Tip #1: Explain the Dangers
Before you even arrive at your campsite, your little campers should already be aware of the potential hazards of fires. Sit down with them and talk about why you'll be building a fire, how to properly interact with it, and how to avoid getting hurt by it. Stress the dangers while minimizing the allure or intrigue. After all, once you tell a toddler to leave something alone, they'll automatically want to touch it. If you don't think your little campers will comprehend the point you're trying to get across, have the discussion anyway. You might be surprised with how much they understand!
Tip #2: Be an Example
If you respect and interact with the campfire safely, your kids will likely follow your actions. So be a role model and display caution around the flames yourself, and your little ones will mimic your attention and alertness too. Don't stoke the fire unnecessarily or adjust logs with your bare hands as this will signal to kids that campfires are fun playthings and not as dangerous as you made them out to be.
Tip #3: Set Some Rules
Establish some basic rules for how to behave around the campfire. Creating a visual barrier with rocks or a rope can help set a clear boundary that your little ones are not allowed to break. A buffer zone of a few feet should be adequate. Make it necessary to have adequate footwear on at all times around the fire and forbid any running or horseplay while flames are present. Make sure to also explain the punishment of getting too close to the fire or breaking one of the rules (ie. loss of s'more privileges).
Tip #4: Keep a Close Eye
You should never leave your child unattended around the fire. Implement a trade-off system so that one adult is always in charge of looking after the kids. Keep a watchful eye out for kids tipping back or leaning forward in their chairs, and stress the importance of keeping all four legs of the chair on the ground. Also, keep an eye out for any threats around the campfire. Roots, roasting sticks, and tent lines can all be tripping hazards that could result in an accidental fall into the fire.
Tip #5: Use Your Own Discretion
You know your child better than anyone, so use your own judgment with whether or not you think they're ready to roast foods over the campfire themselves. Remember, although they might be fully capable of holding a stick over the flames, think about the potential dangers of them wielding around a scolding-hot, sharply-pronged device once their roasting is complete. Or worse, what if their marshmallow catches fire and they panic? At least require adult supervision until you feel confident that they can handle this responsibility by themselves. For really little campers, it's best to leave the s'more making and hot dog roasting up to the parents. If you follow our five tips above, your campfires should lead to nothing but ooey-gooey s'mores, scary ghost stories, and pyrotechnic wonder that leaves you all injury-free! Do you have any other tips for keeping little ones safe around a campfire? Let us know by leaving a comment!