Letting my Kids Set Things on Fire

Letting my Kids Set Things on Fire
Setting a stick on fire using a parabolic mirror.

This week’s exciting learning experience: setting things on fire using a parabolic mirror.


While some parents might gasp – You’re encouraging your kids to set things on fire??!!” – I think it’s a good idea for children to learn about and experiment with fire.


After all, fire has been fundamental to the survival and development of humankind.  And it’s exciting for kids to gain mastery in utilizing one of the four elements.


So while I wouldn’t leave either of my boys to work with fire all by themselves at this point in time, I will work with both of them to learn to light matches, build fires, cook over a fire, set various stuff on fire, and so on.


By working with them to learn about fire, not only does it make fire something that’s no longer forbidden (it shows them it’s a tool, as well as helping them to gain an awareness of its potential dangers), it also allows my husband and I to teach our boys to work with fire safely.  And safety with fire is something that’s especially important when you live, as we do, in the mountains where the fire danger is frequently high.


I look forward to letting my boys set up and work around the campfire when we head out camping this summer.  I think that they’ll not only enjoy the experience, but that they’ll learn a lot by doing it (with some guidance from mama and dad, as needed).


I think working with fire, like climbing trees, is a good way to help children learn competence and gain confidence.  Working with fire also encourages them to think ahead about the potential repercussions of their actions, as they know they’re being trusted with something very powerful.  And I think most kids, like my boys, rise to the level of that trust and demonstrate that they too can handle it.



Do you let your children play with fire?

4 thoughts on “Letting my Kids Set Things on Fire

  1. Lesley

    I remember setting things on fire without my parents knowing. One time we almost set a neighbors house on fire burning trash under a bush. I certainly had more chances for unsupervised “play” than my kids have. They have had opportunities to try various methods to start fires with adult help. But that was instructional not experimental. You have given me inspiration for some summer activities. I think a big part of fire safety is being allowed to see what it can do.

    • Indeed. If fire is simply forbidden, kids get the inkling it’s powerful, but may not understand why and may try to experiment on their own. If you want, we can do it together. Fun!

  2. I like the idea of teaching your children to understand the power of fire and use it responsibly. It reminds me a little of concealed carry classes and how people in other cultures teach their older children how to drink responsibly, i.e. understand your limits, always eat with alcohol, make sure you are not alone, etc. It is true that forbidding something while also giving no instruction can lead to problems. I like your approach.

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