Candles are often used at this time of year – for religious or cultural celebrations or to make the house smell nice. Many families have traditions around holiday candles and most children are eager to participate in the lighting festivities – but when can they safely do so?
Ultimately, it’s up to the parent to determine when their child is ready to help light candles. If you feel your child is responsible enough to handle open flames, have an adult use matches or a lighter to light the first candle, then have kids use that candle to light the rest.
If you are unsure of the child’s readiness, let them rest their hand on yours as you light the first candle. The next step would be to hold the child’s hand or wrist and help guide them to light the others.
If you do not feel safe letting your child use candles but want him to participate, consider electric candles, menorahs, or kinaras where your child can simply press a button or turn a dial to “light” the candles. Make sure to turn this off before bed or put it on a timer so it will turn itself off. Everyone can help say the blessings and sing songs!
Help keep the family safe this holiday season by following these guidelines:
Location: Before lighting candles, place them high enough that they won’t get knocked over by a parent, child, or pet. Put them on a firm surface, away from curtains and other materials which could blow toward a candle and catch fire. Children can be held up to look at the flames.
Timing: Light the candles early enough in the evening that the family can enjoy watching them flicker out before bed. This varies depending on type and size of candle and drafts in the home. If the candles are still burning at bedtime or if you need to leave the room, blow them out.
Children often link fire with celebrations and their natural curiosity makes it exciting to watch a flame appear from a lighter or match. However, young children are not able to understand the dangers of fire. Therefore, it is important to teach children its dangers and that matches and lighters are not toys. Here are a few tips for all families:
Never let a child use a match or lighter, even with an adult present.
Teach children to tell an adult if they find matches or lighters.
Store matches and lighters out of a child’s reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.
Use only lighters that are child-resistant. However, keep in mind that this does not mean the lighter is “childproof.”
Do not use a lighter that resembles a toy, and never use fire to amuse children.
Install smoke alarms on every level of the house, outside all sleeping areas, and inside each bedroom. Test the smoke alarms monthly to ensure they are working. This will also help children become familiar with the sound of the alarm.
It’s important to teach your children what to do if they are ever involved in a fire:
Never to hide from firefighters.
Never return to a burning building.
Stop, drop, and roll if their clothing catches on fire.
Center for Injury Research and Policy, Manager of Translational Research
Tracy Mehan is the manager of translational research for the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
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