Would you let your child play with fire? To many of us, it’s been wired into our brains from a young age that fire is not something to mess around with, but how many of us as kids still have fond memories of making our own little bonfire out the back garden?
I think it’s perfectly normal for kids to want to play with fire. Of course, fire can be dangerous, but if we introduce our children to it using safe methods we can nurture a healthy respect for the hazards of fire alongside their natural wonder for it. There’s also huge benefits to be gained from them learning to manage their own risk, which can only be learned through experience.
The children’s author Roald Dahl said this;
“...the more risks you allow children to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves. If you never let them take any risks, then I believe they become very prone to injury. Boys should be allowed to climb tall trees and walk along the tops of high walls and dive into the sea from high rocks... The same with girls.”
Here's the thing, children LOVE playing
with fire - so we might as well teach them how to play with it safely and how to be responsible when lighting their own fires out in the woods. At Woodland Classroom we’ve been running Forest School sessions with children in the woods for 4 years and we’ve never had a burn injury yet. We have established boundaries for the main campfire and clear rules on what kids can and cannot do with their own fires.
I’ve found it so encouraging seeing how far these children have come with their firelighting skills and knowledge of bushcraft. It's very satisfying to see them gathering enough kindling to start their fire, picking out dry sticks rather than wet, soggy ones and to see how they can rekindle a struggling fire using the right techniques. These children love lighting fires and are happy simply to let them blaze away - I've never seen a child trying to burn the woods down. They might make smoke signals, make charcoals for drawing or simply poke away at the embers with burning sticks. The fire acts as a warming and comforting focal point for the group to be together, enjoying nature. This has been the role of campfires for generations and long may it continue.
There’s a couple of ways you can introduce your children to the world of fire lighting… Check out my video on YouTube where I show you my safe method for teaching kids how to light fires responsibly: https://bit.ly/2IX5wyS or you could come along on my upcoming course for parent & child, Playing with Fire on Saturday 4th August at Chirk Castle. You can find out more at www.woodlandclassroom.com/events
THREE FAVOURITE CAMPFIRE SNACKS
Toasted marshmallows. A campfire classic. Whittling a sharp stick to toast this treat could also be an introduction to using sharp tools. Starburst sweets make a good vegan alternative.
Popcorn. Take two metal sieves and create a sphere. Attach them to a long stick with some wire for a home-made popcorn popper to use over your fire.
Toffee Apple Slices. Cut up an apple and dip the slices in a mix of sugar and cinnamon to coat them. Slowly roast on a stick over the fire until the sugar goes sticky and the apple is soft. Yum!
James runs Woodland Classroom with his wife Lea, hosting regular outdoor kids clubs and outdoor education for schools. They are hosting a summer holiday club in the woods at Erddig and several Family Bushcraft Days in July and August.
Go to www.woodlandclasscoom.com for more details. Tel: 07876 794 098