6 Steps for Teaching Kids Campfire Safety

It's not surprising that we typically tell children to stand back while a fire is being built, even though their curiosity always seems to draw them in closer. Having a fire is a big responsibility. Yet, telling children to take a back seat in the fire-making process means ignoring an opportunity to educate a captivated audience about campfire safety.

Consider our simple trick for turning campfire-building into a collaborative effort that reinforces basic fire principles and campfire safety. All you need is snack food and an appetite for knowledge.

Getting Ready To Build A Mock Campfire Getting Ready to Build a Mock Campfire

While you build the real fire, encourage your child to follow along by building a mock fire out of food. You can choose to make the mock fire out of vegetables or use snack foods to take the fast track to dessert. For each part of the fire, consider gathering the following ingredients:
  1. Fire ring: Grapes or M&M's
  2. Tinder: Shaved Carrot or Shaved Coconut
  3. Kindling: Thinly Sliced Cucumber or Thin Pretzels
  4. Fuel: Carrot or Mini Candy Bars
  5. Water to Put the Fire Out: Salad Dressing or Chocolate Syrup


After you have gathered your ingredients, walk through each step of the process.

1) Begin With The Fire Ring

For this step you might say, "The first thing we need to do find an existing fire ring. It's important to minimize our impact and use the fire rings that are already in place for us." Then hand a plate to your child with a fire ring already constructed out of the M&M's or grapes.

Fire Ring Ready To Go Fire Ring Ready to Go

2) Make a Tinder Nest

Next, demonstrate how to make a tinder nest. Your child can follow along with the carrot or coconut shavings. Mention the natural fire-starting materials that can be found in the area. During this step you can have your child tag along as you gather the actual tinder for the fire.

Have your child help you find materials that would make good tinder Have Your Child Help You Find Good Material for the Tinder Bundle

3) Discuss Which Fire Construction Method to Use


Are you going to be building a log cabin, teepee, lean-to, upside down campfire, or are you going to use some other method? Once you have decided on a method, explain the principles that make the method work. All fires need oxygen, fuel, and heat. Describe how you want to prepare your materials before you start the fire. After all, a successful fire depends heavily on proper preparation.

Lean-to fire construction method Lean-to Fire Construction Method

4) Light the Fire, Add the Fuel, and Talk Campfire Safety

Light the tinder, and add the kindling first. Then, add the fuel slowly. Instruct your child to follow along and explain how you don't want to add the big pieces too fast, otherwise they might smother the flame. Now is also a good time to explain that small pieces of wood, smaller in diameter than an adult's wrist, are the best size to use. Burning smaller pieces of wood ensures that the fuel can be completely reduced to ash.

Wood Split Down to a Size That Will Burn Through Completely Wood Split Down to a Size That Will Burn Through Completely

It's important not to move firewood over large distances, because it might introduce a tree-killing insect to a new area. Demonstrate a good size fire to have and emphasize the risks of building a fire that's too big. Stress campfire safety and explain the consequences of careless choices.

Talking Campfire Construction and Campfire Safety Around the Campfire Talking Campfire Construction and Campfire Safety around the Campfire

5) Drown Out Your Fire

Practice Putting the "Fire" Out Practice Putting the "Fire" Out

Show your child how to douse the fire out. They can use the dressing or chocolate sauce for this step. Pour a little on the food and then illustrate how you need to stir the water into the ashes. Then, add a little more syrup or dressing. Describe what the fire should feel like when it's completely out. It should be completely cool to the touch. Since extinguishing a fire completely is such an important part of campfire safety, it's good to place extra emphasis on this step.

Mixing "Water" with the Embers, Spreading Them Out Until Ashes Are Cool to the Touch. Mixing "Water" with the Embers, Spreading Them Out Until Ashes Are Cool to the Touch.

Actual Fire After Water Has Been Mixed With Embers and After it has Become Cool to the Touch. Actual Fire After Water Has Been Mixed With Embers and After it has Become Cool to the Touch.

6) Enjoy Your Work

Gather the family around the campfire, tell a story or two, and let your child eat their mock campfire.
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