Playing with fire can have devastating, deadly results. Although potentially lethal, fire has fascinating qualities that may capture a child’s interest. In 2010, nearly 45,000 fires were started by a person -- in many cases, a child, according to the National Fire Protection Association. In fact, between 2005 and 2009, children started about 56,300 fires, states the NFPA. Speak candidly and firmly with your children to explain the dangers of fire to them. As you discuss fire, explain that playing with fires is always off limits.
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.
- Children under age 5 are the highest age group of people killed in fires that begin from play, states the American Psychological Association.
- 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.
- National Fire Protection Association: Children Playing with Fire
- Polymer Science Learning Center: How and Why do Things Burn?
- Kids Health: Playing with Fire?
- American Psychological Association: Danger: Child Fire-Play
- Child Safety and Abuse Prevention Program: Fire Safety: Parent’s Guide to Child Safety
- University of Michigan Health System: Fire Safety
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