our everyday life

How to Teach Children That Fire Is Dangerous

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Fire is a leading cause of death and injury in kids younger than 10 years of age when they play with matches or other heat sources, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. To protect your kids from being burned or killed by fire or smoke inhalation, they need to understand that fire is dangerous and not a toy. Fire stations, libraries and schools often have fire safety materials you can use with your kids. Some fire stations offer demonstrations that help kids see how devastating a fire can be.

Show your kids pictures of fire devastation that take place each year during the spring and summer when lightning strikes and unsupervised campfires can set forests ablaze and dropped cigarettes can start grass fires along roads and trails when conditions are dry. Point out burned spots on the side of roads and talk about how swiftly a little wind can spread the fire, allowing it to jump roads, fences and other barriers, and set houses and other structures on fire. You can also drive past a burned home to demonstrate what fire does to a home. Explain what caused the fire, if you know. Your kids need to know that fire is hot, dark, fast and deadly, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Explain to your child that fire can be a useful tool in the hands of a responsible adult or a hazard in the hands of a child. Watch videos available from the library or fire department of deadly house and forest fires and contrast that with fires used in the home for heating, cooking food or providing light. Tell your child to never play with fire or use appliances such as toasters, heaters and cook stoves unsupervised.

Tell your kids that fires can start from careless use of matches, candles and lighters or by electrical appliances, cords or outlets that overheat. Take a walk through your home with your kids looking for fire hazards, such as a light or heater too close to drapes or furniture, wires running under rugs, too many appliances plugged into an outlet or an open fireplace grate when a fire is lit. Test the smoke alarm and point out where the fire extinguisher is kept. Demonstrate how to get out of the house if a fire starts and stress that your child should not hide in a closet or corner or under the bed. Set off the fire alarm and practice getting out of the house and to a pre-arranged location safely, suggest the KidsHealth website. Practice stop, drop and roll and caution your child to never try to rescue a pet, toy or go back into a burning building for any reason.

Point to the smoke from a fire and tell your child that more kids die from smoke than from being burned. Watch how the smoke rises in a fire video and talk about how to escape the smoke. Practice getting a towel wet, tying it around her nose and mouth and crawling under the smoke to safety. Demonstrate how to check the doorknob for heat before opening a door and looking for smoke coming around the edges of the door. Ensure that your child knows at least two ways to exit your home.

Items you will need
  • Fire pictures
  • Fire videos
  • Fire safety materials
  • Smoke alarm
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Towel
  • Water

Tips

  • Check under your child's bed and in the closet to see whether your child has been starting fires, suggests the U.S. Fire Administration.
  • Secure all matches, lighters and candles out of your child's reach.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images