Get Children Outdoors

Bonfire night – letting my kid play with fire

November 3, 2020

3 ways your child can learn to manage this season’s most risky element.

Approaching Bonfire Night many parents may be nervous about exposing their children to open flame, fireworks, and smoke. However, as a quintessential autumn holiday, it presents a good chance for children to learn the risks and rewards of being around fire.

Human need for fire


Humans are inherently drawn to fire. It is something that is shared across all peoples, cultures, and civilisations across the globe. It has allowed us to survive in frigid locations, cook food, and stay safe from predators. There’s even evidence to suggest that humans need cooked food in order to get enough nutrients. 


Mastering fire is arguably one of the things that defines being human. In this modern day and age it’s rare that we’re exposed to the fundamentals of fire control. Our experiences tend to be limited to our daily stove usage and the yearly bonfire. This means that we’re rarely afforded the chance to learn how to build a fire and, according to Professor Daniel Fessler of the University of California in Los Angeles, and it means that we have an unsatisfied fascination with the element. 


Eliminating fear


This time of year there are so many moments when your child will be around fire or fireworks. While your child may have experienced many bonfires already, without proper guidance fires can seem foreign and scary. Even many adults can be seen blundering around a bonfire. Giving your child an early learning edge can help them maintain safe fire practices going into the rest of their lives.


Managing fire as a risky element takes three key components. Mastering these three lessons can help both you and your child feel less anxious around bonfires. 


  • Creating fire is a learned behaviour that not only teaches the science of combustion but can also teach children their own human power. 


From choosing the fire location to choosing the size and type of fuel, there are many variables as to what kind of risk the fire poses. By learning these fundamentals, your child is given the capacity to evaluate potential risks. 


  • Learning how to control a fire, its heat and size, gives children the ability to use fire as a tool. 


There is a large difference between a large bonfire, a campfire used to roast marshmallows, and a candle flame. Giving your child the understanding of how to manage a fire’s light and heat can give them tools and a sense of empowerment. 


  • Teaching caution around fire is the final key to this risky element. There is a fine line between fear and respect and as they learn to respect the power of the bonfire, your child can develop a healthy relationship with the element that is free from fear.


Fire safety is arguably the most important component but it also can be the one most easily taken to the extreme. Guiding your child through the lifecycle of a fire can help them understand its destructive force. The key is to teach reverence and respect rather than fear while maintaining supervision and holding their hands through the process.  




As with all risky play, giving children respect and trust can help them respect and trust the risks that they face. Giving them the tools to face their environment can help them have confidence to approach the world. 


As we gather around the bonfires, enjoying our toffee apples and sparklers, children are constantly learning. We can encourage the instinctual curiosity about fire they have as humans while teaching them the three key building blocks to a healthy relationship with this kind of risky element.

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