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Fire Safety and the Preschooler

by Lori Sciame | August 19th, 2013 | Preschool, Safety

sparklersFlames can appear mesmerizing to a young child. For instance, a yellow flame dances on top of a birthday candle, and blue and orange flames appear to lick the underside of a piece of wood in the fireplace. To a child who doesn’t understand the true danger, fire appears to be a playful, beautiful force. For this reason, parents need to begin talking about fire safety with a child from his or her earliest days!

Statistics Prove the Danger

As outlined in a 2007 report by the U.S. Fire Administration, “. . . when dividing the young into subgroups, 52 percent of all child fire deaths occur to those four and younger.” In addition, “young children, especially males ages 0-4, are at the greatest risk. Children of this age are less likely to recognize the dangers of playing with fire, more likely to hide once a fire breaks out and less likely to have been taught home fire escape” (National MCH Center for Child Death Review).

These facts support the notion that children, especially preschoolers, need to be educated concerning fire and the dangers associated with it.

Look, Don’t Touch

Once a child can comprehend the idea of “looking and not touching,” he or she should be trained to avoid all flames, including those found on: birthday cakes, stovetops, candles, fireplaces, campfires, grills, sparklers, and lighters (matches). Take the time to explain that fire can be hot, and that it can hurt although it looks pretty! If a child has a respect for all flames, he or she will be less likely to be drawn to playing with fire.

In addition to not touching fire, a child should be trained to not get too close to it either. We all have heard stories of children falling into campfires or fireplaces and being severely burned.

Never Play with Matches or Lighters

Last week in my hometown, a fire resulted from a preschooler playing with a lighter. It seems unreal that with all the educational efforts surrounding fire safety that this could happen, yet it does, again and again. Why? Because fire seems fun, playful almost, and young children do not comprehend the fact that something as destructive as a house fire could result from simply playing with flames. For this reason, a parent/guardian must continually reinforce the fact that matches and lighters are not toys. In addition, these items must be kept out of sight, hidden from young children.

Here’s what to lock away:

*Fireplace matches

*All butane lighters, including the long ones used for candles

*All matchbooks and matchboxes

Never Hide During a Fire

A child should also be taught what to do in case there ever is a fire. Sadly, children this age tend to hide, thinking they can escape the flames and smoke if they do so. They may also be afraid of the firefighters who come dressed in masks and scary clothing. Talk about what to do in case of fire in age appropriate terms. Lives can be saved if a child understands the steps of fire rescue.

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