Fire can pose a threat to your family no matter where you are. If not adequately taught about it, a child is less likely to feel confident around a campfire and may not know how to handle the open flames—or they may get too excited and accidentally injure themselves. But with the right preparation, you and your family can enjoy a fun time without fear.
Children need to be taught fire safety, both at home and while camping. Here's how to help your kids get accustomed to fire safety skills so they know how to behave at campfires, bonfires and at home.
Home Fire Safety for Kids
Teaching your children to be safe around fire and related devices at home should be a priority. In 2019, over 480,000 fires occurred in homes and other buildings in the United States. Backyard fire pits are becoming more popular, and the likelihood of a child encountering something fire-related has increased. They need to be prepared to know how to handle dangerous flames.
1. Keep Lighting Tools Away From Children
It's crucial to keep your fire-lighting tools out of the reach of children. If they can't access a lighter, they have no way to start a fire in the house. You should also teach them how far to stay back from flames. There's a chance of sparks flying from any backyard bonfire or living room fireplace, and your child should know that sparks are standard and not necessarily a cause for concern.
2. Create a Fire Escape Plan
You should create and practice a fire escape plan to instill confidence in all family members. Knowing how to get out of the house through multiple exits will make your child feel safer and more knowledgeable.
Similarly, even if the fire that's gotten out of control is outdoors, you should make plans for a meeting place down the street in case you get separated from one another in panic. Remind your children that they should never reenter a burning building, even if they can't find you.
3. Teach Basic Fire-Stopping Rules
Teaching your children to stop, drop and roll is imperative. If they know those three simple words, they're prepared for anything in the event of a fire. Fire safety for kids doesn't have to be tricky—it just has to be practical. Many students visit fire stations on field trips or learn fire safety in school, but remember that it's your job to reinforce these skills and make sure your child is prepared.
Similarly, it's important to tell your children where the first-aid kit is kept. Teaching them how to use basic materials they'll find in it, especially how to treat burn injuries until they can be seen by a professional, could help them feel more confident and comfortable when dealing with fire-related injuries.
4. Keep an Eye on Your Kids
Whenever there's a fire, even if it's controlled, you should pay attention to what your children are doing. If you're not watching the fire and its lighting tools yourself, you must be attentive to where your child is located. Not hearing them scream doesn't mean they're safe—they could very well be in danger and unable to call for you. Don't take silence as a sign that everything is OK.
Nearly 87% of all fire-related deaths are due to home fires. Negligence and lack of a plan can increase the likelihood of someone in your household being seriously injured by a backyard bonfire. When in doubt, put your child's safety first, even if that means you have to skip out on your favorite fire pit for a few years.
Camping Fire Safety for Kids
Over 48.2 million people went camping in 2020. Pitching a tent or rolling up in an RV can make for an exciting vacation for the whole family, especially in the summertime. However, with camping comes another risk: campfires.
You may know to keep your kids safe from the sun by using sunscreen and avoiding direct sunlight when it's at its afternoon peak, but you need to teach your kids to be careful around campfires.
1. Keep Ignitable Substances Away From Children
Keep lighters and lighting fluid out of your child's reach. It poses more of a risk than simply burning themselves. They could ingest something or lose the item entirely. The best plan to implement would be to buy only child-resistant products or keep them locked away.
2. Set a Safety Zone
It's essential to set a "safety zone" away from the fire. Doing so gives kids a designated space to play while still being able to view the campfire. Kristen Bolig, founder of SecurityNerd, emphasizes the importance of setting boundaries for kids around a campfire or bonfire.
"Most likely," she says, "your children are going to be absolutely amazed at the fire, but setting up clear boundaries will keep them from getting too close. You can do this by simply drawing a circle of dirt around the fire, and explaining the rules to your kids."
Like Kristen suggests, make an imaginary boundary in the form of a line in the sand or dirt—or create a real boundary with chairs, stones or other supplies. Tell your kids they cannot cross this boundary if they want to stay safe, and only do so yourself when you need to tend to the fire. This teaches them there's a safer area where they can still feel the warmth from the flames without putting themselves at risk.
3. Opt for Smaller Fires
Smaller fires are easier to control. Though bigger campfires are often thought of as ideal, little ones are easier to contain if something goes awry. If your child crosses the safety zone, you can rest easy knowing it isn't as dangerous, though it may still pose a threat. Always be on your toes and watching out for unpredictable children crossing the boundaries you've created.
If it comes to it, you may need to put out your fire quickly and safely. Doing so with a smaller fire, which won't be affected by wind as drastically, is much easier than with a larger blaze. You should always keep an eye on where and how the wind is blowing, as it may influence how you build your fire.
4. Give Kids a Job
Children want to feel like they're contributing, too. Giving them a small job, such as gathering firewood and kindling with an adult, can delight them and make them feel like they're helping.
This way, your child can feel a sense of pride and accomplishment for helping their family while keeping themselves away from any danger they would face if they tried to do something on their own. Just be wary of giving them a job that involves food. In addition to bringing them face-to-face with fire, they could choose campfire favorites that pose a choking hazard, like popcorn. When in doubt, supervise your children and their actions more often than not.
One way to keep kids safe while also keeping them busy is to put them in charge of the first aid kit. Bolig weighs in again on why this could be useful:
"Having a basic first aid kit around when having a campfire or bonfire is very important so you can respond ASAP to any possible injury or issue."
Instead of associating the first aid kit with fear, however, you could turn it into a fun task for your kids. Assemble your first aid kit together before the campfire, and put it in a kid-friendly pouch or backpack with snacks or toys. This can keep your kids occupied, feeling important, and aware of safety measures all at once.
5. Teach Your Child Before Leaving
If you talk to your child a few times about fire safety before you leave, they should retain the information—especially if you make it fun for them. Children won't always want to learn about fire rings or safety and care procedures, but getting creative and making a treat out of it could convince them to listen to your words.
You can substitute healthy snacks or types of candy for elements like kindling and fuel to drive the point home for kids in a tasty way. Helping them build a campfire out of food can make it easier for them to understand things when you go camping.