According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC,) children ages 4 years and younger are among those at highest risk for residential fire deaths and injuries. So, it’s our job as parents and teachers to teach them what to do in case of a fire.
I heard a story recently about an older child whose clothes caught on fire. There was a swimming pool in the backyard, so he ran and jumped in the pool. While the water seemed like the best idea at the time, in fact, the time he took running to the pool, actually helped the fire burn stronger. Instead, had he stopped, dropped, and rolled, he would have ended up with less severe burns.
It is a scary thought to talk to our toddlers about fire, yet we must. In our three year old classroom, we talk about fire safety in a non-threatening way that the kids actually enjoy. First, the teachers model for the children a scenario, and then the kids take a turn. We say, “Oh, no, there is fire on my pants. What should I do? I need to stop, drop, and roll.” We act it out repeatedly. Each child gets to stand up and tell us where the fire is on their clothes, and what they will do to put it out. They stop, drop, and roll around the floor.
We also talk about the loud bell that goes off if there is a fire. Yes, it can be very loud, and scary, but it is an important bell. It tells us that we must stop whatever we are doing and get out of the building. We don’t stop to clean up toys. We don’t stop to finish our snack. We don’t worry about turning off the TV. What we have to do is line up at the door and together walk outside of the building. We practice this with the kids, encouraging them to help us make the loud noise of the fire alarm.
Our school has fire drills monthly, so we try to do this right at the beginning of the school year so the kids aren’t freaked out the first time the alarm unexpectedly goes off. Some kids will be afraid no matter how much you try to practice, but safety is the most important thing. Don’t assume that your toddler won’t understand. Teach him and he will know what to do in an emergency.