The unifying element
I don't know what it is about fire but it draws in kids and adults of all ages. Whether in your own backyard firepit or at a campground, there is something special about sitting around a fire. Last night at our house we cooked dinner over the firepit and it reinforced for me what I already knew on a subconscious level - a fire yields a lot of power - not just power on a physical level. But it has the power to connect. The power to teach. The power to calm.
Disclaimer: Building a fire requires resposibility. Adult supervision is required. Fires should be built in an open area, and tended at all times.
Power to Connect
Once the fire is lit, it is like a magnet. The attraction to fire goes across the board. We have kids in all walks of life at our house and they all love the fire. The attraction is not age or gender-specific. It reminds me of the famous line from the movie, Field of Dreams - "If you build it, they will come." Make sure you have seating around the fire for everyone. Chairs are great but tree stumps make great seats, too. The attraction may stem from different reasons, but it is there. Some want to come to poke and add sticks- I think most boys are pyros at heart! Some may come just to get warm. And others may come because flames are mesmerizing. But the good news is that they are all there. All ages, All abilities. All personalites. Together.
As you sit together as a family or a group, connections will happen. You will be surprised. It may be that just sitting around the fire together is a unique opportunity to be all in one place, focused on the same thing. In these days of fast paced lives and so many distractions, being together is a beautiful thing. But often, being together sparks (forgive the pun) conversations. Conversations that connect and bind people together. Fires make space for connection.
Not only is the fire itself a connecting point, add food into the mix and you've got double connection! You can start with good old fashioned marshmallows and hot dogs on a stick or you can get a little more creative and try some more complicated things. Some we have tried and like are double barbecue bacon chicken and campfire cones or search on Pinterest for many more options for campfire meals. You can learn a lot about people by watching them cook over a fire. Who patiently roasts their marshmallow until it is perfectly golden on all sides? Or who would rather see ther marshmallow go up in flames? Every moment is a teachable moment which leads to the next point.
Power to Learn
And not only are skills learned that are directly related to a fire, but other more general skills are used that can be used across many situations.
In addition, children learn important concepts about limits and boundaries. Rather than just teaching children to avoid fire because it is unsafe, it is far better for them to learn safety and fire management through experience. Setting a fire and tending a fire are great skills to have. In an effort to keep children safe, parents today often shield them from potentially risky situations rather than allowing them to learn safety and limits through experience. Research studies (pg. 33-40) show that allowing children to engage in creative, challenging, and exciting, outdoor experiences promote health and development.
And how about good old curiosity? What happens when you blow on a fire? Why are there different color flames? Curiosity leads to exploration and exploration leads to learning.
Adults can learn, too! For more information about how to build a safe fire or build a fire pit in your yard, check out these links:
Building a Safe Campfire
How To Build A Better Fire
How To Build a Fire Pit
Power to Calm
Research now backs up what anyone who has sat by a fire already knows in their heart. Fires are memsmerizing and relaxing. Just like the calming effect of watching fish in an aquarium, watching and listening to the crackles of a fire lowers blood pressure and calms the body. A University of Alabama study abstract says, "campfires induce relaxation as part of a multisensory, absorptive, and social experience." Everyone can benefit from more opportunities for relaxation in their life. Family life is hectic these days, so it is all the more important to intentionally create some downtime. Whether planned or spontaneous, family moments spent around the fire create great memories.
Whether you live in the city or the country, seek out a place where you can build a fire. Maybe even consider gifting your family a firepit this holiday season.
Hi! I'm Ann - mother of seven, grandmother of two and occupational therapist. My mission is to provide the support families need to raise thriving children and to help you build a family environment that supports healthy development and a pathway to success.
Great blogs to check out:
Rain or Shine Mamma
Children & Nature Network
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