Fire play is a very serious matter. Children who set fires or play with fire can pose a very serious threat to themselves and others. Children often do not have the ability to understand why they set fires or to reason why it is wrong. Most experts agree that the best way to understand a child's fire setting is by looking at the context and motivation for the behavior.
In three to seven year olds, curiosity usually causes the child to play with fire to learn about it. Fire safety education is a great benefit at this age. An older group, usually five to ten year olds, will sometimes use fire as a "cry for help" to show their inability to cope with a sudden change or trauma. They will usually continue until the stress is relieved or they are taught safer ways to manage. Counseling and education is recommended. Often children ten to fourteen years of age will set fires to impress peers, relieve boredom, or express defiance. Restitution and education will help in this situation. If an older child is curious about matches, show him the proper and safe way to use them, but only when an adult is present.
Parents can help prevent most fire setting by keeping the zone from the floor to an adult's shoulder height free of matches and lighters. Keep disposable lighters, especially if it does not have a child protective mechanism, out of reach of children. Disposable lighters look like toys to young children three or four years of age, who are developing color awareness. To learn more about safety tips to help educate and control children's awareness about fire, call the Fire Prevention Bureau at (225)354-1431.