Teachers often ask students about their families' fire safety plan for their homes, and children can practice putting the plan into action. The family should walk into each room of the house to check smoke alarms and determine two escape exits. Since a window could be an escape route, children need to practice unlocking windows and taking out screens. The family should determine an outside meeting place, and children can visualize the overall plan with a simple diagram of the house showing all escape routes. A practice fire drill brings the plan to life.
Fire Safety Art
Children love to draw, so combine that art with a fire safety theme. Younger children can draw one picture that depicts fire safety and then caption it. For example, they might write “Crawl under smoke." Older children might enjoy creating a collage of pictures on a large piece of paper. Markers or paints will amp up the fun. Children can also draw a large house on a sheet of poster board that includes a kitchen, bedroom and living room. They can draw a fire hazard in each room, such as newspapers too close to a fireplace or a child too close to a fire on the stove. The artwork can be displayed on a wall during Fire Prevention Week.
Parents and children can work together to create a memory game using index cards. The object is to match fire safety words with pictures. Children can print the words on cards and then draw the matching pictures or cut them from magazines and glue them onto the cards. Include words such as smoke alarm, fire hydrant, fire and matches. This game works well when several family members or friends play together. The cards are placed face down and each player takes a turn trying to find a match. When the cards are all turned over, the person with the most matches wins.
- National Fire Protection Association: About Fire Prevention Week
- U.S. Fire Administration: Curious Kids Set Fires
- National Fire Protection Association: Basic Fire Escape Planning
- Education World: Fire Safety -- Activities to Spark Learning
- Apples 4 the Teacher: Fire Safety Week Activities and Games for Kids
- Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images