“At least one study suggests that if you take a population of boys between kindergarten and fourth grade, 60 percent of them have committed unsupervised fireplay, which is to say that fireplay is a common and absolutely normal part of human development.”
–“10-Year-Old With Matches Started a California Wildfire,” NY Times, 11/1/07.
Our kids have never lived in a house with a fireplace, but they have experienced a gas stove, candles, an old-fashioned oil lamp, and a fire in the fire ring in our backyard. They get their turn to snuff the candle after story time at daycare.
And of course, this year’s Lantern Walk included 6 fires, many luminaria and tiki torches, jack-o’lanterns, and candles in our house during the hours we had to have the lights off.
The morning after, we found evidence we hadn’t noticed before that one of the kids (I’m guessing SillyBilly) played with the candle we had lit that night in the bathroom. He would have been unattended for only a few moments, but Papa found a scorch mark on the toilet seat lid, and I found a tiny piece of what looked like burned paper in the sink.
It may be a “normal part of development,” but I wonder how do I impress on such a small person the possible repercussions? I’m not opposed to age-appropriate exploration that might result in a small, lesson-giving injury — as in how toddlers quickly learn that the stove is hot when they touch the oven door, or a child swallowing some water while learning to swim. But actually playing with fire is so much more…serious.
We certainly keep matches away from the kids, and I don’t think they have any overly intense interest in fire since they see it fairly often. And I think it should be regarded the same way we do guns: fire is a useful tool that needs to be respected, and certainly is not a toy.
Now all I need is a way to explain this so that the little ones can understand…